Greg Carr, Philanthropist

Greg Carr was born and raised in Idaho Falls, Idaho. As a young man he was quite successful in the tech business; later he founded the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University and transitioned from making money to judiciously giving it away. Since 2004 he has been the driving force behind the restoration of Gorongosa National Park in Africa. In that year the government of Mozambique invited him to assist in the management of the park. In 2008, Carr and the government signed a 20 year contract, with Carr bequeathing the park $40 million. Carr now spends about half the year in Gorongosa and half in the U.S.. This has allowed him to continue the task of working with the Mozambique government to make Gorongosa the best park in Africa. In interviews conducted in Africa and in Idaho in 2014, Carr talks about his involvement in Gorongosa National Park.

Katherine Jones

Greg Carr at Gorongosa

“We’re trying to do something really challenging at Gorongosa National Park. We’re taking a park that was completely destroyed in a generation of war. Almost all the animals were killed. The people who live next to the park are some of the poorest people in the world. And we’re dedicating a quarter century of our lives, with the government of Mozambique, to try to restore this park, which means bringing back all the animals; but not just that, educating a generation of Mozambicans to be biologists, to be scientists, to be park rangers and tourism professionals and all the different jobs that you need to run a national park. If we succeed, it’s a wonderful model.”

“I went back to the government of Mozambique, and I said: Hey, let’s restore your national park. And when I first said that, I was thinking, this is a great way to create jobs. It’s a great way to create an economic engine in the center of your country. And it was only after I started spending time at Gorongosa did I develop my love and understanding of national parks and conservation. And then I realized, these two objectives fit together, because saving the park will create jobs.”

Greg Carr at the school tree in the nearby village

Greg Carr at the school tree in the nearby village

“The two big objectives that we have here… one is, yes, protect the animals, save the national park. But the other big objective is helping the people who live across the river, helping them with their schools, their health clinics, their farms.”

“There’s something very romantic about Africa, and when you come here you feel different than you do anywhere else in the whole world… and it pulls you away from the stress of your day to day life. And you just think about how magical the earth is, how blessed we are to have such a beautiful earth.”

“In some ways Gorongosa saved me, because I turned 40, and I wasn’t in the mood to start another hi-tech company, even though that had been very fun; and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was a big believer in human rights, but the point is, you want to actually get out and do something. You don’t want to just talk about something. And what Gorongosa did is it gave me a mission for all the rest of the days of my life, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made friends. It’s given me an entire philosophy of existence, and I just can’t imagine where I would be if I hadn’t done this.”

Greg Carr in Africa

Greg Carr in Africa

“For me to live my life half in Idaho and half here in Gorongosa Park, it was necessary for me to make a connection between the two, so that I can go back and forth and feel at home in both places. So, I’ve invited a lot of my friends from Idaho with different talents to come here; and we ended up with quite a collection of them.”

“There’s 200,000 human beings that live in the ‘buffer zone.’ They’re some of the poorest people in the world. They’re mostly farmers. And we’re engaged in their lives. We build them schools. We build them health clinics. We build them farms. We help them improve their farms. If we help those farmers, we’re helping some of the best people in the world who want to succeed, who need a little bit of assistance; but it’s also good for Gorongosa Park, because if the farmers are doing well outside the park, then they’ll support our objectives of saving animals inside the park.”

Greg Carr with Nelson Mandela

Greg Carr with Nelson Mandela

“When I first started spending time in Mozambique, it was a real eye-opener, because I would go across the river outside the national park into the community, and these are people who live in houses made of sticks. I mean, there’s no other way to describe it. And they’re people who essentially live with no money that comes into their life all year long. But they obviously had a lot. And what they had was a rich culture, and they care about each other, and they had a community identity. And by and large I would describe them as happy people and quick to laugh. And so there’s a huge lesson in there, really, about what brings happiness.”

“What I love about the people who live around here is they express their views strongly, but they’re always ready to have a laugh. They don’t carry a lot of anger. And Mateus [the park warden] or even I can make them laugh, and we can all agree there’s a problem, what’s the solution, and you can move through a conversation. We Americans could learn something from the way that they can get together as a little village, really express their problems, and then move through them. I don’t know anybody who has a better sense of humor than rural Africans, and it’s a genuine ability to laugh.”

Water pump supplied to villagers by Gorongosa Restoration ProjectKatherine Jones

Water pump supplied to villagers by Gorongosa Restoration Project

“I’ve been here ten years now, and every time I go across the river I see somebody with a new bicycle, somebody with some new clothes, somebody’s put a new roof on their house, somebody’s planted some new seeds in a garden and got something growing. And I love the fact that they’re able to leverage off of being neighbors of the park and benefit their own lives.”