I’ve been asked this question and the following questions by friends and will share the answers here.
I’m writing “Heart of Borneo”, a forest crime.
Much like Sydney’s Song, this Work In Progress is a real-life socio fiction, except, instead of portraying a vibrant metropolitan as massive as Sydney, I’m visiting remote hamlets around Kapuas River’s headwater in the deep of Borneo, and instead of winding the theme around a love story, “Heart of Borneo” focuses on conservation works, particularly environmental economy.
Heart of Borneo itself is a conservation initiative to slow down the rapid deforestation of one of the world’s few remaining natural rainforests. Covering an area of 220 million hectares, two-third of which is in three Indonesian Kalimantan provinces, this program identifies and develops sustainable ways to empower the local residence and to protect the area’s threatened rich biodiversity.
A lawless no man’s land which is 2004’s ultimate illegal logging heaven awaits Lance Knox, an environmental economy fresh graduate assigned by WWF to promote community livelihood in Kapuas Hulu Regency of West Borneo. To prevent further deforestation, Lance must show the indigenous people how to develop alternatives and more sustainable income sources. However, Kapuas Hulu is wilder than his dreams.
How can a conservation program work, when the boss of Malaysian logging mafia sleeps in the house of TNI’s Regional Military Commandant? And why would the local government help develop community livelihood, when denuding the land of its ancestral forests have brought in obscene wealth to their personal pockets? It doesn’t help at all when the central government insists on developing an oil-palm plantation along Malaysia-Indonesia border, which necessitates demolishing virgin forests in three huge national parks.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I have read some excellent works by Indonesian and European anthropologists, economists, journalists, and travelers on Kapuas Hulu (Upper Kapuas), but each of them describes only a portion of a complex land with massive issues. They are like vivid portraits of parts of an elephant: the magnificent long tusks, the fan-like ears, the tree-like legs. I’m attempting a comprehensive research-based factual novel to present, hopefully, the complete picture. I’ve been lucky to receive guidance from my personal contacts, insiders who are highly dedicated professional conservationists, including one of the world’s most respected environmental experts, as well as indigenous scientists. Let’s hope I can do them justice.
Why do I write what I do?
I have many reasons, among others:
- I have deep respect for those who work hard to get things done in conserving the environment. The conservationists I’m writing about are noble people who have striven to preserve wildlife and safeguard human dignity. This is their story.
- I’m passionate about forest conservation (although, I will also write about marine conservation in my next book). I wish very much that the forest criminals stop for a moment and think about the helpless animals that are losing their homes with nowhere to go. Of course, decimating the forest itself of protected trees can only bring natural hazard to the local as well to the international communities. Hopefully, more hearts will come to care through my writing.
- The most valuable asset of Kapuas Hulu is its people, and I would like to introduce the Borneans to more people, because, hey, guess what, the world owes them. They are unique communities who are blessed with a rich land. They live in pristine environment, breathe clean air, and eat naturally organic food. They are healthy and intelligent. They can learn new methods and better ways to achieve a sustainable Kapuas Hulu. Their responsible actions to preserve the forests in the Heart of Borneo zone will slow down global warming. The whole world depends on their forests, and on them to save our planet from harmful climate change that can only lead to grave natural disasters. Climate change is dangerous for people’s health and economy. By not cutting their trees — like all other people of the world have done — the indigenous people of Borneo are rendering a most noble sacrifice for the good of mankind.
How does my writing process work?
Ideas normally come to me when I do my walks, but I need to be passionate about what I write. This WIP was triggered by the environmentally depressing state in my birth country; a state that had been at the back of my mind and brought anger to me each time my thought drifted there. The first time I left Sumatra, I was stunned to see that no forest grew between Jakarta and Bogor in Java, which was a 50-km road trip. But Sumatra today is no different from Java. How would you feel, if the tall canopy of your jungle disappeared and replaced by potato fields? And it is so much more than the loss of the magnificent beauty. How would you feel when you think of the protected animals that must face extinction because they are endemic to their forest condition?
Late in 2013 my dear friend Allan Howerton reminded me of my (now gone) forests, and that opened the pandora box.
There is so much to write and so little time available. And then there’s so much to learn from my conservationist mentors, from books and from the internet. I’ve been busy studying and interviewing. In the process of my research I frequently stumble upon astounding facts, greed, and intrigues pertaining to Borneans, other Indonesians and international actors. I’ve encountered many highly admirable people who boost my respect towards mankind. Also, memories come back about facts that I had learned during my life journey — facts that assist me to understand pieces of a few puzzles. In other words, more information turns up from nowhere and everywhere prompting me to write and rewrite.
I recently traveled to the locations, as I’d only been to a few oil fields in Borneo in the past, to make sure I wouldn’t make mistakes.
And of course, that’s before throwing my manuscript to the wolves for critic! I have been known to heed my opinionated assessors, as many of them as I can get, the sharper their claws the better.
I would like to end this post by calling all readers to make donations towards wildlife conservation. Please click the following logo if you would like to donate. Thank you.