18 April 2012

From the concrete jungle in Singapore to the Forests of Borneo

It's been a month since I arrived in Indonesia, where in the milky way has the time gone? and yet it feels like I've been out here in Borneo for months.

The last week alone feels was a journey of extremes into the deepest depths of the worlds most polarized opposites. From a small Dayak village in the heart of Borneo to what felt like the central powerhouse of asian consumerism, Singapore.

From the towering trees of a living rainforest in Borneo.

To the sky-scraper canopy of the concrete jungle in Singapore.

Geographically not that far apart, but worlds a part in terms of culture, sustainability, economics, biodiversity and lifestyle.

Did you know that 150 years ago there were still Tigers in the interior of Singapore and on average a chinaman was eaten every single day! woahhh

So, Myself, Kodi and Fabrice had to go to Singapore to renew our Indonesian visa's, pick up some sponsored laptops from and meet with an organization called Qi who are working to increase sustainability awareness through conscious/ethical consumerism in mainstream singapore consciousness.

It's a concept that i feel mixed about, despite the great intentions. Can we truly consume our way to sustainability?

We are consumers no matter which way you look at it (eco-systems are based on consumption, decomposition and recyling) so I guess making this process truly conscious of supply chains, ecological footprint, ethical impacts, etc, is a good thing, right?

Perhaps this is a way to plant seeds of awareness in the heart of the consumer world? Will the seeds sprout in Singapore? (metaphorical question of course).

Is this a fertile land for change... or are we trying to change the world with the same level of thinking that create the problems in the first place? Modern consumerism creating a feeling of lack that is only fixed (short-term) by buying more 'things' (buying your identity).

I'm not sure, but sitting on the fence is boring so we have to try multiple approaches.

Never the less the plan is to hold an event after the project finishes in June in a 'sustainable' shopping mall where we will encourage people to 'plant a seed for the future' by selling cards with seed that will corrispond to the real work we are doing in Borneo restoring forest. Plus press events and marketing of the 'Eco-Warrior' concept.

Meanwhile back in Borneo..

I want to tell you about an amazing little place called 'Tembak' where the Reforestation team have been based.

local rice production in Tembak

Tembak is a Dayak village in the interior of West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. They have a very unique story to share with the world and are now the central focus for the DeforestAction project, and therefore the documentary being produced about the eco-warriors.

Check out these two video below for a visual and sonic journey into the Dayak world of Tembak

The people of Tembak were the first ever in the interior of Borneo to get off-grid electricity. They have a micro-hydro power generator that uses the natural force of a flowing stream to power their entire village, complete renewable energy.

They've resisted the insidious efforts of big multinational logging and palm oil companies to sell off their land and therefore have retained not only their ecological but also cultural integrity and identity.

Close to the village is a community rainforest conservation area that is sustainably and selectively logged (for local use) and still retains healthy eco-system function and therefore high biodiversity.

One of the gorgeous Honey Tree's that local villagers climb to source bush honey. Our new nursery will be based right under this gorgeous specimen.

The new nursery in Tembak, right beneath the big old honey Tree! perfect.

One of the villager's has his own nursery with thousands of plants that have timber, food and medicinal qualities. For the Reforestation Team this is a huge benefit, as we are not starting from stratch or imposing our ideas into the community but rather working with the local people to empower and emplify their own vision for restoring forest cover with beneficial species composition.

The film team are documenting the development of the project and hopefully can tell the world about the science of reforestation and how we can help the natural process of forest restoration along in a mutually benficial way.

Tembak is now set to be the first site in West Kalimantan for releasing orphaned orangutans, and the Wildlife rehabilitation team is working hard to achieve this goal in partnership with the Kobus foundation, a local NGO who has invited us to Indonesia.

The people of Tembak want to embrace eco-tourism so they can create livelihood independent of extractive industries. They make a decent enough living off tapping rubber trees and although they live a simple life, are not really what I would call 'poor' people, in the wholistic sense of the word.

In fact, seeing as they have retained some good forest cover and haven't allowed palm oil onto their lands, I see them as being a very abundant community.

It is the wet-season right now, so the roads are at their worst, which makes for interesting travel.

Local man, Pak Apuia, with a huge database of plant knowledge contained within his very own mind. Here he is making us a machette for working on the project. His son, Agung, is learning all he can from his father so that the traditions and knowledge can be passed on to the next generation.

Introducing Shadrack Kalasa from Kenya, who is a part of the Reforestation team. Shadrack brings a majority world perspective to the team and a big warm heart that matches his shiny night-lite smile. Mostly quiet and reserved during our dynamic group meetings, every now and then he'll pipe up with some truly wise words that often start with 'Back in Kenya' ... always giving an expanded perspective to the unfolding story

Tom Smith is another Reforestation Eco-Warrior. Despite the eye-peircing glance captured in this photo, Tom is actually one of the funniest guys I've ever met in my entire life, it's raw, dark, unfiltered, brittish humour to the core and almost as black as Shadrack. For those who know my style of humour, you could imagine we have a cackle or two in our days spent together.

The 3 of us have bonded a lot in the past month and have had a near-death experince, which I won't elaborate on in this blog update so as to respect the privacy of what actually went down (you'll have to watch the doco when its released early next year) INTENSE!

Here we are working in the existing nursery of local man, Pak Niat. It's a very different set-up to what I'm used to back home and has been a huge learning curve in how to progate plants in a remote jungle setting with limited resources.

Some of the lush vegetation encountered in walks through the rainforest.

Playing soccer with the young people in this village is an afternoon highlight. Rain, Hail or Shine. The kids are so much fun to play with, they never fight with each other and grow up in such an amazing community.


A typical Tembak set-up, they love having fish ponds around thier homes so can grow a good supply of fish and protein to suppliment their mostly rice-based diet. They also have loads of fruit trees planted, of course, whilst we call this 'permaculture' back home in Australia they don't have a name for it. It's survival, it's life.

This is the Indonesian cameraman, Ezther, filming a slow-loris (possum like creature with big eyes). His laugh sounds almost identical to a Kookaburra! it's fantastic

Tom and Pak Apui trying to spot the Slow Loris

An amazing catapillar we came across whilst mapping the community forest in Tembak. I'm certain there are species in here which are yet to be 'discovered' by the scientifict community.

A Papilio butterfly, so many gorgeous colours in these tropical species.

And last but not least, this amazing spider which seems to be rather common in the forest and around the village. Incredible biodiversity.

Thanks for tuning in, We are heading back out to Tembak tomorrow and may not be back to Internet communication for 5 weeks.

Solutions exist. that's pretty much the bottom line.

Lets give them our energy!

~Paul Daley~