Jessica is a crime-fighting conservationist. Through her work with INTERPOL’s Environmental Security Program and the former Presidential Task Force for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, Jessica has seen a part of environmental sustainability that very few have. Today we will talk about the real implications of wildlife trafficking and illegal logging as well as what we as civilians and tourists can do to help.
Marjorie Alexander (00:00):
This is a sustainable mind episode 36. Hey, they're sustainable mines. Did you know that we have a phone number and guess what? I actually respond. Send me a text message to three to three, five, three, six to zero. Again, that phone number is three to three, five, three, six to zero. Tell me what you love about the show, what you think we can improve upon, who you want to hear from on future episodes, and let me know what your goals are for [inaudible]. I'd love to hear from you
Jessica Graham (00:32):
Reducing plastic use or not contributing to the illegal wildlife trade when you're on vacation or I'm recycling or using public transport. There are lots of ways that we can start small, but I think together as a global unit we can. We can do a lot more through starting small time
Marjorie Alexander (00:58):
to a sustainable mind where we dove into the minds behind today's most impactful environmental campaigns, organizations and startups. Inspiring the environmental change makers of tomorrow. I'm your host, Marjorie Alexander
Marjorie Alexander (01:19):
Jessica Graham is a crime fighting conservationist. She has previously worked with Interpol on their environmental security program and as former senior advisor of the US Department of state where she created an environmental crime program that dedicates $40,000,000 annually to combating wildlife and forest crimes. Jessica, welcome to the show. You have a really, really interesting background in law enforcement and I cannot wait to dive a little bit deeper into that, but first I want to know about how nature the environment and sustainability played a role in your home life growing up.
Jessica Graham (01:58):
Yeah. It wasn't exactly a most obvious state a path for me, um, in a role in my life growing up. I think I did come from my, on my father's side, there's a lineage of farmers, so a long lineage of generations of farmers from Ohio. And so the importance of having land and growing your own food was important. So that kind of connection to nature resonated with me. Um, but, but outside of that, not so much. I mean, as a kid I wanted coming in and being originally from Ohio. I'm the zoo. The Columbus Zoo is quite famous and the director there, Jack Hanna at the time was, uh, was kind of my who I wanted to be when I grew up.
Marjorie Alexander (02:49):
Awesome. So tell people about what you do. I'm not even going to try to introduce this. So tell us a bit about profession is
Jessica Graham (03:00):
I blend the two very different worlds together. I blend, I'm the conservation side of, of, of uh, environmental issues such as wildlife and land use and water security and fisheries type, ocean type work in the conservation world. And I, and I merge it with the law enforcement side or the dark side, the crime world. So the work I do and have done in my, in my previous positions, both with Interpol and with us State Department, have been really to look at engaging in assisting law enforcement to better equip them to combat transnational crimes such as wildlife trafficking in elicit fisheries, illegal logging and those types of, of conservationists or flavored components in a global perspective. And in a global engagement. So, you know, with Interpol I worked with a hundred 92 member countries where we worked with law enforcement and provided technical assistance and capacity building to support them in these environmental areas for more of a environmentally secure world, if you will.
Marjorie Alexander (04:16):
So in December you retweeted something that Elliot Harris said and he is the UN assistant secretary general and that quote is, there is no lack of awareness, no lack of action, but the problem still exists. What we need is enforcement. So speaking about illegal logging and wildlife trafficking, exactly what does enforcement look like and how would it would more enforcement changed some of the situations that we're seeing out in the wild right now.
Jessica Graham (04:44):
Yeah. So I was at bu at environmental assembly where the theme was um, pollution in marine pollution was a highlight of the session that I was a part of where you're quoting from, are you in a representative that was speaking there? The role of enforcement. I really see kind of three key critical areas to kind of cover the Pi on, on conservation efforts were largely awareness raising, building international cooperation and strengthening law enforcement. Strengthening law enforcement can involve anything from those who are ordering wardens or game park rangers who are on the front lines in places like Africa and in countries like, um, you know, Kenya, where they are patrolling against quite extensive organized criminal groups, including in some cases and incidences, militant groups and they're trying to secure borders, large, large, vast areas of national parks where these animals, no, no land borders, so they're crossing over in migrating and very vast spaces and there's a lot of policing that needs to be done from a security perspective.
Jessica Graham (05:54):
So that can mean basic patrols to them with technology or basic investigation skills to all various components of the law enforcement spectrum. We've provided training and assistance in this vein for those who are, who are our front line responders but not just front line responders, those who who have to be in headquarters in centralizing information data. You know, some basic basic components of, of enforcement is, is information gathering and information sharing in a timely manner. And that doesn't take a lot of technology, but it takes a centralization organization and basic of skills to do that. And of course, law enforcement aren't usually tend to be under-resourced and under-staffed. If you look at, um, especially in the conservation world, when you look across the spectrum of individuals trying to combat, you know, counter narcotics efforts or others, it tends to be that the environmental crime issues are often underappreciated or undervalued to support law enforcement with the sufficient resources that are required to do their job effectively.
Marjorie Alexander (07:02):
And why do you think that they are not. Well, at the end of the day, the lack of resources comes from not really understanding the importance of the issue. So who needs to understand more about the issue, who needs to be educated and how can that sector makes sure that they're getting the funding and the resources that they need.
Jessica Graham (07:22):
Yeah, I mean we, I think every, everyone, you know, raising awareness across the spectrum of whether it's from the top down of government officials to um, we've seen a lot of celebrities, Leonardo Dicaprio get very engaged on these issues and support whether it's making documentaries. So media, media, attention has been important. Youth has been very important. Private sector has provided a lot of the technology and solutions, innovative solutions to addressing some of the problems that I'm law enforcement are facing when, when fighting environmental crime issues. So it really is, it's, it's political will, it's resources, it's a number of issues and it takes a holistic approach in a very kind of, um, integrated solution, uh, to, to responding to these challenges.
Marjorie Alexander (08:17):
I had an interview with the founder of a reinforced connection and he created this device that was solar powered so it could stay out for months and months at a time. Uh, that was basically a microphone that would pick up on the sound of chain saws out in the forest that would then send a ping and alert to the nearest ranger stations so that those first responders actually had an opportunity to go and stop these, these illegal loggers in, in real time. What can citizens like myself and like our listeners do too, to help on this issue? Like you said, law enforcement, first responders, um, W, W, a lot of us aren't necessarily going to make this our careers, our jobs. But what are some of the ways that we can get involved to help prevent a wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, things like that.
Jessica Graham (09:14):
I really think every citizen or, or as I would say, global citizen, I'm out there. I, I feel that there's a lot of awareness raising that needs to be done. And I mentioned some celebrities that are helping to do that though UK royal family has, has done that as well. But all of us have a role in raising awareness, for example, when you're on vacation, uh, you know, not contributing to the illegal wildlife trade by purchasing a baby monkey from a local individual and in one of these countries that we all enjoy visiting for vacation or, you know, purchasing a. When we go, you know, from the US, we often go to the Caribbean or elsewhere for vacation and purchasing a, you know, a turtle shell or tortoise bowls or, or these types of things. So it's, it's really, um, it's really raising awareness and being part of the solution and taking action and, and being conscientious consumers, um, to, to the environmental footprint we have.
Marjorie Alexander (10:14):
I have a question and I was not planning to ask this, but it, it popped into my brain. What are your thoughts on ecotourism and ecotourism in general, but, but kind of, I mean a lot of companies and organizations out there that use ecotourism as a way to educate and have people see beautiful parts of the world, sometimes the bottom of the ocean with diving in and things like that to kind of say, hey, the world is full of amazing things. Let's help preserve this or is equal, can ecotourism be kind of, kind of damaging a disturbing these places that we're. We're trying so hard to protect. What are your thoughts on ecotourism in general?
Jessica Graham (11:00):
Yeah, I think there's a fine balance. I mean if you look in the US, for example, a lot of conservation groups are, are largely funded by individuals like, you know, a large associations like the safari club or, or other kinds of hunting trophy hunting places. You know, I think it's important to have a balance. For example, uh, in Kenya, 13 percent of their GDP comes from eco-tourism. If they did not have those beautiful, majestic wild creatures such as elephants and lions, a and rhinos, uh, to some degree you, you wouldn't have the vast majority of people going to visit Amboseli or, or salvo p, you know, national parks for Safaris. I think, um, there is a way to do it in a sustainable fashion that's still eco and that's still not degradating ah, the land or the animals that are roaming freely and them.
Marjorie Alexander (12:01):
Thank you for that. Um, I know I put you on the spot with that, but I, I, I've been trying to find someone who's actually knowledgeable in this area to answer that question for me. And here you are. So there you go. Yeah. And how long have you been in your current line of work?
Jessica Graham (12:20):
So I've been working on environmental issues for nearly a decade. Yeah. I was with State Department for, for about eight years. Working in the conservation bureau are working on climate change and I'm working, worked in the energy resources bureau on clean energy issues and working in the law enforcement bureau where I developed a, an environmental program, environmental crime program. When there was no green topic ever discussed in the corridors, um, when I first stepped foot in the, um, law enforcement bureau, which was around for 30 some years when I, when I had joined that bureau, they had quite a large budget on because their focus was on counter narcotics work and, um, and I was able to take a program from a very small seed money and develop a $40,000,000 program for law enforcement on mostly largely wildlife in illegal wildlife trafficking, illegal logging issues. Wow.
Marjorie Alexander (13:18):
That is a very, very, very diverse, uh, backgrounds and a lot of experience with conservation. So you're going to be putting all of that together in a new business venture. You're consulting from J J. Global Advisory. Tell us a little bit about what your objectives are for that project
Jessica Graham (13:38):
or that company. Yeah. So really excited to launch this consulting company here this summer actually. And um, you know, we're looking at, it's going to be taking kind of all of those diverse backgrounds and providing environmental consulting services, including business development, project management and strategic policy on environmental security issues.
Marjorie Alexander (14:01):
So I know that that went over a lot of people's heads, over my head quite a bit as well, but can you kind of dial in and tell us maybe about who your ideal client might be so that if there are business owners out there or I don't know anyone who, who are, who are you really looking to work with?
Jessica Graham (14:25):
Yeah, I mean my client basis is quite diverse, but in, in each area, right? So conservation geos are our partners that I would be working in sporting with on various projects that they're doing in the field. I would also be a supporting clients such as private sector that are, um, that are looking to have more, a corporate social responsibility impact and I'm working on how to be more environmentally sensitive but still without hurting their bottom line figures. And then I would be working with governments who are very strong and high level supporters of these issues from a political level who are, um, also tend to be large donors to various environmental type insecurity type projects. For example, the EU does a lot of work in the UK as well as the US government on financially supporting a projects in the field. Excellent. Excellent.
Marjorie Alexander (15:25):
So in your long career at this point
Jessica Graham (15:29):
Marjorie Alexander (15:30):
embarking on this new business venture, what is the most unexpected gift or benefit that you've received as a result of this work in your career so far?
Jessica Graham (15:40):
Yeah, for me, the gift that I've, I've benefited from a, I, you know, it's uh, it's definitely, uh, a gift I've received is cultivating an environmentally conscious child, which is my niece and how my actions have led for her to take action and leading to positive impact. And so, um, I'll give you a short story here, but so I, um, I foster frequently a elephants, baby elephants, who there's not. Their mothers have been poached largely or have died or been killed and in various ways. And elephants are pretty amazing creatures. If you, if you've never heard about them, I would encourage your listeners to, to learn more about them. They've got amazing memories. They're extremely emotional. They're very reactive. So there are different than other species such as monkeys or chimps that, that, that can plot and plan things ahead. They're very kind of reactive emotionally and there's a amazing stop orphan orphanage, if you will, that, that I'm in Kenya that I support, uh, and so you provide an annual fee and if it goes into their feeding and fostering and Rangers who care for them?
Jessica Graham (16:58):
Twenty four, seven, they are like children, they have to feed through the night and everything. So my niece a was inspired by what I was doing and she was about eight years old at the time and she decided to build some arts and crafts headbands with her friend and go and fundraise so that they could get enough money to foster an elephant for a year, a baby orphan, Elvin. So, um, so it's, it's these kinds of things that you don't realize what your actions are until you kind of see the impact or the, the actions through you on from others. So, so that was a, that was a nice gift and reminder, um, of what I do everyday because at times I'm working in kind of the dark side of conservation and it's not always pretty, so we try to find our successes where we can because there are not too many of them unfortunately.
Jessica Graham (17:55):
So it's time now for our seven sustainable questions. First of those is, can you share with us one long-standing habit that you believe has significantly improved your life? As a former diplomat and as a globe trotter? Um, in my current position, I think that what's helped me the most given I've been to over 40 countries now is traveling light. I try to carry a carry-on [inaudible] to check it. I tried to carry it because I know that I'll be carrying on my own at some point. I'm in my travels and I, I love traveling both for work and for pleasure. So traveling light has helped me in addition to obviously healthy eating and exercising, having lived in, in France, now it in, in general, you're walking a lot, you're eating much healthier. So it's, it's, it's good for all the time.
Jessica Graham (19:00):
What's one new habit that you're cultivating your life right now? So living in Europe, I have learned how to have a better work life balance. They do not work more than a seven and a half hour work day here. Not that I, I'm condoning that because everything seems to always be closed, but, but I was working crazy hours in my former positions in Washington dc where the work, the pace of life tends to be a lot quicker. And so I have really learned to tone it down or turn it down a bit and um, and, and try to really enjoy not working 12, 14, 16 hour days and every weekend, but really trying to, to hunker down and enjoy pastime and hobbies. And so I've developed other, additional hobbies with this extra time if you will, be able to have even more control of your time. So that's important.
Jessica Graham (20:01):
I've also, I've also started in part of my, my off time or downtime is, um, is meditation, which has also really helped, helped me several recently have talked about is meditation. And one thing that it took me a long time to realize is that people meditate and all types of different ways. You don't necessarily have to sit still and completely silent. If you wouldn't mind, would you talk for a moment about what type of meditation works best for you? Yeah, well, I'm certainly a new to it, but, um, I would say I just, I've done mostly guided meditation and I think it'll in, in our talk a little bit about one of the apps I'm using, I think in the, in a little bit here. Um, I'm one of your questions, but we. Yeah, I mean I think guided meditation, but to your point, it doesn't have to be like what would everyone kind of assumes meditation is, you know, I enjoy yoga when I have the time. I enjoy music. Um, that's kind of transcending. Uh, so yeah, I think more or less the guided meditation is the, is the, is what I've been using that helped kind of declutter my mind and kind of reset me. Nice. Very cool.
Marjorie Alexander (21:18):
What is one item that you've acquired in the last year that has helped you live a more earth conscious lifestyle?
Jessica Graham (21:25):
It's pretty basic and pretty simple, but I think the principle behind it is, is huge. And it goes back to something we talked a little bit about earlier this evening, but you know, usable grocery bag. So when I was in the, in Nairobi for the UN Environmental Assembly in December, it was a lot of talk about inclusion, but just the use of plastics. It's huge. And uh, it's, it's having a debilitating effect on our oceans among land and it's a, it's an area that, uh, for example, Kenya has banned recently all plastic bag use, single use and the EU is going to be regulating on plastic. I'm sorry, Kenya banned the use of single use plastic bags, but the use will be regulating also on, on, on plastic. So regulation is coming. I think industry needs to be quick and responsive and ahead of the curve. And I think we're also starting to see a wave of conscientious consumers who are really looking to reduce their plastic use. Um, and, and you see it in places like Europe where I'm in France, um, most people are using a reusable nylon type base bags.
Marjorie Alexander (22:43):
Yeah, that one is huge and you're right, it is simple, but it makes a huge difference. And when I first started using a reusable shopping bags because we do have a band here in California, but it does not banned like fast food joints or retail places from, from using plastic bags. It really only is for grocery stores. So that's something that we're still working on here in California. But for me the challenge was always that I lose things easily. And so the bags, you know, that you, he folded them up into the cute little pouch and then you stick them in your purse or you hook them onto a bag. For me, that actually didn't work. I was constantly losing them even though I have like 10 of them. So for me was I got an oversized one that I never lose. If there's anyone out there that has that same issue that I have, I'm always forgetting to bring it with you because it's so large. I always see it and it makes sure that everything that I buy it makes it into one bag as opposed to having to take multiple bags with me because it is so large. So that's a quick tip for me. Do you have one internet resource or born multiples that you find helpful on a regular basis that you think would be beneficial to share with our listeners?
Jessica Graham (24:00):
Um, so in, in launching my business, I've found fiver, so for those entrepreneurs, I think February is, is quite a useful, um, website for finding any of your basic business needs from a logo designed website design to all kinds of things. And then also back to our point on meditation, it's an app called calm and it's um, it's very nice. I find it very, it's, it's just short a daily meditation, guided meditation, um, scenarios and I think it's, it's very useful. So both of those I would, I would highly recommend they're not eco related but useful.
Marjorie Alexander (24:44):
I definitely think that most people that listen to this show are either avid meditators or would like to be like myself about half of the day. So I'm still working on that habit, but yes, these are amazing resources and I'll be linking this up in the show notes as usual. Great. Do you have a book that you would recommend for sustainable mines out there that are hoping to shift their mindset specifically to become the change that they want to see in the world?
Jessica Graham (25:13):
Yeah. I recently read a book, animals in translation by temple grandin and it was about the, the author is autistic and she describes how to kind of decode or demystify and better understand animal behavior, but she looks at specifically, um, like farm animals and domestic pets. And she, um, she has, she's developed some more humane slaughter shoots across most of the US and Canada. Um, and Steven colden by people like Mcdonald's and, and government agencies like the USDA. So she's quite impressive and what she's done and what I got from the book was really, she kind of shows you lens her perspective on shifting and how to shift your perspective to see more clearly. So what I mean by that is something as simple as, you know, I think a farmer had asked her why the cows were afraid to go in and she just simply saw that the farmer kept hanging his yellow coat on the fence, which was catching their attention in and it was glaringly apparent to them but not to the farmer. And so it's really, it was a very valuable book for me and impressionable.
Marjorie Alexander (26:33):
Awesome. What is one misstep in your journey that has taught you an invaluable lesson?
Jessica Graham (26:39):
What's one misstep in my journey? I would say, you know, I work as a female working in, in the law enforcement world, it can be challenging because you're a minority. And um, and so I think one thing I've learned in my career is that the need to stand up for myself and that it's OK to kind of ask for help. You know, I, I've, I've always been very lucky in finding those champions. I'm in my circles in professionally speaking that have helped me get to be stronger in a largely male dominated a law enforcement industry. Um, but, but yeah, I think standing up for yourself and asking for help, definitely.
Marjorie Alexander (27:25):
And if you had to recreate your current level of success, especially with the launch of your new consulting firm, a, if you have to do that a lot more quickly, what are the tools, resources, and connections that you would put in place right away to ensure your success?
Jessica Graham (27:42):
So if you could kind of goes back to the point of surrounding yourself with those who are your champions and using, utilizing your network. I think we often underestimate our network and on the impact they can have if we reach out to them seeking advice or, or help in any way. So yeah, I think, I think it would just be um, to tap into your network more smartly, I guess.
Marjorie Alexander (28:07):
Excellent. Excellent. So if you are interested in connecting with Jessica, please visit her new website, jg global advisory Dot com. And like we were speaking about earlier, uh, she's got a new consulting firm where she really is helping businesses be more environmentally conscious and friendly throughout all of their projects and all of their business opportunities. So if that is you, if you have a business that could benefit from consulting with her new firm, please do get in contact with her and the direct email address for that is info at jg global advisory Dot com and you can also connect with her on facebook, twitter, and linkedin. So Jessica, do you have any other words or parting pieces of guidance that you can give sustainable minds out there?
Jessica Graham (29:00):
I first want to say thank you so much for having me. Marjory, this has been great and I really enjoy your podcast in, in the circle and network that you've developed in the following, um, wish that um, based on, on the folks that you've interviewed with. You know, I think yeah, I think my parting piece of guidance would be here. You know, people matter. I think everyone does have a role to play and in my line of work, the role really, uh, the world really needs you now. And I think that it's, uh, it's, it can be somethings like starting small, like what I had mentioned to you about reducing plastic use or not contributing to illegal wildlife trade when you're on vacation
Marjorie Alexander (29:42):
or recycling or using public transport. There are lots of ways that we can start small, but I think together as a global unit, we can, we can do a lot more, um, through, through starting small.
Marjorie Alexander (30:01):
Thanks for listening to today's episode of a sustainable mind. Don't forget to send me that text message to three to three to zero. Again, that number is three to 30 5:36 zero. I'll see you next week.