Monday, January 21, 2008

50 People who could save the Planet

It’s been long time for me not updating this blog. No excuse. My head of delegate, Bob, left a message in my latest posting, said that there are two possibilities about why I couldn’t write anything: first because I work too hard (do I?), and second because I’m too lazy (I’m exactly at this position ☺).

OK. But let me tell you good news. My sister sent me short message, told that her husband –my brother in law- Henry Saragih just named last 5 January by the Guardian, a London-based prominent daily, as one of 50 people who could save the planet. It’s really a new year surprise for us and we are very proud of him, of course.

The Guardian comes up with a list of 50 people who they think the most able to prevent the continuing destruction of the planet. The newspaper invited an expert panel to select hundred names into a short list through a global environment debate. Some experts included Bob Watson, the former World Bank chief scientist and now is a British government's scientific adviser on climate change; Indian physicist and ecologist Vandana Shiva; Kenyan biologist and Nobel prize-winner Wangari Maathai; activists - Guardian columnist George Monbiot and head of Greenpeace International Gerd Leipold; politicians - Green party co-leader and MEP Caroline Lucas, and London mayor Ken Livingstone; sustainable development commissioner for the UK government Jonathon Porritt and novelist Philip Pullman.

Along with him as 50 people who could save the planet are several widely known person such as German chancellor Angela Merkel, US politician and environmentalist Al Gore, movie star Leonardo di Caprio, and statistician Bjorn Lomborg (who write “the Sceptical Environmentalist”).

The Guardian profiled Henry as described below:

“Henry Saragih is a small farmer who has hardly seen his wife and children in 15 years since taking on the Indonesian government and the palm oil barons of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Companies with links to government are devastating vast areas of Indonesia and southeast Asia to grow palm oil to supply Europe's cars and kitchens with biofuel and cooking oils, and Saragih is one of the few people standing in their path. Not only does he lead a union of several million agitated Indonesian peasants, but he also heads Via Campesina, the global movement of increasingly militant peasant farmers which campaigns for land reform in 80 countries. Saragih and his colleagues are lobbying the UN and the World Trade Organisation.
How this struggle plays out in the next 20 years will determine whether there is any rainforest left intact south-east Asia in 50 years' time, and possibly the political future of many developing countries”.

Pic.(left): with President Hugo Chavez, in a peasant rally in Venezuela

For me, this announcement is another recognition on Henry's and his colleagues’ effort to help small peasants in Indonesia
and many developing countries. I know that he has been devoting his self to peasant’s welfare issues since he was at college at University of North Sumatra (before he met my sister). Fourteen years ago, he brought me for the first time to Bangunpurba, a little town in southeastern of Medan, North Sumatra. He was born and grew up there, among rubber trees plantation area. During our visit, he expressed his vision on how to defend small farmers’ right, agricultural reform, and how to make farmers’ life better in the future. He admitted that that is an unpopular vision among his generation who prefer chasing their professional career in big cities instead thinking of peasant’s welfare.

As secretary general of La Via Campesina, he must have travel a lot. His daughter and boy criticized him about this. But then, after years, they both finally understand why their father chooses to spend a lot time with other people, not with them. I’m happy that my brother in law now can achieve exactly what he dreams about: working closely with farmers, building stronger network among peasant unions in the world. Last year, Global Justice –an NGO network- gave him award for his role in agricultural reform.

For complete news, you can visit this link:

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