Ed Norton/Kenya Natural Wealth

Social Responsibility Movies, Travel

Ed Norton/Kenya Natural Wealth

Actor, conservationist and United Nations (UN) Environment Programme (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador Edward Norton visited a variety of conservation and rural renewable energy projects in central Kenya earlier this year.

Norton, who was appointed the UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity last July, is an environmental conservation advocate and has often stressed the importance of forests in preserving biodiversity, mitigating the consequences of climate change and alleviating poverty as well as deplored the fact that forests are being cleared to make way for commercial activities that benefit a few at the expense of the majority, mostly the poor.

SOUNDBITE (English) Edward Norton, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity:
“It’s very important to find ways to articulate to people why biodiversity matters, should matter to them; and in a lot of ways that’s about telling good stories, it’s about being able to go into the world, see programs, see examples of the good and the bad, see examples of negative impacts, loss of biodiversity, see examples of the positive impacts of restoration and preservation of biodiversity, and come back and find a way to communicate that to people in a broad base way.”

While visiting a bio-gas project in Kenya, intended to provide a farming community with an alternative to the use of firewood, Norton witnessed how small dairy farmers around the slopes of Mount Kenya are using waste from their cows to produce enough methane to power their houses and farms.

SOUNDBITE (English) Edward Norton, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity:
“One of the ones that really stuck out to me was this biogas project for small dairy farmers around the slopes of Mount Kenya. They are reducing and even eliminating their use of fuel wood from forests by taking these digestors, these drums, and putting the waste from their dairy cows into them and producing so much methane that they power their whole houses, their stoves, their farms and everything. And the guy, there was this guy, you know, the project manager of that, and he was like, I mean, you know, Steven Spielberg was never more passionate and creative than this guy was.”

Since economic development in Kenya is largely underpinned by the quality and integrity of the country’s rich natural resource base, UNEP reports that environmental change in the form of degradation is threatening its natural resources and therefore affecting Kenyan livelihoods.

SOUNDBITE (English) Edward Norton, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity:
“We are losing this enormous treasury of species that has lots of very specific value to us. Not just holistic or spiritual but actual economic value. It is a genetic database that we are losing. There is an incredible report that’s come out of the UN, it’s called the TEA Report, the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity that really clearly demonstrates that forest ecosystems represent an enormous uncalculated GDP, especially for poor people around the world so that when you clear a forest to create the quote unquote economic gain of a certain kind of industry, you actually wipe out an enormous economic GDP that poor people were extracting in a sustainable way from a forest.”

The actor has been active in garnering support for conservation efforts, serving as a board member and head of the Kenya-based Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust’s New York office. He also took part in the launch of an innovative social networking platform called Crowdrise to boost participation in charitable work.

Norton became involved in the Trust over a decade ago after visiting its eco-lodge in Kenya. In 2009, he ran the New York City marathon with a team of Maasai warriors raising $1.2 million for the Trust.

SOUNDBITE (English) Edward Norton, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity:
“Biodiversity is not just this abstract concept in halls of science, it’s the living underpinning of our lives and we are all intimately and directly connected to the services and the resources that biodiversity supplies us in our lives. We are reliant on the web of biodiversity for our lives and I think we have to tell that story better to people.”

According to Norton, figuring out how people in developing countries can thrive and grow without destroying some of the world's most important natural resources is going to be one of the great challenges of the 21st Century.


Language: English

Year of Production: 2011

Length: 5 mins

Country: Kenya


  • Muhamed Sacirbey (UNTV-UNEP original)


  • Susan Sacirbey (UNTV-UNEP original)