Wang’s advice for Asian girls who want to pursue their passions—their dreams over financial stability—is to not feel forced about loving something. “My parents told me what I liked—they told me I liked viola. They told me I like tennis. It took me a long time in college to figure out what I actually liked, which wasn’t viola—although tennis is really cool. Figuring out what you actually love in our passion makes you feel great excitement—like 10 out of 10 level. It’s what you would want to spend a lot of time doing.”

The Deprivation of Rainforests and the Loss of Living Space of Dayaknese People in Borneo Island

Perhaps you have heard of the name somewhere, the third-largest island in the world with one of the oldest and most diverse rainforest ecosystems and wildlifes, a home for the great ape of Orangutan, and maybe a place where man-eating Anacondas snakes live, such as depicted in the Hollywood movie Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid?

I can personally tell you, there are a variety of snakes here, but no Anacondas for as long as I can remember, and for the forest and the Orangutan, I don’t know if I can say much, I don’t know if I can boast and write lengthy description about how exotic and incredible they are, without having to force myself to ignore the fact that the current state says otherwise. Both are seriously threatened and endangered.

Deforestation has been one of the main causes of peril to many aspects of life and environment in Borneo. According to Gaveau et al, in 2017, Borneo’s old-growth forest has diminished by over 14% or 6.04 million hectares (14.8 million acres) since 2000.

WWF has also noted other remarkable factors to the deprivation of the biodiversity of the Borneo forest, such as land conversion, climate change, wildlife hunting, and mining. The most prominent issue of land use change is from the rapid cultivation of palm oil plantation. Indonesia and Malaysia accounted for the 90% supply of the world palm oil. 

Another large issue is the coal mining activity that is rampant and proven to have heavily afflicted many aspects of life around it, from environment to humanity. Coals that are unearthed from the mountains leave many trails of destruction on its path, from the process of digging it up, transporting it through the river, to its utilization for the fossil fuel power plants, and even after the extraction process is completed and the party or corporations that are responsible for it has finished their deal.

This menace doesn’t only affect the environment, but also impacts the indigenous people of Borneo. One of the native groups of Borneo is the Dayaknese people that scattered all around the five provinces of the island in Indonesia and Sarawak and Sabah of Malaysia. 

For millennia, Borneo Island and its people have always been shrouded in the kind of mystification and isolation. The Dayaknese have a very close relationship with nature and some of them still uphold the faith of animism and shamanism, even integrating it with the general religion that most of the people have converted into, like believing in the spirits and entities that protected the forest and the river.

The Dayaknese were divided into almost 200 subgroups that are unique to their location dwelling–mostly on the land/forest or the river coasts. The Dayaknese are also generally bilingual and each of the subgroups have their own languages and dialects. There are some other differences in habits, customs, and religions, but that added to the medley of harmony of Borneo Island and especially, Indonesia as a whole.

The Dayaknese people is one of the 633 recognized ethnic groups of Indonesia that relied most on the existence of the rainforests and with the bulldozing modernization and capitalism, most of the Dayaknese people have to amalgamate with the new trends, and those who decided to resist and hold on to traditional value, can’t help but become more and more marginalized.

The case with the indigineous people of the Laman Kinipan Village in Central Borneo is the current, prime example of how destructive the force that pushed for the clearing of land for palm oil plantation is. For years, the people of Laman Kinipan has been trying to protect and preserve their land from the trampling feet of corporations and oligarchs–agriculture conflict is inevitable, usually ends up with criminalization of the weaker party that the public of Indonesia was aghast from seeing a viral video of the police roughly dragging the indigenous community leader of the Laman Kinipan people as though he was a terrorist when he was accused of stealing chainsaws from the corporation that tried to take over his land.

Another conflict that occured recently was between the Dayaknese farmers of East Kotawaringin in Central Kalimantan and Best Agro Corporations over the ownership of land where they grew palm oil, with three of the farmers and activists also imprisoned for ‘stealing the oil palm fruits’.

In 2017, Konsorsium Pembaruan Agraria (KPA)/Agriculture Reform Consortium in Indonesia reported as many as 659 cases of conflicts, although in 2018 it decreased to 410 records, but it is important to note that 60% of the 144 cases on the plantation sector was generated by the commodity of palm oil that staked its claims on community’s lands all over the country, and a lot of them still can’t find resolve. 

This concerning reports aren’t only emerging from the Dayaknese community, in Borneo island especially, the ongoing issue of the environment affect the locals as a whole that from 2011 to 2020, 39 people have died, mostly from drowning that occured in the unrectified holes of coal mines in East Borneo, and almost all of them were children or teenagers under 18. No one was charged for their deaths, only receiving the inconsiderate and absurd responses from the East Borneo’s Governor who claimed the tragedy as ‘fate that they died in the mining basin’ and that the basin ‘might be haunted that it took the lives of many children’.

Although Borneo Island might see the promise of a better future such as infrastructure development and thriving economy after President Jokowi announced that the capital of Indonesia is going to be relocated to Penajam Paser, East Borneo itself from the overcrowded Jakarta, these dire issues are going to plague every waking moment of the people and the nation until they find their rightful resolve, and will remain a dark history of a hostile land, as the increasing wealth of a country doesn’t mean anything if even a single life was loss unjustly to gain it and only a handful of people with power can benefit from it.

References

Budi Baskoro. “Sengketa Lahan Petani Sampit versus ‘Crazy Rich Surabayan’.” Mongabay, 21 June 2020,

https://www.mongabay.co.id/2020/06/21/sengketa-lahan-petani-sampit-versus-crazy-rich-surabaya/. Accessed 10 September 2020.

“The Heart of Borneo Under Siege.” WWF Panda, https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/borneo_forests/borneo_deforestation/. Accessed 7 September 2020.

Gaveau, D., Sheil, D., Husnayaen et al. Rapid conversions and avoided deforestation: examining four decades of industrial plantation expansion in Borneo. Sci Rep 6, 32017 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep32017

Arditya Abdul Azis. “Bom Waktu di Balik Jawaban-Jawaban Absurd Gubernur Isran Noor.” Kaltimkece, 19 July 2019, https://kaltimkece.id/warta/terkini/bom-waktu-di-balik-jawaban-jawaban-absurd-gubernur-isran-noor. Accessed 10 September 2020.

Deddy Priatmojo & Robby Syai’an. “Daftar 35 Korban Tewas Lubang Bekas Tambang di Kaltim.” Viva, 27 June 2019, https://www.viva.co.id/berita/nasional/1160628-daftar-35-korban-tewas-lubang-bekas-tambang-di-kaltim. Accessed 10 September 2020.

“Dua Siswa SMP Tewas di Lubang Bekas Tambang di Kaltim.” CNN Indonesia, 7 September 2020, https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20200907182714-20-543732/dua-siswa-smp-tewas-di-lubang-bekas-tambang-di-kaltim. Accessed 10 September 2020.

Raja Emben Lumbanrau. “Masyarakat Adat: Penangkapan ketua adat Kinipan dan ‘pelegalan negara atas perampokan di tanah adat di era Jokowi’, tudingan aktivis lingkungan.” BBC, 28 August 2020, https://www.bbc.com/indonesia/indonesia-53890151. Accessed 10 September 2020.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

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