Voices for the Forest
Like so many students in my classroom, especially young girls, I was a quiet and sensitive child, afraid to speak up. I can understand how they feel. Growing up in Vancouver, Canada, when life at school got too much for me, I disappeared with my dog down the bank that divided our back garden from the wild woods of Grouse Mountain. I was blessed because my parent’s house is far up the mountainside on the edge of the rainforest, with a river behind it that runs into the sea.
The forest was my refuge and my sanctuary, my favorite place in the whole wide world. Whiskey and I spent countless hours going for walks, splashing in the river and breathing fresh oxygen from the trees. I read books in my treehouse while Whiskey snuffled around in the undergrowth. I folded maple leaves into baskets and collected ripe salmonberries and blackberries. The spirit of the forest surrounded me, and I always felt safe and protected.
Now, years later in the rainforests of Indonesia, I feel a similar sense of peace and calm. As if I were a child again, I’m filled with wonder at the sight of an orangutan high up in the trees, butterflies feeding together on the riverbank or Achenese elephants trumpeting as they bathe in the river.
This time, however, I’m uneasy because I know that this forest is in extreme danger. Now that I’m older, I realize how much time I’ve spent as a writer covering mostly what editors have assigned to me. I’ve spent most of my life being TOO QUIET about what really matters. Now I feel I must speak up about the forests of Indonesia because I’m sure if people knew, they would really care and do something to help.
When teaching English in Sumatra, I’ve also been educating children about the orangutans, elephants and other creatures that live only a couple of hours from their own backyards. Recently, when a friend gave me a book called Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, I was inspired to take further action. Through the list of websites in the back, I found World Pulse, this amazing community of women doing things to make our world a better place.
I truly believe that women are the caretakers of the earth. With the courage to raise our voices, we can help protect the remaining rainforest and demand that multinationals behave ethically. My vision is to help others be more aware of the rainforests of Indonesia, the indigenous people who are affected by their destruction, and the organizations working to protect them. As part of this vision, I also want to coordinate an education program teaching children about the beauty and value of their natural environment. I want to teach them to care for the forest and not be afraid to speak up and protect it. The rainforests protect and nourish us; now we must do the same for them.