Planetary Health

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Planetary Health




Rainforests are a critical source of oxygen production and carbon dioxide absorption which humans – and all other living creatures – depend on for survival. Moreover, rainforests prevent flooding, drought, and transmission of zoonotic diseases (through minimizing standing water), while also housing incredible biodiversity that may someday provide cures for a myriad of human diseases. But how do you protect such a critical resource for humanity’s future when communities today need the money from cutting down trees in the forest in order to pay for medical care that could save a life right now?


I partnered with Portland-based nonprofit Health in Harmony (HIH) and Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), their Indonesian partner, in order to find out. In the summer of 2018, I travelled to Indonesian Borneo, home of these organizations’ pilot rainforest protection program. There, they founded a medical clinic that provides affordable healthcare, education, and women’s empowerment programs which - perhaps surprisingly - have drastically reduced deforestation (as well as infant mortality) in the last ten years. This series documents the inspiring success of this planetary health program and shows just how both human health and that of earth’s ecosystems can be bettered by understanding the complex interactions between people and the planet we call home. 

This is what changing the world looks like.

Project graciously funded by Reed College.

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Above: Dhor, a young orangutan, in Tanjung Puting National Park. To protect the rainforest that Dhor lives in, HIH & ASRI started a medical clinic (below right) to provide locals with healthcare, so that they didn't need to cut down trees to get enough money to pay for it.

Right: ASRI's four doctors and dentist with seedlings (which patients used to pay for their healthcare).

Below left: A young mother smiles after her baby received free vaccinations from ASRI.

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Above: A community member plants seedlings to be used to restore damaged forest.

Left: Seedlings in ASRI's greenhouses, a couple weeks into their growth.

Below: Carnivorous pitcher plants in one of the areas that ASRI successfully reforested. Previously, the area was barren - but years later, the forest is vividly alive.

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Right: Dentist Ingrid (right) and nurse Efan (left) remove a young man's tooth during a mobile clinic trip. In order to bring healthcare to this village (which has no other access) ASRI staff drive through hours of treacherous terrain.

Below: Doctor Vita examines a patient's ear on a mobile clinic trip.

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Above left: Goats from the Goats for Widows (GFW) program are herded in the rain.

Above right: Ibu Sebah, GFW recipient, with 5 -day old baby goats. Here, she shows us how she cleans lice from her goat's beard - and her love for them is evident. 

Left: As part of the Chainsaw Buyback Program, Pak Iskandar puts down his chainsaw for the last time to start a new life as a fisherman.

Below: A flexible orangutan!

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Above: 5:30 A.M. sunrise over Gunung Palung National Park, Indonesian Borneo.  This Park is one of the most important orangutan habitats left in the world. However, it – and the 2500 critically endangered orangutans that call the Park home – is threatened by illegal logging from nearby communities. HIH and ASRI are tackling the root economic and social causes of this deforestation by giving discounted medical care to villages that agree not to log the Park. Because of this and other efforts, illegal logging near the park has decreased by 89% in the last 10 years. During my trip, locals mentioned how they used to hear chainsaws in the morning, even miles away from the Park. However, when I took this photo, I could only hear birdsong – a promising sign for the Park, the people, and the planet.