View from Canopy - HoB Newsletter February 2014 issue
As the new year gets under way, the future of WWF's work in Borneo is beginning to take much clearer shape. In 2014 we set out to address three key issues: the need for better coordination between the various projects WWF operates in Borneo, the need for local WWF leaders to have clearer ownership of the work and the need for some clarification between projects inside and outside the Heart of Borneo boundaries. 2013 ended with preliminary approval of a new strategy for WWF in Borneo that addresses all three of these challenges. 2014 has already seen signs of the new, coordinated approach in action, with new positions being created with unprecedented remits across both the Indonesian and Malaysian offices as well as GIS experts from each office teaming up to provide coordinated advice to the three government's GIS and spatial planning working group.
Better management of WWF's resources in Borneo should maximise WWF's impact on the landscape, but it is only ever going to be part of the solution. Globally, perceptions of the importance of environmental issues and the degree to which they are inextricably linked to every day life (rather than 'nice to have' bonuses when economic conditions are healthy) seem to be progressing, but often we seem to take one step forward and two steps back. A recent visit by US Secretary of State to Indonesia used the opportunity to launch some of the US' strongest and most impressive language on climate change in recent years...but at the same time the newspapers in both Indonesia and my own country of Great Britain have been dominated by the impacts of flooding. Whilst floods may or may not be linked to climate change, they are certainly linked to environmental management. Both countries focussed in great detail on the flood management processes employed in response to the floods (and on the relative competence or otherwise of the politicians responsible for them), but far less attention was given to the underlying causes. Urban planning, agricultural policies, forest and water management all play vital, long term roles in affecting the landscape's capacity to deal with heavy rainfall. Long term failure in both countries to recognise the intrinsic environmental impacts of each has been a major contribution to today's floods, and responsibility for this lies with successions of policy makers, not just those who happen to be in power today.
Borneo is rich in natural resources. These resources will be an important driver of development across the island but will also be a key part of the islands ability to respond to and mitigate future changes and events, be they freak weather events or permanent climate-linked changes. Like the floods in Jakarta and Somerset, much of the environmental impact of Borneo's natural resources can be seen on its watersheds and river systems. But it will be up to today's policy makers to recognise these environmental values as well as their immediate economic values. It will be up to them put the forestry, agricultural and urban development rules in place that allow Borneo to develop in a way that increases current human well being, but not at the cost of the well being of future Bornean generations.