Monday, January 19, 2009

Orangutan Future Critical

Mention the islands of Indonesia, and westerners are likely to think of rain forest and people living in thatched huts. In some Indonesian places that was even true up to ten years ago. Today the last Indonesian rain forests are dwindling to little pockets of semi-protected land. On the island of Borneo, Tanjung Puting National Park is facing encroaching settlements. Rainforest is being cleared even into the preserve to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is worth a lot because it has been touted as a cleaner source of fuel. Tanjung Puting, however, is one of the last keeps of the orangutan, "forest man" in the local dialect.

Tanjung Puting is not only important for the orangutan, but for other rare creatures and humans as well.
To destroy these rain forest areas for palm oil plantations introduces a monoculture - one type of plant that is very controlled, limiting what fauna can live in the area. Those orangutans and other creatures that wander out of what little rain forest is left are killed.

This is Jakarta, a city of 8.5 million people.

I have written before of the plight of specific creatures and of human responsibility for creation (please see my articles on Venus Flytraps and the Green Gospel). I believe my philosophical belief in our responsibility is based in the theological understanding of man as God's image bearer and God's command to mankind to cultivate (not rape!) the earth. I disagree with Louis Leakey, Birute Galdikas, and others who believe that we are closely related to orangutans. I disagree that when we kill these creatures, we kill our cousins. Yet I do believe, strongly, that we have a responsibility to provide a place in this world for these creatures and that we should care for them as much as we can, even when it is inconvenient, because God will require from us an accounting on the matter.

What does that mean for us? I don't expect you to become an eco-nut. In fact, I hope you don't. But I also hope you will use all reasonable means to protect our world's resources. If you can, recycle. If you can, carpool. If you can cut that drive out of your routine, do it. If you can get a car that emits less carbon monoxide and burns less fuel, get it. Make informed decisions and talk about these issues. You, who benefit indirectly from palm oil are as complicit with those who are physically burning down the forests in Borneo. If you act responsibly, you may just have a hand in saving the last of the orangutans.

This photo comes courtesy of the Australian Orangutan Project,

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