Rainforest Sentinels. September 20202. Rainforest Guardian, Kuala Koh, Malaysia. Som, a Batek woman, fresh-picked flowers from the rainforest in her hair, emerges from the buttressed roots of an old growth rainforest tree. For 40 years, loggers have advanced, clear-cutting Batek land, replacing it with sprawling oil palm plantations.
James Whitlow Delano
Rainforest Sentinels. September 2020. Unbridled Mirth. BorneoParen, the oldest man in the Penan settlement of Long Kelamu, several hours walk into the Borneo rainforest from Long Lellang, is wrapped by the sinuous arms of the Baram River. MalaysiaAdditional Information:The Baram River, the jungle thoroughfare for the indigenous Dayak peoples, snakes through the last great rainforest in Southeast Asia, through Penan territory. Not long ago, the Baram River and its tributaries were the only way for the Penan to travel to the coast from Long Lellang. The journey took about 10 days. Now tons of topsoil and subsoil, washed away because industrial-scale logging operations left it exposed to tropical downpours, have turned the waters the color of orange. For decades, loggers have worked their way up the rivers from the coast laying waste to the Penan’s, and other indigenous Dayak peoples’ land. Now oil palm plantations, often owned by the same corporations, are being established on land expropriated by these corporations from indigenous peoples who rarely hold title to the land where they have lived since time immemorial. Removing the rainforest, the most complex ecosystems on the planet, the world’s greatest living carbon sink, and replacing them with monoculture oil palm, essentially arboreal cornfields, accelerates the warming of the planet.