Jungle in Crisis: Indonesians Act to Stop Deforestation

Recent efforts to save the forests of Borneo and Sumatra provide evidence that with help from concerned people, the current tide of jungle destruction can and will turn. By Kayti Denham

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Bali, 8 September 2012. The lure of the jungle and the animals within it is woven into the fabric of human understanding through many stories, myths and legends. But despite the jungle’s beauty and wealth, many people seek to tame and maim it for plunder and financial imperatives. Imposed upon by greed, need and ignorance many jungles are today under threat.

As deforestation becomes a major cause of destruction causing loss of homes, rising rivers, landslides, desertification and consequential poverty, many of the people who depend on the forests for their home turn to illegal poaching and trafficking to survive. But many don’t realise that every part of the forest, be it a tiger, an orangutan or a dragonfly are all part of the network that keeps us alive. Take that away and we’re gone.

Aspiring to Change

It can be depressing to think like this, but life on this planet is always inspiring. And ground action is growing, through the ever expanding number of people who just cannot sit back and do nothing, People with limited resources who decide that they will act in what ever way they can to promote awareness, and people with a platform who use it to spread the word: nature is not our enemy, we are.

“The reason we choose to go toward an international presence was to allow a spotlight to fall on us as a band, to amplify the issues of environmental sustainability in our own country of Indonesia to an international level,” says Robi, spokesman for Indonesian independent grunge-rock band Navicula. The band applied for and got help in getting a kickstarter project seeded, and as a result will be touring Borneo to promote an environmental message through music, on return from an upcoming trip to Canada and before they leave for America.

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“This country has good laws to protect the environment but they are not being upheld. We see what Japan is doing, what Malaysia is doing to protect their environments, but we see too that corporations in those countries, where the government power is strong, are looking outside to continue their acts of destruction and they buy into other areas of Southeast Asia to avoid the laws of their own governments,” he said.

Robi says Indonesia is vulnerable to this type of exploitation because there are problems maintaining the laws. “We want to be seen to support the government and the laws it has made to protect the natural resources of our home. Our protest is not anti-government, it is not so rock’n’roll in a way, but we 100% support the laws the government made for the protection of forests,” he adds.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, what country you are from, you cannot come to Indonesia to rob us of our future. You cannot use your power to squeeze deals from us that we, as a country do not want. If you think you can continue to buy us, you are wrong, the law is on the side of the people!” That is Navicula’s message and they intend to spread it through music.

Education on Stopping Deforestation

Also in Borneo the group DeforestACTION is setting up assistance in villages and launching a worldwide awareness campaign that allows school groups to monitor forests for signs of depletion. Fa’Empel, one of the founding and board members explains: “We need to educate, more than anything that the solutions to some of these problems are in our hands. With the advanced technology we have we can help support the voices of the local people, and the silent voices of the endangered animals,” she says. By going into schools and presenting DeforestACTION finds that the natural curiosity of students leads to the question of why is deforestation happening. And when that is explained, a whole new level of understanding occurs.

Students see for the first time why something like this immense destruction can occur. And they see how they are involved and can take steps to reduce it. “I have heard of schools where the Student Council stopped the supply of products with palm oil in them, where anything made by the big companies that exploit these environments are banned and where choices about the photocopy paper have been changed to reflect the position of the school,” Fa'Empel explains. “It may not seem like much but each person taking their own power to create a change is a powerful thing in a place like a school.”

Saving the victims

Another organisation working wonders to help save the jungle is Borneo Orangutan Survival Organization (BOS), or Yayasan. The Yayasan has been working to rehabilitate and save orangutans from the destruction of the forests they once called home – and from unbelievable exploitation.

Arvid, a documentary maker who has been working with BOS spoke about the exploitation of orangutans that were sold into the sex trade. If that is horrendous, tales of another baby orangutan whose hand was chopped off because it was holding so tight to its mother when the poacher wanted to kill her, and of orangutans with Herpes, Hepatitis and HIV/AIDs should have us all screaming out in horror. Sadly, many of these are crimes go unpunished, but with bravery people from the Yayasan step outside their comfort zones to assist, to promote and to educate the rest of us.

Most of the organisations and people who support such destruction, promote such harm, provide a market for the poachers, and create opportunities for poor sections of society to destroy their own environments are masked behind layers of irresponsibility. We probably won’t ever know who they are, but we can make a difference nonetheless. We can do it by being involved in the spread of information, by asking people to listen, to read and to make their own minds up about what they can do. All it takes is a push of a button, going to a website, joining a group, talking to people at work, at school, and taking the small steps required to be a part of the solution.

Robi, Fa’ and Arvid are a path towards a better future. Some people believe we were created to take care of this planet, others believe we are temporary custodians. I respect everyone’s right to believe, but I think it is time to reflect on what we actually know. What we do know can be seen with the naked eye: “If you look at Google Earth, you make some of your own assessments, you don’t need an expert to tell you there are less trees!” says Robi.

But the good news is we have changed, we are moving slowly closer to an understanding that allows for new technology and development to assist in the global struggle for survival. New agencies, new initiatives and new awareness mean that despite all our flaws, more and more people are acknowledging that we are human and the planet is a home we share with every living thing.

Photo credits are Rio Helmi @rio helmi photography

Deforest Action http://dfa.tigweb.org

Orangutan preservation in North Sumatra  www.orangutancentre.org

Navicula Borneo Tour www.naviculamusic.com

Connect with Navicula on Facebook

Active protection against habitat destruction and provision of rehabilitation to orangutans  www.orangutan.or.id