Tell us a little about what your background and what your lifestyle is like?
I am Filippino Australian raised in a country town in the Macleay Valley, NSW. My work with Halfcut is as co-founder and full time volunteer, my very busy schedule can at times be both demanding and stressful. Given this, I strive to achieve a balanced lifestyle and whenever possible I love spending time with family, friends, and my ‘fur-babies’. Connecting with the natural environment is my ‘happy place’ - soaking up the sun at the beach and going for bush walks. Eating healthily, sustainably and cruelty free are also priorities for me - one day I would love to own my own small plot and grow my own food.
We love all that you and your partner Jimmy are doing, protecting what’s left of our precious rainforests through Halfcut, your not-for profit. Tell us how it all began, your journey and adding Halfbraid for the ladies!
It all started around eight years ago in 2011, when James and I set off to South America. We both shared a passion for the environment and wildlife so we decided to do volunteer conservation work in the Amazon Basin Bolivia, Serene Reserve. Seeing the continued destruction of the environment and wildlife, as well as the impacts of wholesale illegal logging and animal agriculture on local communities was devastating. It was then we both knew it was important that we create awareness and raise funds to support conservation. Whilst travelling, James had grown a large beard that invariably drew attention from other tourists, everywhere we went we got shout-outs of “Nice beard!” His beard became the catalyst for conversations with total strangers, so I started to respond with “It’s for conservation”. We were genuinely shocked by the number of people who did not know what conservation was, so we decided to incorporate the importance of conservation into any conversation we had about his beard.
On returning to Australia, we started off with two campaigns - BeardsOn and BraidsOn. During one of our many brainstorming sessions, we decided we needed to reach as many people as possible and have all ages to take part in the challenge - not just guys with beards. So we merged both campaigns into HalfCut allowing anyone and everyone to be involved - taking part, their way, in a fun way. We wanted to be more inclusive of all ages and have options for those people who wanted to get onboard, but who did not feel comfortable shaving off half their hair. So for example; half braid, half make-up, half styled clothing and colouring half their hair, which still created a platform for discussion.
What can you tell us about the importance of our forests and the connection they have to the rest of the planet?
Every minute, almost 50 acres of rainforest are lost forever and critically endangered species face loss of habitat. Every single day, more of our planet’s ecosystems are being destroyed and the climate crisis worsens. This is heart-breaking. There will come a time when every human will ask themselves why they didn't do more? When for just $2.50 (half the price of coffee) we could have collectively saved something precious OUR planet.
According to National Geographic New Science “Land conservation must double by 2030, to prevent dangerous warming and unravelling of ecosystems”. Deforestation is a significant contributor to climate change causing greenhouse gases. Studies indicate that tropical deforestation accounts for up to 15% of net global carbon emissions each year. That’s about the same as every car, truck, bus, plane, ship and train on the planet combined.That’s because nearly 70,000 acres of tropical forest are lost every day. But if you prevent deforestation, all that carbon remains safely stored away in the forests (Source: Rainforest Trust 2019).
Furthermore, not only do forests provide vital organic infrastructure for some of the planet's most diverse collections of life, rainforests are also vital resources for medicines.Today, 1% of the worlds tropical forest plants have been tested for pharmaceutical properties, yet a quarter of all modern medicines came originally from rainforests. The real tragedy here is, that many, many more species are yet to be discovered and their vital medicinal properties not even known.
I can imagine you have visited some of the worlds most diverse forests. What does spending time in nature mean to you?
Spending time in nature is hugely important to me, especially being raised in a small country town I was very lucky to have the best of both worlds - beautiful bushland and the ocean. Living in the heart of Sydney, it can be difficult to escape and reconnect. But when I do, I feel more relaxed and rejuvenated. Increasingly, the science of the healing power of nature is being better understood, good for the heart, good for the head, good for the soul and good for general health. During my own struggles recovering from a traumatic head injury, through the pain and darker times has allowed me to relax, recover and focus on listening to my body. I truly believe by reconnecting with nature, we reconnect with our true self.