Not just palm, the case of Borneo


Not just palm, an endangered terrestrial paradise rather, the case of Borneo.

Borneo is the third largest island on the planet. (1) With a territory of 743,330 km2, (2) which until a few decades ago was entirely covered by a 130-million-year-old rainforest. Its biodiversity consists of 15,000 plant species and 1,400 animals including amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, (3) reptiles, and insects. Including moths and butterflies, such as the giant Rajah Brooke birdwing (pictured). But deforestation is advancing at an average annual rate of 3.9 percent to extract timber and produce palm oil. 50 percent of the island has already been devastated.

The indigenous hunter-gatherers of Borneo have always guarded these forests with votive respect. Yes to preserve the broadest biodiversity among any terrestrial ecosystem. And rely on it as the primary source of livelihood. Food and medicine, fruits and plants in recent times as well in exchange for money, building materials, other necessities.

Deforestation imposed by the bloody palm forest business has undermined traditional land management systems and caused poverty and social disintegration in a hitherto thriving community. Efforts to protect the remaining land through bulldozer blockades, demonstrations and court cases have been brutally suppressed by government agencies and armed forces serving palmocrats. (4)

Land robbery uprooted nomadic tribes from the forest resources on which subsistence, society and culture were based. Human civilizations are thus irreparably destroyed, in the worst tradition of neo-colonialism. The horrendous crimes committed in past centuries against the indigenous peoples of America, Africa and Australia are renewed today under general indifference. With some new features.

‘The government has cut down 70 percent of the forests in Sarawak [Malaysian Borneo, ed.], jeopardizing the survival of the indigenous people. Where there were forests there is now a desert of oil palm plantations. Of my Penan friends, I have not heard from them: their lives, like those of other ethnic groups, are over. At best they were turned into pieceworkers for palm plantations’ [Dario Novellino, anthropologist long lived in Borneo].

We look forward to the International Criminal Court in The Hague exercising its duty to prosecute forced land expropriation (land grabbing) and environmental destruction on par with war crimes and crimes against humanity. (5)

The palm boycott by consumAtors, large retailers and industry, meanwhile, has a definite meaning. Ethical and economic. The industry that devours millions of hectares of rainforest every year must be stopped, until rules acceptable to all are shared for the use of existing plantations, and rules for the effective compensation of violated rights are defined.

Not in Our Names!

Dario Dongo


(1) After Greenland and New Guinea. Next, after Borneo, Madagascar.

(2) 72.6 percent of Borneo belongs to Indonesia, 26.7 percent to Malaysia, the remaining 0.6 percent to Brunei

(3) These include the orangutan and pygmy pongo, rhinos and dwarf elephants. Macaques, gibbons, tarsiers, and the wild pig of Borneo.

Orangutans are the most similar beings to humans, with whom they share almost 97 percent of DNA. Last century their population in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo alone was estimated at more than 600,000. And it is now one of the most endangered species.

Over the past 20 years, orangutans have lost 90 percent of their habitat.

In National Geographic video, a rehabilitation center in West Kalimantan, Borneo

(4) For more in-depth news on human rights in Borneo, see

(5) International Criminal Court (ICC). Cf. Strategic Plan 2016-2018, ICC-OTP, November 16, 2015, paras 92-98