Penusah Tana: The Forgotten Struggle

Penusah Tana: The Forgotten Struggle

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John Ahni Schertow
July 27, 2008
 

Penusah Tana: The Forgotten Struggle, is the story of the forest-dwelling Penan tribe of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo.

Historically, the Penan maintained a harmonious relationship with the rainforest, one that could have went on forever. Today, however, the Penan’s relationship is nearing its end, along with the rainforest itself. For the past fouty years, logging companies have been systematically chopping the forest down.

It wasn’t until the early 80s that the Penan started to feel it. But once they did, they knew it was an imminent threat — and so the Penan vowed to do everything in their power to stop them.

One way to accomplish this, the Penan felt, was to start setting up blockades. The Penan have set up dozens of blockades over the years, always doing their best to defend the forest and their way of life.

But they’ve been fighting a hopeless battle. Only 5 percent of Sarawak’s rainforest remains untouched; a number proportioned to the few Penan still holding on to their traditional life.

The Penan don’t have much hope left. They simply can’t keep fighting with corporations, the government, police and military: in a state of permanent struggle with next to no international support.

And as they look the future, they see new corporate schemes to dam the rivers and fill the dead forest with tree farms for biofuel and the pulp and paper industries. How long can they go on like this?

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