This Baby Orangutan and His Family Needs your Help in Indonesia

I just returned to Kalimantan after a week in Jakarta for the 8th annual Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil meeting (RT8) and am writing my last note before heading deep into palm plantations to do some investigations. Read my short blogs on the RAN website describing a few of my experiences and thoughts on the RT8. I learned a tremendous amount there and made some good connections, but overall it was an emotionally draining experience (if you want to know why read those two blog links above).

After only 5 hours of sleep, we woke up very early this morning to get to the airport after a week in Jakarta but the 9:30am flight listed online didn’t exist once we got there. So we had to catch the 11:30am flight (the earliest flight to Pontianak out of 4 airlines) and the only thing available was business class, twice as much money ; ( But it was an incredibly interesting experience hanging out in the Executive Lounge with all you can eat fancy food bars, coffee bar, newspapers, fast wireless, etc. but the air of arrogance was sickening. The discrepancy in class here is more notable than I’ve ever experienced. If you’re rich you’re really rich and they take the service to the next level.

Aerial Image of Destruction, Forest Conversion for Oil Palm Plantation Expansion in Riau, Sumatra. Photo: Greenpeace

We didn’t get here to Kalimantan til 1pm, too late for our 6 hour speedboat ride to Ketapang. So Lindsey and I hung out with our field coordinator, Adri, and some WWF folks for a while and now we’re chillin back at my old Hotel Kapuas stomping grounds, all too familiar. But for the first time, now that Lindsey is here with me, we went swimming in the outdoor pool! But it was covered in a layer of ash, kind of gross, maybe from burning trash? There was a lot of ash in Jakarta from the continuing Mt. Merapi eruptions, but I don’t think they could have traveled all the way here.

We’re leaving for the speedboat at 8am tomorrow, heading to several oil palm plantations and to talk with affected communities affected. We’re also going to see deep peat (the richest carbon sinks in the world, the protection of which is our only hope to start reversing major climate change trends), tromp around in some orangutan habitat and try to navigate our way through the insanely wet and muddy jungle roads made by palm companies.

Flying in today, I saw my first ever palm plantation from the air – sooo intense. Miles of them, plantation after plantation. I think I captured some good photos from the plane. After over a year of working on this campaign, it was amazing to finally see an oil palm plantation cut out of the magical, dense forest like cookie cutter grids.

I just barely caught these powerful views out my plane window since I was entirely distracted by the food they served me on the plane. I thought it was tempeh with peanuts and poking around at it doing my usual vegetarian investigation, about to put it in my mouth, I noticed dozens of tiny eyes staring up at me. I gasped and realized that there were dozens of tiny fish, the size of my pinky nail, mixed into the tempeh, but their eyes and heads were all fallen off, mixed and matched – quite the culinary feat.

I’m in good spirits and feeling very blessed for this experience. It became really tough to stay positive at the RSPO conference – so many meetings and lectures and non stop work and palm oil from 7am til midnight and I became drained emotionally. All those palm oil company execs started to bring me down.  And without the physical exercise to release it all, I’ve been feeling gross. But now that we’re back in Kalimantan and ready for our next big adventure, I’m feeling reinvigorated and excited for what we’re going to see! I have my rain pants, rain coat, bug spray and lots of long sleeves.

Manifest sunshine and no mosquitoes for us, will you?