Posts Tagged ‘willie smits’

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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Last week we took a camera to Fulford Secondary School in York, UK, to get reactions from students as they were introduced to the DeforestACTION project.

These students connected with Dr. Willie Smits via Skype, and began working together with other students around the world to learn about the issues of deforestion.

Later in the week, they were invited to meet the Crown Princess of Jogyakarta, and pledged to expand their involvement in the project to help fund further orangutan rescues and to fight the destruction of important forests for palm oil production.

This is such an engaging project, because it connects students with one of the most importat topics on the planet, and makes it as real as possible. A big thank you to all the students and teachers at Fulford Secondary School for sharing this with us.  Are you a teacher? You can connect your students with those at Fulford by signing up at http://www.deforestaction.org.

Are you are an expert in deforestation or orangutan conservation?  We are looking to provide as much information as possible to students from around the world and are always on the lookout for new, engaging content.

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The EcoWarriors Buildling Relationships with Local Communities

For the last twenty days, the DeforestACTION EcoWarriors have been on a life changing journey through West Kalimantan, Indonesia, seeing first hand the destruction caused by Deforestation.  What they have seen, and what they will be reporting to the world, is far more shocking than any of them expected.

The EcoWarriors are young adults (aged 19-35 years) who were selected from hundreds of applicants to represent the children responsible for establishing the DeforestACTION project.  They are truly an amazing, accomplished and inspirational group, including professional GIS technicians, veterinary technicians, journalists, teachers and more.  You can learn more about the Eco Warriors here.

In the last twenty days, the EcoWarrios have uncovered a largely unreported story of what can only be described as genocide, where local people are being killed, cheated, poisoned,  held without trial and brutalized under the lead of foreign owned palm oil companies.  The environmental devastation being deliberately imposed on the lands they own makes the BP oil spill look like a wine stain.  The way animals are being treated is something from a horror movie.  And the intricately constructed public relations campaign that shrouds the truth is of a scale that defies belief.

In one 30 minute boat ride, the EcoWarriors saw nearly forty illegal gold mines, each of which pumps over a litre per day of mercury directly into the river ecosystem.   The few fish that are left are contaminated with heavy metal and not safe to eat, and their breeding cycles are so disrupted new generations will be fewer. The water is so polluted it is beyond dangerous for bathing, let alone  drinking, cooking or irrigation.  Life expectancies from those dependent on the river system (hundreds of thousands) is dropping by the day.  Miscarriage rates are skyrocketing.  The IQ rate of local people is being severely impeded.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Rewind to March this year.  A beautiful water hole that took nearly an hour of forest trekking to get to was surrounded by thick virgin rainforest as far as the eye could see.   Now, only a few months later, this creek is too polluted to touch, and there is no forest visible for kilometres to the horizon.  All that is left is devastated land, with rows of recently planted palm oil saplings – a biological desert that can sustain no animals, and provides less than .01 jobs per hectare for the local people. Huge profits are made offshore.  The locals in Indonesia are left destitute.

This story is commonplace in Borneo.  Somewhere in Kalimantan, this story is playing out again right now.  It is happening so fast (300 football fields per hour).  The amount of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere from the clearing of the peat swamps is comparable to that of  a volcano.  Turn off your light bulbs when you can, but understand this amount of release, from these peat swamp regions alone, in only a  few months, emits more CO2 than Australia does in a year. It’s getting worse by the day.

CO2 emissions in Indonesia, a country with relatively minimal coal burning industry. The problem is getting worse every day. From the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre

The problem is truly global in nature, but the really scary stories come from the local people themselves.

Dr. Willie Smits translates for this man who explains how he has lost his land, his family, his livelihood and his hope at the hands of palm oil companies, who use the most sinister, evil and calculating tricks to cheat the local people.

This man (identity withheld at his request) was one of hundreds the EcoWarriors spoke with.  He talked of how his lands had been stolen by a palm oil company. He explained how the company had used deception, deceipt and nefarious trickery to destroy his people.  Others spoke of how officials from their tribes were invited to Jakarta for special meetings promising prosperity and to ‘explain how they could make money from planting new crops on their lands’.

On such stays, , the companies seduce the leaders with drugs, alcohol and prostitutes, film them, and use this footage to blackmail the tribal leaders to sign away their lands.   Similar stories were repeated by other local people in tribes across Kalimantan.  Others reported how the palm oil companies provided two documents for people to sign, one for those in favour of palm oil, the other for those against.  The local people uninimously signed against, but learned the documents had been switched, and they had been tricked into signing their lands away.  They have no recourse, no right of reply, and no appeal process. Within days, the forest they had lived on for centuries were gone, and they were forced to move on, destitute and hopeless.

The palm oil companies evangelise their ‘Job Creation’ schemes. They use carefully constructed, politically comfortable, and publicly palatable catch phrases to deceive the world about what is really going on.  This will all be exposed.

The man in the picture above explaned how his family had been forced off their own lands.  That the jobs they were promised were based on lies and smoke screens, and those who conceded to work for the palm oil companies are now treated as slaves. The company took double the land they had said they would,  stole the timber, which was send downstream as part of a constant, and blatant parade of criminal exploitation – a sort of proudly defiant challenge to the rest of the world begging the questions: “How can this be allowed ?”.  These stories were repeated by locals from far and wide, throughout the massive district of Sintang.  The more remote the villages, the more horrific the stories.

The endless parade of illegal timber can be seen day and night in the river systems of Borneo. Trees with a diameter less than 50cm (minimum legal size) comprise the majority of logs in this floating monstrocity. All the larger trees are gone.

When the local people in his tribe eventually fought back and tried to reclaim their land, over 30 children were thrown in jail for nearly fifty days without trial.  They have since fled and live in poverty across Indonesia.

This interview, and many others were filmed by the journalists, documentary makers and EcoWarriors  following this story.  As I write this, there is a tense standoff occurring with the villagers of Lansat Baru, Lansat Lama and Belenyut Sibau and the palm oil companies.  Buldozers and giant excavators are destroying their forests right now without any permission, agreements or authority.  There are a number of film crews on the ground recording this, hoping awareness may help save what is left. See below an email from Emily Hunter (EcoWarrior), describing what is happening at this moment.

Dr. Willie Smits , an Indonesian national, and one of the most highly regarded and celebrated environmental ecologists on the planet, is working in partnership with the EcoWarriors to bring these stories to the world.  He has dedicated his life to saving the forests of the planet and is considered the world’s foremost expert in Orangutans and other Indonesian Wildlife.  He is also a critical part of the DeforestACTION educational team, working with students around the globe to provide the latest scientific, political, cultural, historical and conservation information available.  (Understanding 54 languages and having a near-photographic memory makes it easier for him to stay across all the research available).

Independent journalists have accompanied the team, along with film makers, print journalists, and documentary makers, to ensure completely transparent, first hand accounts of this project and what it bears witness to.

Willie Smits rescues Jojo - a baby orangutan who was kept in a small wooden box for the last year, and fed coffee, cigarettes and junk food. Within a few days of being rescued her face has come alive, she is happy, active and surrounded by loving carers.

In the coming months, the EcoWarriors will be working to bring these and other messages to the world with compelling footage and undeniable evidence.

They will be working with local people to create sustainable alternatives to Palm Oil, to regrow rainforest, to rescue wildlife, and to work with students in schools around the world, so they can have authentic, empowering and meaningful learning experiences.  They are the first of many EcoWarriors who will carry out the on-the-ground components of the DeforestACTION strategy.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to join our regular DeforestACTION webinars, or notify your local school they are happening.  They are specifically designed for students from school age to post secondary, and are accompanied by virtual online classrooms, teacher guides, lesson ideas and DeforestACTION education materials. These are solutions focussed, designed to engage and inspire hope.  They are regularly updated and revised.

The demand for Willie Smits from local people in Borneo is endless. Across Kalimantan the villagers are begging for more information from Willie Smits on sustainable alternatives, and to learn about the magic of Sugar Palm as a real solution.

Stay tuned for some of the most unbelievable footage you are ever likely to see.  Visit www.deforestaction.org to keep up with the EcoWarriors.

Here is a statement released last night from EcoWarrior Emily Hunter (journalist, author, television documentary host):

On Sunday, a group of approximately 40 Dayak people began the first day of a weeklong protest to reclaim their land 80 kilometres outside of Sintang in West Kalimantan, Borneo.  The action represents a last stand to defend their ancestral land against palm oil company encroachment.

The villagers from Lansat Baru, Lansat Lama and Belenyut Sibau gathered at a 30-hectare spot claimed by a palm oil company in July. The once-forested land is now barren with only scattered palm oil saplings. The villagers believe the company to be Wahana Plantation and Products, as a company truck confiscated by the villagers and used for a blockade, bore the letters “PT.WPP.”

“Nobody has agreed to this and the palm oil company just steals and rapes our land,” said Mr. Yohanes Aliam, one of the village leaders. “This here is our land and they’ve cut everything down.”

He said the company has tried since 2008 to occupy the land by inciting conflict among villagers and bribing officials. The land fringes on a 1,000 hectare forest believed to be home to 40 orangutans.

According to several other villagers, bribery and the use of forged land certificates are common tactics used in the takeover of their ancestral lands. These lands are passed down from the previous generation and do not come with any official documentation. The lands are ruled under the adat or traditional law, which protects the rights of the Dayaks, they said.

With the latest infringement on their land by the company and talks with its representative breaking down – company officials abruptly left discussions before the Dayaks demands were presented – the villagers decided to take stronger action.

After writing a letter of appeal to the Sintang Bupati, the villagers escalated their protest by confiscating the company’s heavy equipment. On Sunday, after a traditional ceremony, the villagers uprooting several palm oil saplings as a symbolic reclamation and erected a road blockade to the palm oil planation to send strong signals of their defiance.

“If this land is ever stepped on by any occupier, we will fight and defend it to the death,” said the spiritual leader during the ceremony as he summoned 20 Dayak gods.

For now, the villagers wait and watch, wary but ready to defend their land against unwanted outsiders.

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World famous Dr. Willie Smits makes an urgent call to arms against ruthless palm oil companies seeking to destroy important rainforest targetted by young people have been working  for conservation through the DeforestACTION project.

This area has been tentatively assigned for regeneration through the DeforestACTION project.  The palm oil companies want the wood, but more importantly, they want to disrupt this conservation movement.

Help us stop them!

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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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