Progress vs. Deforestation in Borneo

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Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown drove some attention last week to the work of his sister, Clare Rewcastle, on the subject of deforestation in the Borneo rainforest. Rewcastle claims that the prognosis for the region indicates incredible degrees of deforestation - to the point that she predicts 90 percent deforestation by the year 2020, mostly due to oil palm production in the region (it's widely used as a cooking oil). An excerpt from Brown's oped:

What Clare Rewcastle is exposing through her local informants is that over this period, particularly during the 1980s, Malaysia's once vast pristine jungle has been stripped bare and enormous areas have been planted with oil palm in an environmental nightmare that shows no sign of slowing. Deprived of their livelihoods, some of the world's poorest people have been further impoverished by the deforestation.

The recent Sarawak Report exposes how pressures continue to force families to leave the forests and give up on their traditional livelihoods. These families are being pressed to accept "compensation", often of only £80, for land whose wood is worth millions.

The courage being shown by local Sarawak people gives us all a chance to stop the destruction. If the world fails now we are not guilty simply of a sin of omission; we will be actively condoning the destruction of a nation's future by people too greedy to see the trees for the wood.

Of course, this sparked pushback from the local authorities - in this case Deputy Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Planning and Resource Management Datu Len Talif Salleh, who denounced Rewcastle and Brown as repeating false information and lacking any real knowledge of the situation on the ground:

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