Reflections of a (semi-) Reformed Stock Broker

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Leaving the world of stock market investing and start-ups has been a breath of fresh air. Literally. Instead of consulting with investors on how to turn their money into more money, I work for Global Mangrove Trust (GMT). I speak to corporations, foundations, family offices, and individuals from experienced billionaires to kids with a piggy bank. We talk about how to redeploy capital for the good of the planet. They understand, like so many, that we are in the midst of a planetary crisis, that the time to act is now.

I am now witnessing an opportunity to deploy capital in a way that exceeds the best "returns" I have ever seen. As an environmentalist, my social media feed is chock-full of tree-planting programs. We know the benefits: their shade cools cities (See Paris’s plans), fight pollution and environmental degradation (See China's and India’s programs), provide food and shelter, habitats, etc.

Planting mangrove trees in the Bay of Bengal cost less than 25% of planting a “normal” in Europe or the USA.  And then, mangroves sequester and store 5 to 10 times more carbon as they grow and deposit CO2 in their soil and massive root networks. This means sponsoring mangrove forestry generates a climate impact “return” 20 to 40 times that of tree planting alternatives in the West.

GMT is pushing the frontiers of impact sponsorships to address the world's climate emergency. This work begins with GROVE, an open source platform in development with the support of DBS Bank in Singapore. GROVE links together blockchain accounting and satellite assessments of forest growth to make sponsorship mangrove forestry as efficient and transparent as any program on Earth.

To break it down a bit, blockchain allows all contributions to sit on public, distributed, and immutable ledger. This way, sponsors can see exactly how much of their contribution reach the communities planting the trees, how much is spent on transfer fees, and how much is sued to reward the long-term conservation of the forests. These rewards are based on state-of-the-art satellite telemetry, verifying that nurseries have planted the trees and that the forests are growing year after year.

Mangroves in the Bay of Bengals address significant additional global challenges:

Regenerative forestry starts by providing poverty-stricken coastal communities with jobs, and jobs that provide valuable education on sustainable land use and connect them intimately with the increasing health of their local environment.

Mangrove foresters are mainly women; GMT directly supports gender equality.

Mangroves protect the land from storms and tsunamis. These amazing trees reverse serious erosion problems and create positive natural cycles of land reclamation.

Myriad terrestrial and particularly sea animals call mangroves home. Regenerative forestry protects endangered species, increases fish stocks, and provides food and livelihoods in fishing and horticulture.

By planting trees across a blockchain, GROVE provides each sponsor with a digital coin, a GRO-Coin, which represents a mangrove tree and the natural capital it embodies (carbon storage, oxygen generation, land reclamation, ocean restoration, etc.).  These coins can then be traded, sold, donated, or displayed. In the future, these GRO-Coins will even be used in online games.

While it is simple to tout the 20-40x greater carbon sequestration metric I alluded to earlier when I speak to donors, GMT isn’t just about carbon. It’s about working with impoverished local communities and providing them with ongoing jobs, fish stocks that are multiples of what came before, and protection from the elements.  It’s about stimulating local economies in everything from producing mangrove honey to raising clams and crabs, while promoting gender equality. GMT is about creating GROVE; an open-source platform to empower efficient and transparent sponsorship that bypass agents, consultants, and bureaucracies. GMT is about confronting the climate crisis by regenerating the land, the forests, and vulnerable communities, using technology to reverse the missteps of the past and give the next generations a fighting chance.

- Richard Cohen