The Eco Warriors spent 100 days in Sintang and Tembak, Borneo (Indonesia) and were split off in to separate units - EarthWatcher, Deforest ACTION, propagation of seedlings for reforestation, prepping the orphaned orangutans for socialisation and release in to the forest (Forest School), Education, Mapping of logged vs intact coupes, and possibly other units, as well. All bases were covered for saving the precious last native tracts of Borneo from logging.
I was particularly interested in the work the Education unit were doing to inculcate a love for their land in the Indonesian school children. There were many visits to local schools and lots of creativity infused in to the education campaigns to keep the children engaged and entertained. After all, it's the young who will one day be the owners of this land who will be pressured to sell it off. Without the land-owners' commitment, the campaign is futile!
One campaigner wrote a song, some dressed up and performed for the schools dramatising what happened to the orangutans in the forest, there was a photo tree, a Photographic Exhibition, from memory, crafty activities for the kids, dancing routines, and just about anything you could think of to open up these children's hearts to the importance of the forests. But most importantly, there was a love in everyone's hearts for the land and the wild-life which resonated and radiated amongst everyone, and the children felt it as much as ever. This is what this film brought out, and emotion is so important in any campaign.
I particularly love the scene where they are jumping around on the rain forest floor literally like they're on pogo sticks. You see the peat all along the forest floor is very spongey and filled with a lot of air and huge amounts of CO2s are released in to the atmosphere when it is disturbed.
There was a small remote control plane which would surveille the forest to track down illegal logging and industrialists marking off trees for future removal. Despite Borneo not having the most advanced internet coverage, these Eco-Warriors really made the most of all technological capabilities at their disposal.
Apart from love, another resounding theme in Rise of the Eco Warriors, is HOPE. I have watched Green - The Film, An Orangutan's Story, which is like the representation of environmental realism on the film-maker's canvas. This film although an important piece of film-making in conveying the realities of rainforest destruction, did leave me feeling flat and that feeling of 'what can I do'? I'm not sure that a silent film actually works. I didn't feel at all flat after watching Rise of the Eco-Warriors. Quite the contrary, it's a film that galvanises the audience to want to do something.
What many don't know about the palm oil industry but would have learned from this film -
1. Palm plantations are mono-cultures which means high levels of fertilisers and pesticides are needed - hence groundwater will be contaminated for generations. When native forest is culled, the orangutans are basically left with no food source, and no habitat.
2. A mono-culture means that animal and plant bio-diversity is virtually non-existent. After 20 years when the palms are no longer bearing fruit, the land is left depleted and barren.
3. Logging is illegal in Indonesia, but still legal in Malaysia (which is quite another story altogether!). The local Indonesian people need to be encouraged to enforce the laws to prevent illegal sell-offs to palm oil producers.
4. Tens of thousands of seedlings (including sugar palms) are currently being propagated and replanted to replenish the land so that the local people can generate an income from a more sustainable industry.
This film is on limited release, but the creators are asking people (parents, teachers, campaigners) to look up this Facebook page and request its viewing at schools or in their local cinemas.
Another point that came out of the feedback after the session was that supermarkets can be pressured in to providing greater transparency when it comes to their Palm Oil free Products.
At Q and A time, I piped up without a microphone (it was a full cinema) and commented that hopefully the film can have Chinese sub-titles added. After all, the bulk consumers of palm oil - are those who use it for cooking as occurs in China, so we really need to appeal to our Asian friends to appeal to their relatives back home to find an alternate source for cooking oil.