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  • Foto del escritorAdri Olaya

My impression and lessons from two rainforests 19,000 km apart

As a big passionate about wildlife, my biggest dream is to go to the wildest places in the world and see animals in their natural environment, free, raw, and wild. That is my biggest source of inspiration, motivation, hope and joy.


In 2023, I had the immense chance to visit two of the world’s biggest rainforests: Borneo in Indonesia and the Amazon in my home country, Colombia. Both places are astonishingly magnificent, diverse, and beautiful in their way. The biodiversity of both places is among the top richest in the world.

As I entered through the dense and multi-shade green of the jungle, cut by the brown-reddish color of their rivers, the reality of the worlds I was entering took on new life and meaning.

It is overwhelming to see the majestic wilderness, the vibrant colors, the magnitude of the forest and its rivers, ts hidden creatures and diversity, the unique sunsets, and the blinding dark nights. I saw in the wild endemic species that can only be found in these places. It was as emotional as breathtaking to see in Borneo Proboscis monkeys jumping from tree to tree and orangutans carrying their babies on their backs, and in the Amazon seeing pink river dolphins jumping out of the water, the Pirarucús fins and head peeking out of the river next to our canoe, and black spider monkeys watching me silently from the crown of the tall trees, as well as many other species.

I stayed with locals and had enriching, educational, and heuristic encounters and conversations with them, including citizens from Kumai and indigenous from the Dayak tribe in Borneo, and indigenous people from the Ticuna tribe in the Amazon. It was mind-blowing to hear the shared perception about the world from two distant groups of people who only share their connection and proximity to nature. They concur in unison that all natural entities are living and impregnated with meaning, spirit, and mystery. They are an essential part of an interconnected web of life and all depend on each other in a symbiotic way, even if it is not visible to the human eye and modern science.


It is hard to understand the dynamics of the rainforest and the earthlings living in it, including humans, if you haven’t been there. The entangled social and environmental challenges are harder to address than we think with our linear and unsystemic mindset in our urban life. However, despite the +19,000 km between both rainforests, both the Amazon and Borneo (as well as most rainforests on earth) are being razed to the ground and are at imminent risk of irreversible destruction, facing similar problems that are putting all life in danger.


There used to be a delicate balance between human extraction for the survival and preservation of locals and indigenous tribes and their ancestral wisdom rooted in nature. In return, they protected the rainforest against industrial predators. Unfortunately, that balance is broken and the Amazon and Borneo, the ecosystems that give us so many natural services to all of us, and the remaining indigenous communities, are in great danger. Cattle farming, palm oil production, logging, unsustainable agriculture, mining, and crude oil extraction are the largest drivers of deforestation.


Humans are acting without awareness of what we need to survive and thrive in the future. We are destroying on a massive scale the remaining rainforest, its biodiversity, and the most basic natural services we depend on: the production of oxygen, stabilizing the world's rainfall patterns, and storing massive amounts of carbon that mitigate climate change.


In the Amazon, animal farming is the main driver of this insane destruction. Cattle ranching accounts for 80% of current deforestation throughout the Amazon. Ranchers use Slash-and-burn agriculture practices that basically clear-cut the virgin forest and then burn everything down displacing and killing all living things on it, to change the use of land, plant grass, breed cattle.

Similarly, in Borneo, the surging global demand for palm oil has fueled massive rainforest destruction. Indonesia and Malaysia account for 85% of the world’s palm oil production. And palm oil is EVERYWHERE, from food, cleaning products to cosmetics. Vast areas of virgin tropical rainforest are clear-cut to open up land for the cultivation of palm oil trees. Orangutans, like many other species, are killed or displaced in this process, and the one who survive die after from starvation because there is no sufficient food in the small fragmented portions of forest that remain.


Isn’t all this complete nonsense?


Unfortunately, we are all contributing to this destruction, directly or indirectly. But fortunately, we all can do something. The easiest single way to play our part is to make informed choices.

Here are some actions we can do as consumers:

  • Stop or reduce meat and dairy. If consuming, making sure it comes from no deforestation practices.

  • Demand and support sustainable palm oil production and avoid boycotts, since substitutions with other vegetable oils can lead to even further environmental and social harm.

  • Buy from companies that have responsible sourcing policies, deforestation-free certifications, and transparent traceability of their ingredients

  • Check if your favorite foods and cosmetics are using palm oil or meat and dairy coming from Borneo, Sumatra, or the Amazon or if the cattle have been fed with produce from the Amazon.

  • Engage with companies and manufacturers. Search, write and ask directly or in social media about their sustainability strategy and what they are doing to help achieve mandatory labeling of palm oil and to ensure deforestation free meat and dairy products worldwide.

  • If you ever visit these magical lands, respect the local indigenous communities and their traditions, be humble, learn from them, and be as less intrusive as possible. Support them in their own way. Educate yourself about their culture and challenges.

  • Support indigenous rights public policies.  


As humans and global consumers, we all have the responsibility to preserve the Amazon and Borneo rainforests, as well as all the rest of the natural ecosystems around the world. Orangutans, dolphins, monkeys, and all the rest of wild animals deserve to live in the wild freely, safely, and fearlessly of human activity. We can make a real difference just by making our voices heard!  

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