Charles Cotton in a park of London playing his mandolin.
Charles Cotton lives in King’s Cross, London. He is a student, he did an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and is now working on a PhD on carbon fixation mechanisms/biofuels. His favourite rainforest animal is the lemur, “those guys are awesome”, he says. He has only ever seen them in a zoo in Zurich though, he would love to get out to Madagascar to see them in the wild! He can’t forget the rainforest plants though, that’s mostly what he is about.
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* What inspires you?
People making bold decisions for the right reasons.
* What makes you angry?
I try to get angry as little as possible these days, you can be passionate and effective without anger! I’m passionate about social mobility and increasing people’s personal valuations of the environment.
* What is your personal mission?
To make it possible for everyone regardless of background, geographical location, income and education to be able to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. I think a big part of what drives me is believing you have to make it possible for people to do the sustainable things they probably already want to do (like drive a car without burning fossil fuels, or protect the rainforest in a meaningful way, not burn kerosene for lighting).
* If you were Prime Minister, what would be the first thing you’d change?
I think the very first thing I’d do is shift our economy in a much bigger way towards renewable energies looking at other heritage countries like Germany (who recently hit a day of 50% solar power supply) for some tips.
* Why did you agree to become a bloomtrigger ambassador?
I like the idea of getting people more personally involved in rainforest preservation, of it being a bit more than just a bank transfer.
* Can you describe a typical workday?
Life as a scientist is very variable, and as yet I’m still very junior so there’s still a lot of “learning by trial and error”! The short answer is probably, go in, move some colourless liquids around, see if something somewhere has grown or hasn’t, go to a meeting, struggle with a new technique for a couple of hours and sit down for a bit scratching my head and thinking about all the things that just happened. Then I leave with a vague sense of satisfaction that I may just be a little bit closer to understanding what I didn’t understand the day before.
* Can you think of a place or event you have been that has really inspired you?
Amersham. Zone 9 on the tube. I was surprised too. Spent a weekend in the countryside in a friends cottage in some fields and it was perfect.
* How do you define success?
Making either more people happy or the same number of people happy for longer than you did the last time you thought you had succeeded.
* What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
Be excellent to each other. It’s technically from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure so I guess it’s not advice from anyone but it’s still probably the best thing I’ve ever heard.
* What’s your favourite book or film of late?
The Secret Life of Trees – Colin Tudge. I wish I was joking but that book is too good to joke about.
* If you could get anyone to become a part of the bloomtrigger project who would it be and why?
Good question. I think you’d want someone who has a big voice, it’s a simple message it just needs spreading! So Oprah Winfrey, why not.
* How do you go green in your daily life?
I’ve been making incremental steps since I was maybe 17, trying to fly less, I turned vegetarian about three years ago, I cycle around London, I recycle really obviously when people are standing near bins, I cook outrageously tasty vegetarian food to try and convert people.
* What would you most like to happen to protect the planet?
Proper valuation of our natural resources. This is such an umbrella concept, if we valued oil properly (i.e. for making plastics, cool chemicals) we probably wouldn’t burn it to move from A to B. If we valued the rainforest properly for the benefits it can and does bring, it probably wouldn’t be efficient to burn it and cover it with cows.
* Do you have a favourite quote you can share with us?
“When I saw I was under attack from all sides, I knew I was on the right track.” – Man Ray.
* If you found yourself stranded in a rainforest, what is the one thing you would like to have with you?
A quality jokebook. Nothing like a sense of humour for a bit of strandedness.
* Can you think up one more interesting question that we should be asking for this interview, but have not thought of yet and then answer it?
What’s your favourite website (apart from bloomtrigger.com obviously!)?
They don’t update so much, but when they come out I generally like these RSA Animates a lot: http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/videos/ and I’ll admit to reading reddit.com a little bit too much.