Posts Tagged ‘Deforestaction’

DeforestACTION at ISTE

ISTE is one of the world’s premiere educational events. DeforestACTION will be featured in the closing keynote.

DeforestACTION will showcased to the education world after being annouced as the topic of the closing keynote at ISTE this year.

Chris Gauthier, a teacher from Queensland’s Cleveland State High School, will take the main stage with Dr. Willie Smits in San Diego, California, to explain the importance of global, project-based learning and DeforestACTION. 

Chris has recently returned from Borneo to witness first hand what the DeforestACTION project is about.  He is also an accomplished teacher, inspiring students in his school and beyond to get involved in projects like Earth Watchers and fundraising campaigns to save rainforest and more.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is the premier membership association for educators and education leaders engaged in advancing excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology. ISTE is the trusted source in education technology for professional development, knowledge generation, advocacy, and leadership for innovation.

ISTE’s annual conference and exposition is one of the world’s largest education technology events, and the closing keynote is one of the most high profile slots on the program.

It is expected that the presentation may include some preview clips from the much anticipated upcoming cinematic feature about DeforestACTION “The Rise of the Eco Warriors”, which was recently filmed over 100 days in Borneo by Virgo Productions and partners.

We also expect the new Apps to be announced for Windows Phone, iPhone and Android, which have been managed by TakingITGlobal.

Stay tuned for more.

— ps — I have been offline for several months due to family issues. I’m back online now, so will keep you posted more regularly.


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One of the largest information technology companies on the planet joins forces with DeforestACTION to connect school students with the realities of deforestation in Borneo

Samsung Electronics, one of the largest IT companies in the world, is putting its might behind the DeforestACTION project to ensure local people can connect with millions of kids around the world.  The front line of the DeforestACTION project is creating awareness and respect for the forests and their inhabitants by providing global collaborative education opportunities. Samsung have stepped up to accelerate this in a big way.

The first phase in this partnership will see Samsung providing a swag of the latest Series 9 laptops and NPCs to all the eco warriors,  plus offering their latest Samsung Omnia phones to  keep them connected online.  They are providing equipment to ensure the entire team in the field can share regularly with the onlookers across the globe and report on everything that is happening as it occurs.

Also for the local people, the latest Samsung cameras will allow them to record their stories, and share them online with students around the world.  Access to laptops, cameras and the internet will help them connect with students in classrooms across the planet, providing real time and asynchronous reports on their experiences, knowledge and stories.  The devices will allow local people to connect with the world in a way that has previously been inaccessible to them.

Add to all this the partnership with Polycom, who are providing the very latest video conferencing technologies to allow school students to connect face to face with the field, and you have a whole new level of exciting learning opportunities you could never get from a text book.

Polycom to provide new conferencing tools to link people to the field

Creating real transparency around the issues of deforestation, creating exciting, authentic and connected learning experiences for young people in schools around the world, and giving local people the most powerful voice they have ever had, is a significant contribution from our two newest partners. 

And this is all just the tip of the iceberg. Expect another exciting announcement around this shortly!!

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Her Royal Highness, Princess Gusti of Jogyakarta pledged to personally recruit 1 Million students from Indonesia to the DeforestACTION project

Why would her Highness, Princess Gusti Pembayun of Jogyakarta want to open one of the world’s most important education events, and challenge school leaders from across the globe to get behind the DeforestACTION project?  And why would she stand before this powerful leadership group and personally commit to enrolling another one million Indonesian students into the project?

Last week in London, the British Council hosted the annual Education World Forum.  This three day long event draws Ministers and senior policy makers from across the world to consider the future of education and was opened by Princess Gusi Pembayun, who spoke about the importance of large education systems embracing DeforestACTION.

During her address, the Princess highlighed the incredible work students from around the world had already undertaken through the project.  She spoke of the challenges faced by local people in Indonesia, and how education could help stop the destruction of the important rainforests, the orangutans, local industries, and protect the futures of the local people.

Her message was simple.  Deforestation is a global problem.  We must work together as a global community to solve it – beginning with our young people. New solutions are needed – more agile, more creative solutions.  She finished with a personal commitment – she will work to bring another one million Indonesian students into the program so they can interact with students around the world through the DeforestACTION online spaces, through new DeforestACTION fact sheets, teacher guides, and other resources that can be distributed to non-connected students.

So why what were the main reasons for such a commitment?   Here are some of the key drivers:

1. Access: Over 50% of students in Jogyakarta have access to the internet today, but in the near future, this will be 100%.  Connectivity will allow unprecedented opportunities for global collaboration.  DeforestACTION is one of the best ways for students and teachers to quickly connect, engage in collaborative projects, and to solve problems together.

2. Awareness of the problems of deforestation are the key to the solutions.  The more young people understand about the value of the forests, the importance of the wildlife, and the potential benefits of preserving both, the better. The new DeforestACTION resources make it easy and fun for students to increase awareness.

3. Empowering students to feel they can make a difference was a key theme in the presentations at the EWF.  Offering students a chance to take meaningful action to solve problems that are relevent to them is a global imperative.   DeforestACTION is a powerful channel for young people to explore issues, learn about the challenges, but best of all to propose solutions and take action.

4. Urgency – Time is running out.  Young people need to be educated about these issues quickly, before there are no more orangutans, before the peat is all destroyed, and before the future is bankrupted by corporate greed.  Education is the key.  There is no more time to waste.

The Princess and Dr. Willie Smits will spend another week travelling through Europe promoting DeforestACTION with packed houses and media conferences dominating their travels.   We wish them all the best.

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What if we could find a way to make the forests more valuable than chopping them down for timber and palm oil?

What if there was a  way that protecting the forests became the most financially beneficial option for local people – so much so that they would no longer be open to bribes and corruption from the palm oil companies?

What if protecting the forests could provide a new energy source that could significantly contribute to solving the global energy crisis, while radically improving the standard of living of the people whose forests are being destroyed and stolen?

It seems Dr. Willie Smits may have found a solution to this problem, which could literally change the deforestation game forever. (read a detailed, independent report from Ecofys here).

One of the reasons deforestation is so prolific in Indonesia, is because palm oil companies have faced very little resistance from local people in taking their land.  Much of this is because the palm oil companies cheat, lie, deceive and even steal land from the traditional landowners. But it’s also because in the short term, the pittance they are paid for their families’ land is too tempting for some people to turn down.

So, for a few thousand dollars, and a fist full of soon to be broken promises, the lands these local people have held for centuries are signed over to palm oil companies to destroy.

In the short term, such deals can allow the local people to buy fuel for their bikes (there is a massive shortage of fuel in Kalimantan), mobile phones or credit, or other simple luxuries. In the long term, it is the end of their communities, their livelihoods, and their futures.

If we as a planet are to reduce deforestation, we need to find an alternative for the local people. A way to ensure the value of keeping the forest in tact outweighs any short term financial tricks the palm oil companies can offer.

Sugar Palm is a very exciting option that may be our best chance ever.

To be clear –  Sugar Palm is the exact opposite of the highly destructive Oil Palm. These trees do not grow in a monoculture – they require the diverse forest to thrive.  Because they require the entire forest to be sustained, this sustains all kinds of life, keeping the natural balance of the forest in tact.  In palm oil plantations, on the other hand, only the palm oil trees grow.  The natural diversity is destroyed – the animals that aren’t butchered and killed are left to starve in a barren biological  desert.

Sugar palms releases large quantities of juice (up to 50 litres per day).  This juice can be efficiently converted into bio-ethanol, palm sugar (low GI), animal feed, electricity, medicines,  bio-plastics, and at least 50 additional products created to date using scientific methods developed by Dr.Willie Smits.

According to Willie, the amount of energy produced by a sugar palm beats that of all other crops (e.g. it provides over three times more energy than sugar cane).  In fact, as far as solar power goes, the sugar palm is a highly effective photovoltaic converter.

Local people have been collecting the sugar and using it for medicine, cooking, fire barriers, fiber (rope) construction for years.   So what’s new?

The first ever 'factory in a box village hub'

The first ever Village Hub - 'factory in a box' model by Dr. Willie Smits

In this photo, you can see two factories known as “Village Hubs”.   The larger one in the background is the original, the much smaller one in the front is a revolutionary new semi-portable factory.  Both factories include technology to  allow local people to convert their sugar palm into energy, giving them credits that can be used for electricity, clean drinking water, internet access, education service, animal feed, biofuel and more.  It is literally a currency exchange centre, allowing sugar to be converted into products and services on the spot.

Last week, Willie completed the first ever ‘factory in a box’ version of the Village Hub.  The concept is this factory can be transported to anywhere in the world in two large shipping containers.  It is then unpacked and assembled and within a few weeks, the entire village can enjoy a substantially elevated standard of living – but ONLY for as long as they have rich, bio diverse forests to sustain the sugar palms.

This is fantastic news for orangutans, gibbons, sun-bears and all the other animals that live in the forest. If this takes off quickly, and the demand from the local people drives the establishment of more of these hubs, it is one of the best chances we have to save the forests and the species that live in them.   I witnessed Willie present this to over 300 local people in Sintang earlier this year, and if their response was anything to go by, demand will be more than overwhelming.

As always, this is about education and free choice.  If this works as well on scale as the first production model (this is beyond prototype), and the local people choose this above the alternative (no comparison),  this is going to make a significant, positive difference to the planet forever.

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DeforestACTION has received some really great questions from people who want to see this become the most positive, empowering project ever.

This is a complex project with many innovative aspects.  This post is about questions relating specifically to DeforestACTION – Partnerships with local people.

DeforestACTION is a partnership between young people across the planet, and the local people in Indonesia who are watching their forests disappear before their eyes. In coming weeks we will be announcing some very exciting new partnerships which will make the project even stronger.

In the meantime, here are some recent questions posed by some of you, with answers from Dr.Willie Smits.


When you say ‘buy back land’, does this mean local people can still own it and prosper from it?


DeforestACTION is a partnership with local people and is carefully designed with their best interests at the core.

The plans for the Eco-village for example are quite spectacular, but significant funds have to be raised. Once that dream-village for the local people is announced it will
raise expectations. I find that you should always promise little but always deliver more.

The Kobus Foundation, one of our project partners led by Father Jacques Maessen, has a long-standing tradition of supporting local rights. We arranged for the local Dayaks to become legal owners with land certificates in order to protect their traditional forests. Kobus House has been instrumental in setting up a museum, educational activities and fellowships. The son of the Dayak leader now works with us and received his forestry degree through this program. The centre also supports local culture with thousands of Dayak women earning real income from weaving and maintaining the old stories and know-how and having an outlet for their work. The Bupati is a local Dayak and has the interests of the local community at heart.



Do you have the required concessions / permissions to film / work on this land?


Of course we  do, and the process of gaining legitimacy is ongoing as the project expands.

The status of the land in question at this point (Sintang Lestari) is HTR (Hutan Tanaman Rakyat) meaning that the Bupati’s permit (Bupati is the local leader) is conditional on complete collaboration with the local people. They decide where the filming aspect of the project will be set, and they are engaged in the project’s decision-making. There have already been several meetings with village communities and these are ongoing.

Some time ago we commenced an Environmental Impact Assessment Study, led by Dr.
Eduardo Dias. This was deemed necessary to future proof certain aspects of the project, and to ensure we have the necessary satellite imagery, land data and other information to proceed with the project.


Orangutan rescues are urgently needed and will be very exciting to watch.  Will the ‘action agents’ have the necessary qualifications and permissions to engage in orangutan rescues safely, or will the local people be involved?


The ‘Action Agents’ (now referred to as ‘team leaders’) will work with the local authorities and local people to provide assistance during orangutan rescues. All activities will be guided by these principles and will be conducted in a transparent and legal way. Some of the team leaders have training and expertise in veterinary science and animal care, and all will receive appropriate briefing in respecting local traditions, cultures, expertise and laws.

There are many orangutans that need to be rescued in the Sintang area alone, but there are many other animals and wildlife that are suffering greatly.  One of the key aims of this project is to draw attention to the beautiful and incredible diversity of plant and animal life in Borneo, so rescues and attention will span much more broadly than


Have you consulted with local people in Borneo around aspects of this project?


Yes.  The DeforestACTION team continues to consult broadly – this is a fundamental aspect of this vision. Recently, over a dozen local villages were represented in a meeting in Sintang about this project.  After the news got out, there is now a constant stream of people from villages from Mengerat as far away as Putussibau and surroundings, up to Martinus and Tempunak that all want to be involved.

As this project is funded by donations, we are conscious of the need to manage expectations of the local people to ensure we can deliver on all areas of the project we release.  As we generate more funds, we can promise more positive and empowering benefits for the local people.


How are will you ensure local people understand what is happening with the project ongoing?


The project has not yet grown to a level that can include all the local people who want to
be involved.  The demand from locals simply outweighs the funding capability we currently have. That is why fundraising is a priority at this point. Once sufficient funding is secured, all the communities in the region will be offered the opportunity to
participate. But we need the security of funds first.


What processes are you using to consult broadly with local people?


DeforestACTION is about inclusion.  That means, ensuring consultation and collaboration with young people, elderly, men and women.

A key partner, The Kobus Foundation, has been working for many years to help the younger generation attain land, and with the women, getting them income and a more respected place in their communities as earners of income.

One of the challenges of this project is ensuring we are consulting with the right people in the right places.  This requires a thorough process of investigation and cross-checking.

When we have secured the funding, we first will make an inventory of local claims and interest. This will include a process of local consultation and engagement and will go beyond the few groups that claim to be the sole representatives of the local groups. Often such groups try to cut deals before the start of the project and in such a way actually hamper the objective process.

Following the process of local consultation, using appropriate methods considered acceptable and fair by all relevant groups, we will move forward.

We strive to include the youth and women as far as culturally is acceptable. We have a Pencinta Orangutan Sintang club of thousands of school children.  Students from around the world connected through our networks are lining up to form learning partnership (like pen pals of old) with the local Dayak people, and to work with them remotely in ways that are relevant to them.  We also have more than 6000 Dayak women in a cooperative from so many different villages, etc. who are working with us to create models of engagement that are relevant to them.


What benefits are being offered to the communities (as of now, and in the
future, if funding comes through)?


The plan includes building eco-villages, complete with environmentally friendly features  such as using rammed earth walls, roofs made of specially cut Bangkirai timber that we get from the dead stumps in the soil and that can last a hundred years,
sanitation, clean energy and good hygiene, good secure access to rivers and transportation for people and goods.

In the short term, this project will provide selected seedlings and saplings of many useful tree species of their choice along with training on how to implement better forms of agroforestry that are sustainable and culturally relevant.

Processing units for sugar palm juice (Village Hubs) that will bring them services such as electricity, drinking water, local fuel for cooking, motorbikes and boats, food security, processing of their agricultural products, telecommunication, educational services, telephone, health access.

Most importantly in the short term, is we are providing an opt-in model for local people to preserve the forests that sustain them, and to make them better off in the long term, through a co-constructed vision for the future.

There will be many other benefits to local communities as the project unfolds.  As previously stated, it is essential we effectively manage their expectations so as to ensure we can deliver on these promises.  For that reason, announcement of the full scope of the project will be held over until funding is secured so we can ensure there is no disappointment.


What is the role of traditional swidden agriculture in the project area? Will communities still be able to plant rice in the project area, or is the intention that income from sugar palm will be able to provide for their needs?


DeforestACTION will focus on working with the local people in a way that is consultative, relevant and effective for them.  This is a core component of the project.

The unfortunate truth is, there is no longer any “traditional” swidden agriculture in Indonesia!!

Kenyah Dayak for example have the old system still well described, which was truly “traditional” and sustainable. They recognize the need for an 8 year cycle that they name in all their stages from Jekau Meta to Jekau Betiq, after which the same spot of land can be used again. But this is only for a period of 80-100 years, then the whole community moves to a new location and the old site is given centuries to recover its original fertility. Because of the “domeinverklaring” of the 1960-ties, that right to just move is now gone. That is why the traditional forms of agriculture are no longer sustainable.

In the past, the Dayaks would go by boat on the water and look for tell tale signs
such as the presence of the Ipul (poison dart) tree (Antiaris toxicara, Moraceae) as an indicator of good soil for growing rice. Then on land, they would look for triangular grass and stick their Mandau (Dayak sword) in the soil and see how the clay particles would stick to the blade. Then they would calculate how many axes for how many days would be needed and how much rice would be needed to bring as seeds, and from this information, calculate how much return they would get for all their work. It once was like that! Unfortunately these methods are no longer viable due to excessive deforestation and because chainsaws have changed the equation.

They now cut very quickly and burn where ever. The traditional ways have been eroded. Their lands have been invaded by unscrupulous people that come for the quick money. Also changes in weather patters, especially the El Ninos, have contributed to the breaking down of their systems and the old ironwood calendars do not work anymore.

Many young Dayaks don’t even have an idea what they mean anymore. Now you find these valuable little wooden boards in antique shops in the big cities now.

So the short answer is: Yes they can plant as much rice as they want in between
the trees. It is their land.  Probably in between the reforestation efforts they will prefer the better suited corn or pineapples or other crops. They will evaluate themselves where to plant what.

Many already know about the sugar palm. There are significant endeavors underway to
create a global market for sugar palm with good income, which will benefit the local people. There is no longer going to be a “cultuurstelsel” as practiced in the colonial period. Rubber planting in the area shows how the people themselves can choose.


What is the time frame around community consultation, and how will that work with
the time frame for filming?


As soon as possible and that is when enough funding is secured. This is why support and help with fundraising is so critical, and why this project has gone global so quickly through the young people who started it. They understand the need to expedite the process.


What happens if communities decide that they don’t want sugar palm, but instead want continue their traditional agriculture, or plant a different crop? How will this impact the overall project?


Thisconsultation has already occurred. There are many thousands of people who want
the sugar palms, so we are working with those people who have opted in.  We also will look at forest honey, rattan, medicinal plants, forest fruits, etc. The Project is about  stopping deforestation and bringing transparency to the local people and the world and
show that we still can bring positive improvements!


How successful have you been in assisting people to move to plant sugar palm, instead of relying on traditional farming methods?


Some of these communities already started adopting the sugar palms several years ago. Dr. Willie Smits has lectured there, and they already asked the Bupati for money to send a delegation to North Sulawesi to learn more. Dr. Smits team sent teachers and instructors, and they have set up a nursery and they leant better tapping methods. Some communities are already planting the sugar palms (and using no dangerous chemicals) and now we have many requests for further development of the sugar palms, but we need to secure the finance. Communities like Tertung next to Sintang already live from sugar palms. Groups like Tempunak offer their forest if we switch with sugar palms to their village. Villages like Martinus and others see the sugar palm as their last hope to keep logging companies out who seek to influence and corrupt triabal leaders.

Many people have already indicated they want an alternative to palm oil, and as this
project becomes more successful, we will be able to help them achieve this goal.



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Turn the volume up load, kick back, and learn about the greatest educational initiative on the planet.

For teachers who want to get involved, check out the amazing resources available, or register your class at www.deforestACTION.com today!

Your students will be the driving force of this project. They will work with the action agents in the field daily.  They will be responsible for saving the planet.

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Ideas for awareness and fundraising

Entrepreneurial ideas from young people

What can teachers do to foster entrepreneurship in young people? The images and ideas below may provide some powerful clues.
The most recent, cutting edge, international study into 21st Century Skills conducted in partnership with Microsoft and SRI, concludes the single most powerful thing a teacher can do to help young people develop 21st Century Skills is to create learning experiences that require young people to use these skills. 
That is why DeforestACTION has become such a phenomenon.  It provides unique, highly engaging, and challenging conditions in which young people are required to demonstrate and develop high level 21st Century Skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration, information and media literacy,  and entrepreneurship.   

Young people care passionately about inheriting a planet that will sustain them-  this isn’t a pretend challenge – it’s a real as it gets, and that’s why engagement is so high.

In this post I am focussing on entrepreneurship and Innovation, and how we have seen these skills presented in DeforestACTION schools.  

Here are just some of the thousands of ideas young people have been bringing to this project recently to raise funds, awareness and Support. I’ll share more of these in upcoming posts.

1. Amelia Swan has launched a number of brilliant initiatives to create awarness for DeforestACTION.  To target the 18-30 year old market, she has created DeforestACTION stamps for distribution to popular night clubs, so every patron who enters the club will be stamped on their wrist to promote the cause. (the template for this stamp is available if you want to use this idea in your local area).

DeforestACTION stamp
Coming to a nightclub near you..

 Amelia is also distributing business cards across her region to promote the cause and raise awareness.

Business Cards
promotional business cards by Amelia Swan

2. Students at Dallas Primary School in Victoria Australia have raised over $3,000 selling Merangue-utans (a play on merangues – a popular Australian desert food):


Dallas Primary School and Kindergarten Merangue-utan fundraiser project

3. Royal College in Sri-Lanka organized a DeforestACTION march with over 9,000 participants, calling for the end of illegal palm oil manufacturing.  This was accompanied by a student developed and produced television commercial which was played across the whole of Sri-Lanka on free to air TV.  They also established an international study-buddy program to involve schools in awareness raising and sharing. 

Royal College Sri-Lanka

Royal College was one of the founding DeforestACTION schools

 4. Silverton Primary School invited over 100 students from neighbouring schools to participate in a DeforestACTION student-lead conference.  This involved participating in science experiments, music challenges, and playing a range of DeforestACTION games including the orangutan survival game, and palm oil bowling.  Students raised over $2,000 for DeforestACTION.

Over 100 students came together to collaborate on DeforestACTION projects, and to develop new solutions and awareness raising campaigns.

Palm Oil Bowling

Palm oil farming is like rolling a giant bowling ball into the forests and destroying everything in its path

5. Similar scenes have been witnessed in schools around the world, like in Kadina, South Australia, where students from all over the Penisula arrived on buses, marquets were set up and scientists, museum experts, conservation groups and local parent clubs joined forces for a day of learning around DeforestACTION.  Microsoft Partners in Learning were called on to provide sponsorship bags and trinkets, which the students filled with their own collateral and entrepreneurial ideas to take back and develop in their schools.


Community awareness day organized by students and Microsoft Innovative Teacher Worldwide Award winner (now Principal) Mark Sparvell

6. Taroona High School students have raised over $3,000 selling DeforestACTION land as  Valentine’s Day Gift Vouchers.  The students and teachers (some of the most amazing and inspirational on the planet) also created the very popular facebook character Orrie-Anotan who has gone viral on social media, and is responsible for raising nearly $5,000 for DeforestACTION.  At the time of this posting Orrie-Anotan was leading the DeforestACTION points board and is a front runner to be featured in the 3D Movie.  

Orrie Anotan

Social Media hero Orrie Anotan (and check out his friend Tas DeVille) set up by students to raise awareness and funds for DeforestACTION.

Each of the initiatives from Taroona was accompanied by an awareness brochure on the dangers of Palm Oil.

Palm Oil Brochure
Students are distributing thousands of brochures highlighting products that contain Palm Oil.

7. Students at Cleveland District High School are taking their promotion to the street, backing one of their teachers to become an action hero for the upcoming 3D Movie, Borneo 3D: An Action Movie.

Cleveland High School

8. Joshua Nicolau spent one day skating around his city on a skateboard holding a double sided DeforestACTION sign, dressed as an orangutan and generated significant media interest.

Tom Smith from Bristol mirrored this effort in the UK.

Skating for a cause
Skating for a cause

9.Young people in Florida are working with the Tampa Zoo to have the orangutans promote their own cause through DeforestACTION.

orangutans promoting their cause

Who better to speak for the orangutans?

10. DeforestACTION champions aged 8-50 years have had articles published in hundreds of newspapers, television stations, radio programs and online news media across the planet.  To generate this kind of media, some  amazing connections were made, and stunts pulled.  This requires a seperate post to explore.


Toby Crocker with Hollywood superstar Jason Statham

 There are hundreds of highly creative DeforestACTION / Borneo 3D videos on YouTUBE with some incredible ideas and talent demonstrated to share the message. 

Here is one of the many songs young people have written about DeforestACTION (in this case by a teacher). It speaks for itself:

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