"I wanted to make sure there would be a place for my family and descendants, but they said they wanted everything"...
Up until the 1980s the landscape of Borneo's rainforests were untouched and unadulterated, occupied only by wildlife and indigenous tribes. For fifteen months, forty years ago, Robin Hanbury-Tenison led one of the largest expeditions into the rainforests of Borneo and his extraordinary undertaking triggered the global rainforest movement and illuminated, for the first time, how vital rainforests are to the global environment.
In this new book, 'Finding Eden: A journey into the heart of Borneo', the explorer details his 1978-79 expedition of Borneo to study the remote Penan tribal people and their home, a pristine paradise that has since been utterly destroyed by loggers and palm oil plantations. There was huge opposition to the extreme rate of logging in Borneo during the 1980s and 90s, but despite huge international campaigns it seems nothing changed. In fact, it appears things only got worse as palm oil became the most widely used vegetable oil on the planet for products such as lipstick, some ice creams and detergents, among others. You can check the companies who are the worst offenders here.
The tragedy in all of this is that the lifestyle of the Penan tribe was potentially sustainable. “The huge wealth of the country could have been exploited sustainably and in a manner that benefited all in the long run, and not just filled a few obscenely fat Swiss bank accounts,” writes Hanbury-Tenison.
Written by Amy Moffat
You can find out more about the book, the project and Robin Hanbury-Tenison here. You can also sign up to hear the man himself talk about his travels into the heart of Borneo at The Eden Project Foundation Building.
The book offers adventure, knowledge, exposé and all with a great sense of emotion and poetry, most notably through the friendship Hanbury-Tension developed with Nyapun, a Borneo native. When Hanbury-Tenison returned to Borneo, two decades after his expedition, he found that this closest Penan contact had since served time in prison for attempting to halt construction of a road. Nyapun had hoped to negotiate with the authorities. “I wanted to make sure there would be a place for my family and descendants, but they said they wanted everything. They were going to log the whole area,”.
Finding Eden manages to bring together an urgent reminder of the need to care for our planet and to stand up to the folly of greed, while also reflecting on the personal consequences for those individuals who have lost their home and seen the natural beauty of their landscape be torn apart.