Tony Juniper: If I had to start again ..

I'm not going to say I wish I had been a musician or whatever. Conservation is my passion. Even if I'd done something different, I would have finished up working for an environmental group, whether that was WWF or Greenpeace.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Growing up, I had a love of natural history. I went to Bristol to study zoology and psychology, basically looking at animal behaviour. When I left in 1983, I looked around and thought: 'What am I meant to do with myself?' I saw an ad for Friends of the Earth, but didn't think I stood a chance of getting in.

At Birdlife International, I was in charge of protecting various species, largely in the tropical rainforest. I was part of the team that found the last Spix's macaw living in the wild. I was confronted with the reasons for that, with the rainforest making way for soya and sugar-cane production to feed the global market for bio-fuels. I joined Friends of the Earth to try and stop the tsunami of destruction, having been on the ground and seen what's going on.

I was at Friends of the Earth 18 years, and director for six. I'm amazed it went so well. There were no abject failures, which is amazing - it all came about through good analysis and good timing. Look at the momentum behind the issue of climate change. The most important thing I've worked on was influencing transport policy, with the Big Ask campaign, demanding laws to reduce CO2 emissions from cars.

I'm not leaving the issues. I'm now working with the Prince's Rainforest Trust, and the Cambridge University Programme for Industry. And I'll do some consulting, being very careful which companies to pick. It's important not to follow what convention dictates. Go with the passion instead. It's a fantastically powerful investment if you can find it, even when you're 30 or 40. Life tends to be a lot longer than you expect.

- Tony Juniper stepped down as director of Friends of the Earth in July.

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