After the previous post about the world food crisis, I thought it would be nice to balance it with a bit of good news. So I was delighted to find this item in The Observer about the successful restoration of 5000 acres of rainforest:
"Six years ago the area around Samboja in Borneo was like much of the world's tropical rainforest: denuded. The trees had been cut for timber, the land burnt, and in place of what should be some of the richest biodiversity on the planet were thousands of acres of grass.
"But from this ruined landscape a fresh forest has been grown, teeming with insects, birds and animals, and cooled by the return of moist clouds and rain. It is a feat that has been hailed by scientists and offers hope for disappearing and ruined rainforests around the world."
The project is the brainchild of Indonesian forestry expert Dr Willie Smits, the principal aim being to establish a new habitat for endangered orangutans. But the implications of what has been created are surely broader than this. Smits says: "If you walk there now, 116 bird species have found a place to live, there are more than 30 types of mammal; insects are there. The whole system is coming to life. I knew what I was trying to do, but the force of nature has totally surprised me."
What this suggests to me is that nature is ready and waiting to repair the damage we have done to our planet - if only we give her a chance.
Smits says: "The principles are that you must have scientifically sound approaches, work with local trees, and you have to have the respect of local people - that's the key."
Indeed, the project has been planned with the local population very much in mind. Local farmers were able to plant agricultural products between the trees in the early stages of reforestation, and for the long term, a circle of sugar-palm plantations has been planted around the forest. This provides income for over 650 families, and also acts as a barrier against forest fires.
Can you imagine what might be achieved if there was the will to create similar schemes on a global scale? This project illustrates what we humans are able to achieve if we are willing to work with passion: to take on board the complexities of the task in hand, and to work in harmony with people and with nature.
If we can approach our global fuels policy in the same sort of spirit, we can surely avoid the kind of suffering and injustice I described in the previous post. What we need is for our leaders to pay attention to what they are doing, to be present, instead of having most of their minds on how what they're doing is going to play at the next election. They need to engage with the complexities of the situation, instead of just setting headline-grabbing targets.
If we all sit down together and put our energy where it is really needed, working for the benefit of everyone concerned instead of just our own self-interest, there is no limit to what we can achieve. We can redress the damage we've done to our planet. We can create a better world. All we need is the will that it should be done.
You can read more about the reforestation project - and sponsor an area of rainforest - at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. Dr Smits and his colleagues have written a book about their work: Thinkers Of The Jungle - The Orangutan Report