A Friend Of The Earth  

Posted by Big Gav

The Sydney Morning Herald has a profile on businessman and ex-WWF head Robert Purves which I found quite interesting.

Apparently he funded both Tim Flannery's "The Weather Makers" and a great coffee table book on Tasmania's Tarkine rainforest which I bought a while ago.

I'm a restless soul. I like effecting change, I like making things happen.

Such words might trip lightly off many a business mogul's tongue but in Robert Purves's case they have the weight of action behind them.

For the past few weeks Purves has been busily sending out copies of Australian scientist Professor Tim Flannery's alarming new book on climate change, The Weather Makers, to key federal and state politicians.

Also on his mailing list are executives from the big end of town, many of whom he knows personally through his networks as a prominent businessman with large commercial grazing interests. And if you've been flying round the country you may have seen the book advertised prominently outside Qantas Club lounges, as well as on buses and trams. Purves is responsible for that as well.

He wants this book to be a tipping point, a catalyst for urgent action by Australia, especially Australian business, on global warming. He paid for Flannery to travel and research the work, underwriting it through the Purves Environmental Fund, which he set up in 2003 with $10 million from his own pocket. To raise this sum he sold off large shareholdings in the diagnostics and aged-care company DCA Group, which he still chairs.

Purves runs counter to all the stereotypes for a passionate conservationist. He's an industry and farming blueblood - the son of leading industrialist Sir Raymond Purves and grandson of legendary pastoralist T.A. Field - as much at home in boardrooms as in the paddocks of his three grazing properties in southern NSW.

As well as his own funds, he's poured energy, time and ideas into environmental causes. He's been chairman of the Australian chapter of WWF (formerly the World Wild Fund for Nature) for the past six years, and recruited another green-minded businessman, former BP Australasia head Greg Bourne, as its chief executive. Together they've built WWF's subscriber base from 6000 to 80,000.

Purves was behind the funding and commissioning of a landmark report on salinity and land-clearing produced by the Wentworth Group of scientists in 2002, which helped trigger key state and federal initiatives on water and land management. And he personally financed the production of a lavish photographic book on the Tarkine temperate rainforest in Tasmania - the second-largest forest of its type left intact on the planet.

The book was posted to every key player in federal and Tasmanian politics, and Purves credits it with helping to secure most of the Tarkine against logging under a deal between Canberra and Hobart earlier this year.

At this point you'd think Purves might be resting on his laurels a little. Far from it. The mother of all environmental battles - global warming - is building on the horizon. And Purves believes business is fiddling while the world burns.


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