Like many AEGN members, Alexander Gosling can trace his abiding love of the natural environment back to his childhood. Raised on a farm in England, Gosling fondly remembers “crawling along hedgerows looking for frogs and newts and things” as a boy.
“I’ve always been a nature lover,” he says.
“I recently found an old, 1966 copy of a magazine produced by a company I used to work for, which included an interview with myself. One of the questions they asked was ‘What is your dream?’ and I said my dream was to go overseas and become involved in a major conservancy organisation, so I guess I’ve more or less achieved that!”
Gosling is deeply involved with the work of Bush Heritage Australia, having been a long-time supporter and now Board member since 2016. The non-profit buys and manages land, and partners with the land’s Traditional Owners, to conserve Australia’s inimitable landscapes and native species.
In 2019-20, Bush Heritage Australia’s impact included the protection of 11,300,000 hectares of land (which, Gosling notes, is “bigger than Tasmania”) and 6700 native species across 36 conservation reserves and partnerships.
For Gosling, one of the most appealing aspects of Bush Heritage Australia’s work is the organisation’s commitment to the long-term big picture.
“I like that they work on decades, rather than years in their planning and that they treat the entire landscape as a system,” he explains. “Their vision is ‘Healthy country protected for ever’.”
“The other thing that’s really important to me is the extent of involvement with Traditional Owners.
“The majority of work is now done in partnership with Aboriginal people, and having access to a knowledge base that is 40,000 years old and knows this country so much better than the couple of hundred years of European settlement is an immense privilege. I’m very passionate about that.”
Professionally, Gosling, has worked in product development and technology commercialisation for 40 years and is the founding director of product development business Invetech.
His philanthropic journey, while beginning in a smaller way many decades ago, has gathered pace in recent years.
“When I started out, there wasn’t a lot I could do initially on an engineer’s salary and with children and school fees, but as I approached retirement, I was able to increase my donations,” Gosling explains.
Philanthropically, Gosling prefers to keep his philanthropy simple, opting not to establish a PAF or formal giving structure.
“For my giving, I just transfer the money,” he says. “It really is direct, personal giving.”
Beyond financial support
Gosling’s support for the causes and non-profit organisations that are dear to his heart, doesn’t stop at money.
“At Bush Heritage, I’m actively involved in the organisation,” he explains. “As well as giving, I’m involved as an engineer and I’m on the technology advisory committee, and I give my time to sit on the board of directors as a volunteer position. I like that I get a sense of total engagement which makes it even more special.”
Gosling also provides philanthropic support to the University of Sydney’s Inventing the Future program, which now includes an environmental focus. As a signatory to the AEGN’s Environmental Giving Pledge, Gosling’s intention is to “give as much as he can” each year.
“I have an emotional pledge to the environment if you like,” he says. “Year by year I will do what I can, and I am leaving a reasonable chunk in my will too.”
“I’m told that for every dollar that goes towards environmental philanthropy, eight dollars goes towards humanitarian causes,” Gosling continues.
“I’m concerned that we’ve got these priorities wrong because if we don’t protect our environment, there’s no point protecting our people. As David Attenborough says, we are living creatures and we depend on the living world.”
Gosling is a keen supporter of several of Australia’s threatened species through the work being undertaken by Zoos Victoria in its Fighting Extinction program and its commitment to preventing any Victorian vertebrate going extinct.
“To me, this work feels beautifully complimentary because Zoos Victoria is protecting what we call insurance populations within enclosures of threatened species which can be returned to the landscape when its ready to receive them.”
“As a philanthropist, you have to be prepared to be patient and persistent and keep on supporting the organisations you believe in,” he continues. “There’s no point just dashing around saying, ‘I haven’t seen any difference so I’m going to move onto something else’.
“From the point of view of the organisations that are doing the work, reliable long-term money is hugely valuable because it allows them to plan for the future with confidence.”
Looking to the future
While Gosling is heartened by the significant gains being made by the work of Australia’s environmental NGOs, he says the extent of the challenge facing us is “massive”.
“The people who are in a position to do something about it, namely our government, continue to kick the can down the road,” he says.
“The longer they keep doing that, the bigger and more urgent the challenge becomes. We all need to make as much noise as we can, as well as getting on with it ourselves as quickly as we can.”