Biologist Willie Smits has a simple, unlikely wish: to save the endangered orangutans of Borneo. With seemingly everything from the sociological to the climatic aligned against him, he understood that he had to approach the situation from a holistic perspective. The results of his efforts not only created a place where his orangutans could thrive, but where the local people became stakeholders in maintaining a sustainable, profitable community. And in the process he turned a carbon source into a carbon sink capable of producing renewable energy.
This effort and others like it are the undeniable rebuttal to the Lomborgs [and yes, I’ll have more on him later] of the world who frame climate change mitigation as a waste of resources by pitting emissions reductions against other health and poverty issues. Many of us have long ranted about how such a frame is a deeply dishonest one. We maintain that the issues of climate mitigation and social justice are inextricably linked, and Smits’ Samboja Lestari is a wonderful example of this.
There exists another denialist canard- that combating climate change is merely the disguised plot of misanthropic environmentalists who want to reduce humanity to stone age poverty or sacrifice it entirely on the altar of animals’ and/or nature’s rights. Smits’ work stands in stark contrast to this as well, illustrating that there is no inherent conflict between improving the lives of the developing world while working to pull back from the brink of the sixth extinction.