Posts Tagged ‘orangutan outreach’

The DFA Equation

How can young people around the world really make a difference to the forests of the planet?  And why do they think this will really make a lasting change?  Is this truly something that will engage them in learning across a range of discipline areas?  The answer is in the six parts to the DeforestACTION student project.

The DeforestACTION equation

The six components for learning and the future of life on the planet

 Part 1: Regrowing a rainforest with Dr. Willie Smits.

Thousands of hectares of destroyed forest in Indonesia will be returned to a healthy forest, rich in biodiversity. This will be a large scale implementation of Samboja Lestari (see Willie’s TED talk for how this will be achieved).

For $2US, young people are rainsing money to ‘buy’ 1 square meter of land for reforesting, and to be protect it for 100 years.  Soon students will be able to view their forest online, via high definition video cameras, and will be provided virtual tools to measure the growth of the various trees and plants in their personal patches. They will also be able to measure online how much carbon has been sequestered, how many animals can survive in their patch, and to explore the variety of plant life in their land. The funds raised using this model will be used to create nurseries, necessary environmental documentations / surveys, and to train local people to care for the land and preserve it, and other necessary expenditure to preserve the land on these conditions, and to save wildlife who inhabit them. ‘

Part 2: Earth Watchers

Using a range of satellite imagery, with the latest tools from Bing, and specially developed software by Geodan, students will be able to monitor the rainforests and protect them from illegal deforestation. See my earlier post – How School Students Can Save the Planet on One Year for more details.  Students will also be able to compare, contrast and analyse spatial data for a range of other hands on activities to help protect and regrow forests.

Part 3: Mobile and Interactive Games

DeforestACTION partners are developing a range of electronic games, to allow students to experience the challenges of living in the rainforests, by taking on the role of orangutans.  The Orangutan Survival Game will pull in real time data about the forests, so as the young people learn about orangutan survival, they will be accutely aware of what is happening to the forests.  If they find themselves playing in an area of the forest where deforestation is occurring, their character will die- even if they were doing everything right.  This is the reality of life for orangutans.  Students could even play these games on a smartphone like Windows Phone etc.

Part 4: Dome Tree

Dome Tree

Students will help build the worlds largest tree as a centre for orangutan protection, preservation, rehabilitation and research

Dome tree will be the worlds largest tree.  Initially constructed using steel and concrete, this 70m high tree will be coated with a fertilizer coating to accelerate the growth of strangler fig shoots.  In approximately six years, this construction will be completely covered by a network of figs, and will become a rehabilitation centre for orangutans rescued by the DeforestACTION team. 

Dome Tree will feature touch screen technology, high definition video cameras, observation decks and high tech laboratories. Students will be able to view it online and in person.  The first stone of Dome Tree was layed in March 2011  with the Sultan of Yogyakarta.  This is a long term project, with an expected completion date of 2016-2018.

Part 5: Orangutan Rescue and Conservation:

The rescue and care of critically endangered orangutans from devastated regions is a central aspect of the project.Online participants will be able to monitor the progress of the orangutans being cared for at the Sintang Orangutan Centre and even adopt their own orangutan. For $5US a student will care for an orangutan for a day, including food, shelter and veterinary care.

Part 6: Global Awareness, Assistance to Local Landholders and Incubation of New Economies

Palm oil farming is literally destroying our planet. It has been estimated up to 40% of the products we buy in supermarkets contains some palm oil. There are real alternatives to palm oil that are both better for our health, and environmentally sustainable.  Through DeforestACTION, young people will seek to create global awareness about the destruction caused by palm oil farming, and to actively pressure consumers and producers for change.

One of the great myths palm oil companies would have us believe is farming palm oil is good for local landowners.  It is not.  In fact, it is catastrophic for locals, destroying their livelihoods, and leaving them homeless and without income.

A key aspect of DeforestACTION is providing local land owners with sustainable income, new economies and ongoing ability to generate an income in their villages by utilizing the land effectively.  For this project, the effective use of sugar palms (a highly valuable tree that lives in the rainforest and depends on the ecosystem for survival) will be a key aspect of this project.


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For people who have made their fortune, and want to give back to the planet, SOCAP provides the perfect forum.  Philanthropists from across the globe convene with social entrepreneurs who are looking for investment in sustainable, typically environmental projects.

This year, Virgo pitched the DeforestAction Project in conjunction with the 3D Action Movie, at a session called “The Big Pitch!”.  The major goal of this pitch was to secure funding for the movie. The secondary goal, was to create awareness of the project.


Gathering at SOCAP

I met some incredible people, global leaders, many who run large organizations or who are household names in their own right.  But there were three people who I was really taken by, and who we formed strong, strategic partnerships with, and who are all committed to helping the young people save the planet:

1. Dr. Willie Smits.  I don’t even know where to start with how to explain Willie.  It’s like someone crammed five fully functioning brains into one mans head, then turned them up to 100% efficiency.  His ideas, energy and knowledege on how to save rainforests, protect (and communicate) with orangutans, and connect the project to some of the biggest names on the planet were unparalleled.  I ran a quick BING search on Willie – his credentials are better than the President’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Smits_ .

When Willie announced he wants to be part of this project, and shared his ideas – including building a 75 m high technology tree for orangutans to be rehabilitated in – any remaining doubts I had about the future of this project disolved completely.

2. Richard Zimmerman.  One of the most passionate and intelligent people I’ve ever met, Richard runs Orangutan Outreach.  If orangutans had a church, he’d be up on the wall at least as a cardinal – probably pope.  Richard has dedicated his life to saving these ‘people of the jungle’, and his selflessness on pursuing this cause is humbling.

3. Mark White.  Mark is founder of White Crow Productions. He strikes me as the quiet achiever; hugely knowledable and passionate about the environment. And – he’s working on the movie crew with Cathy and her team.  He’s also passionate about supporting young people.


Richard, Mark, Willie, Cathy and me sharing project ideas

When Richard, Willie, Mark, Cathy, Tara and the rest of the team become accessible to the young people of the planet, to support them in achieving their goal of saving the forest, this is going to completely transform how we think about education and how young people think about their voice on the planet.

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