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New Book documents the disappearance of Borneo's rainforests

Borneo, third largest island on the globe, is home to the oldest rainforest in the world, 130 million years-old—that’s a number hard to imagine, yet 90% of that forest has been logged for the Asian lumber market and converted to oil-palm plantations.Larger than the state of Texas, Borneo has 20 million inhabitants; Borneo, on the timeless equator, abounds in over 15 thousand flowering plants, ten thousand species that exist nowhere else, over 20 thousand new special of insects, 3,000 tree species (including the tallest tropical trees on earth), and over 400 species of birds have been identified in one national park alone. It is so rich in natural resources that the island was divided between Dutch and English rule, with the result that the island is now split between Malaysian and Indonesian rule.

Alex Shoumatoff, perhaps North America’s greatest living travel writer and anthropological commentator, has shined his spotlight on this “floating,” mountainous navel of the globe. While the ecological report card is not favorable in this exploitative, logging “heaven,” Alex’s radiant prose and overarching story achieves the highest possible marks. If you never thought the subject of ecology could be gripping, then you need to hold on to your seat as intrepid Alex and crew plunge with keen eye into tropical foliage. If you think climate change mere academic speculation, then the journalist on the ground here records verifiable evidence of what is being lost. Endorsed by blurbs from naturalist Bill McKibben and novelist Russell Banks, this eye-opening book is screaming for a talented documentary film-maker.

Eric Montfort

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