As a little girl in Queensland, Australian accountant Deanne Firth experienced both the amazing beauty and the awesome power of nature.
Known for its weather extremes, Queensland can experience lengthy droughts. But when it rains, it really rains.
While being evacuated during one especially bad flood, Deanne noticed something that she always remembers. The animals – even the much-maligned snakes of the area – were, just like the people, scrambling to find higher ground. In that moment Deanne felt a unity with, and an appreciation for, the natural world – and our place in it.
“There is nothing more amazing or uplifting than nature,” she says.
Deanne hopes she can spread her love of nature, along with the understanding that it’s in all of our best interests to protect it. She also hopes that this shared affinity for our common home will help unify people and encourage them to help others in need.
Life came from the sea, but humans rule the land
At the time of this writing, the Brazilian rainforest in the Amazon river basin has been undergoing devastating wildfires for weeks. An abundant ecosystem, the Amazon rainforest has already been decimated by intentional clearcutting and encroaching development, and these fires are adding rapid insult to injury.
Deanne reminds us that rainforests are the “lungs” of the Earth, its rich flora converting carbon dioxide into the oxygen that we and other animals need to survive. The relationship between life and our atmosphere is complicated, but the Amazon rainforest alone does account for about 6% of photosynthetic oxygen production. For many other reasons as well, Deanne believes it’s vital that we protect our domain on land.
“From the ruggedness of Alaska to the beaches of the Maldives, life on land is beautiful and we should do all that we can to protect it,” she says.
UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #15 – Life on Land – aims to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. Deanne supports SDG #15 and its emphasis on protecting our home and that of our fellow land creatures.
Like in Brazil, Deanne learned that Borneo’s rainforest is suffering from unsustainable farming practices. Encroaching plantations and illegal logging are threatening the habits of indigenous orangutans there. Simple economics forces organizations who want to protect that land to purchase it before it falls into the hands of the plantations.
“You can buy 1 hectare of rainforest in Borneo for $500 US,” Deanne says.
Buying the land to protect it is not only good for the rainforest and the orangutans, she points out, but for local villagers as well. They are employed to manage and rehabilitate the purchased land, including any endangered wildlife.
Smart approaches like this are right up Deanne’s alley as an accountant who specializes in finding optimal solutions.
Auditing for Good
Deanne is the Director of the auditing firm Tactical Super and serves on the Board of B1G1. She’s also an author and does presentations on professional development. As you can imagine, she’s pretty busy, and she often envies Australia’s beloved koala. You see, that’s the animal that gets to take a 22-hour power nap each day.
She’s determined to dedicate as much time as possible to helping charitable organizations manage their books more efficiently. At Auditing for Good, Deanne helps assess those organizations’ financial reports to ensure that they’re effectively using their contributions. This helps the organizations run more efficiently, but it also provides transparency to those who are considering support.
Deanne warns, though, that it’s a mistake to look only at administrative ratios when assessing a Worthy Cause. It’s often wise for organization to dedicate a portion of its contributions to ensuring the quality of the service that it provides. This includes the development and training of staff, and research into best practices. In the long run, that small percentage pays for itself by allowing the organization to do more good for a longer period of time.
This idea of sometimes having to look beyond the numbers is part of what makes Deanne a Legacy Maker and informs her business philosophy as well.
An unexpected lesson
When visiting the rainforest in Borneo, Deanne brought along her 10-year-old son’s camera. It happened to be an expensive, high-quality model with a great set of lenses for wildlife photography. Deanne quickly learned that her rudimentary “point and shoot” technique was far inferior to that of her rainforest guide, a local man who could not afford such a camera.
After turning over photography duties to the guide – who never asked to be paid for that extra duty – she noticed his joy and his talent and wondered how someone with no camera of their own could be so skilled. It turns out that the man was forced to sell his camera to pay for a medical procedure.
Being a local villager, Deanne’s guide could easily make money in illegal logging or on one of the palm oil plantations, but instead he works toward reforestation. This was inspiring lesson for Deanne, seeing someone with so little give so much – in the true B1G1 spirit.
Generosity of spirit is a key to the way Deanne lives her life.
“Before you make a business decision take a wider view of the world, thinking beyond your own front door and consider the impact it will make to those around you,” Deanne suggests.
Deanne’s legacy is for everyone to recognize that in a world we all share, we can’t survive without mutual respect. Respect for nature, respect for each other, and even respect for those snakes slithering past Deanne’s feet for dry ground.