Restoring a rainforest in Indonesia

In an excellent talk on TED, Willie Smits presents a model of rainforest ecology restoration which created jobs for three thousand people, revitalized the local economy, led to an explosion in biodiversity, and restored a healthy environment for people and orangutans both.

Smits believes that to rebuild orangutan populations, we must first rebuild their forest habitat -- which means helping local people find options other than the short-term fix of harvesting forests to survive. His Masarang Foundation raises money and awareness to restore habitat forests around the world -- and to empower local people. In 2007, Masarang opened a palm-sugar factory that uses thermal energy to turn sugar palms (fast-growing trees that thrive in degraded soils) into sugar and even ethanol, returning cash and power to the community and, with luck, starting the cycle toward a better future for people, trees and orangs.