Guest Blog: Rudi Putra, Winner of the 2014 Goldman Prize for Forest Protection in Indonesia
The message below comes to you from Rudi Putra, a longtime ally and hero of RAN’s and winner of the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize—the world’s most prestigious award for grassroots environmental activism.
My name is Rudi and I feel like the luckiest person alive. I grew up in a place teeming with wild orangutans, elephants, tigers, sunbears and Sumatran rhinos. My family and I lived in balance with the mountains, forests and rivers surrounding us. From an early age, I knew I had to take care of the beauty that surrounded me. But as huge multi-national companies expand their reach and palm plantations spread, I know that I can't protect these pristine places alone.
I have worked much of my life to protect the 6.4 million acres of prime tropical rainforests in the Leuser Ecosystem. I fell in love with the Sumatran rhino, the smallest and the most critically endangered rhino of all—and have spent years tracking, researching and protecting these special creatures from poachers. I have left my home in Indonesia to come to yours to deliver a very important message.
I have witnessed vast areas of forests destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, forests I knew were the homes of endangered species. I’ve removed traps from the forest corridors used by the last Sumatran elephants and tigers. I have even found animals poisoned, speared, and burned alive by poachers and plantation workers. And still, the plantations keep growing across Aceh, always feeding the demand for Conflict Palm Oil.
It must stop. We must protect the world's rainforests. We must stop powerful and wealthy international corporations from exploiting and destroying irreplaceable Indonesian ecosystems for profit. My community and I work tirelessly to shut down and destroy illegal palm oil plantations inside the federally protected Leuser Ecosystem, using chainsaws and uprooting illegal oil palms. We do this to protect our families from the floods that result from the destruction of the forests on the hillsides that surround our homes. But we can not do this alone. We need your help.
It is with great honor that I am here in the US and receiving the Goldman Prize. But it is an even greater honor to know that YOU will stand with me and hold PepsiCo to account for the impact of its products.
For the rhino’s and our life,
RAN supported Rudi’s work with a small grant through our Protect-an-Acre program, which funds projects led by Indigenous and frontline communities around the world fighting to protect millions of acres of forest and keep millions of tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere, while defending their right to self-determination.