With over 20 years of entrepreneurship experience, founder, executive chair, and former CEO of commerce platform Lightspeed Dax Dasilva shifted his attention to the environmentalism sector in 2021. It was then that he started Age of Union: "A non-profit environmental alliance that supports and makes visible a global community of change-makers working on the ground to protect the planet’s threatened species and ecosystems."
In 2023, Dasilva accompanied award-winning ethologist, conservationist, and beloved chimpanzee expert Dr. Jane Goodall on her first trip to the Amazon rainforest, as part of a Roots & Shoots program collaboration.
Specifically, Age of Union, the Jane Goodall Institute, and the Juma Institute — an organization centered on "the protection of the forest, heritage, intellectual property, and territories of Indigenous peoples and traditional communities within the Brazilian Amazon" — have joined forces.
In discussion with Green Matters, Dax Dasilva — who's also an Emmy-winning co-executive producer on the 2022 documentary Wildcat — discussed his life-changing trip alongside Dr. Goodall, honoring ancestral knowledge, and empowering global youth activists.
Dax Dasilva on his Amazon rainforest trip with Dr. Jane Goodall: "She has hope in the indomitable human spirit."
Dax Dasilva's journey into environmentalism began when he was a teenager living in British Columbia, where he "joined the protests to save Clayoquot Sound," Dasilva tells Green Matters exclusively on a call. "They were logging 1,000-year-old trees, old-growth forest, on the west coast of Vancouver Island."
"Now it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected Pacific Rim National Park," he explains, highlighting the power of activism. However, it was the drive to Clayoquot Sound that changed Dasilva.
"Driving across Vancouver Island through hours and hours of clearcut moonscape is what turned me into a conservationist and an environmentalist," he continues, mentioning the extent of damage.
Naturally, Dasilva has been enamored by Dr. Goodall's work for as long as he can remember. "I just seem to have idolized Jane my entire life," he says.
The Age of Union founder says that he and Dr. Goodall have mutual friends, and the two connected at an event in Montreal in May 2022.
Conservationist and activist Juma Xipaia resides in the Kaarimã Village within the Xipaya Indigenous Territory in Brazil’s Pará state, as per Age of Union. According to Yale Environment 360, the village chief has been working to protect her community's lands — standing up against dam projects and the intrusion of armed illegal loggers and miners — since she was 13 years old.
"We visited Juma's village of Kaarimã for about six nights, and then also traveled around the area and traveled to some of Jane's speaking engagements in Brasília," Dasilva shares.
After hearing Dr. Goodall speak numerous times, Dasilva grew to love her message of hope even more.
"What I love about her message — it's a message that we really carry through Age of Union — is every individual can make a difference in their own capacity," he begins. "She has hope in youth."
Dax Dasilva on the new Brazilian Amazon Roots & Shoots program: "Juma Institute is leading, and we're supporting."
The new leg of the program in the Brazilian Amazon specifically values ancestral knowledge and aims to encourage more Indigenous youth to take action. Dasilva notes that Age of Union and the JGI will assist with funding and frameworks, and will provide resources for building structures. However, the actual teaching concerning safeguarding these territories is rooted in the past.
"It's that initial learning and inspiration for young people on themes like forest preservation, climate crisis, territorial protection, water, traditional medicine, [and] traditional food," Dasilva explains. "These are the land and water defenders for the Amazon."
A common theme is apparent in the work of Age of Union, the JGI, and the Juma Institute: Unity.
"Whether we're Indigenous, or we're non-Indigenous, we exist in a greater unit," he begins. "The Amazon ecosystem is ... a primary lung of the planet."
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, 150 to 200 billion tons of carbon is stored in the Amazon rainforest's herbage and soil. Plus, its trees deliver 20 billion tons of water into the atmosphere each day.
Dax Dasilva on joining the Jane Goodall Institute's Council for Hope: "It's such a great honor."
The JGI's Council for Hope comprises a prestigious group of planet protectors who will maintain "Jane’s legacy as an everlasting force for good." Dr. Goodall has invited Dasilva to join the council.
"It's such a wide spectrum of philosophers, academics, artists, business people," he tells Green Matters.
Dasilva believes his lengthy background in tech combined with his boots-on-the-ground experience as a full-time conservationist gives him a unique perspective for the Council for Hope.
As for how Dasilva encourages youth all over the world to make a difference in the fight against climate change, he says it starts with an early bond with nature.
"Through programs like Roots & Shoots, young people can be leaders in this movement," he tells us. "Being involved or being engaged in environmentalism at a young age can result in having a life that's very connected to making things better on the planet."
Overall, Dasilva believes that nature "does a multi-trillion-dollar service to us for free," so it's important that all people work to protect it.