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The Wasting of Borneo

Dispatches from a Vanishing World

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Acclaimed naturalist Alex Shoumatoff issues a worldwide call to protect the drastically endangered rainforests of Borneo

In his eleventh book, but his first in almost two decades, seasoned travel writer Alex Shoumatoff takes readers on a journey from the woods of rural New York to the rain forests of the Amazon and Borneo, documenting both the abundance of life and the threats to these vanishing Edens in a wide-ranging narrative.

Alex and his best friend, Davie, spent their formative years in the forest of Bedford, New York. As adults they grew apart, but bonded by the “imaginary jungle” of their childhood, Alex and Davie reunited fifty years later for a trip to a real jungle, in the heart of Borneo. During the intervening years, Alex had become an author and literary journalist, traveling the world to bring to light places, animals, and indigenous cultures in peril. The two reconnect and spend three weeks together on Borneo, one of the most imperiled ecosystems on earth. Insatiable demand for the palm oil ubiquitous in consumer goods is wiping out the world’s most ancient and species-rich rain forest, home to the orangutan and countless other life-forms, including the Penan people, with whom Alex and Davie camp. The Penan have been living in Borneo’s rain forest for millennia, but 90 percent of the lowland rain forest has already been logged and burned to make way for vast oil-palm plantations. Among the most endangered tribal people on earth, the Penan are fighting for their right to exist.

Shoumatoff condenses a lifetime of learning about what binds humans to animals, nature, and each other, culminating in a celebration of the Penan and a call for Westerners to address the palm-oil crisis and protect the biodiversity that sustains us all.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 13, 2017 – Journalist Shoumatoff (Legends of the American Desert) bemoans ongoing environmental threats on the island of Borneo and warns against further loss in a cautionary tale that combines professional and personal concerns. He offers useful background on deforestation and the growth of the palm oil industry, as miles upon miles of "some of the oldest and most species-rich and spectacular rain forest on Earth" have been cleared to make room for palm plantations. India has become a major market for palm oil, substituting it for "artery-clogging ghee" in their recipes, and hundreds of products worldwide now contain palm oil, including cookies, chocolates, lipstick, and dishwashing detergent. As he shares the situation in Borneo, he also details his own lifelong interest in the environment, weaving elements of memoir into his narrative. Shoumatoff recalls his adolescence in Bedford Village, N.Y., and afternoons he spent in the woods nearby. He developed an early appreciation for the great outdoors and "a holistic, inclusive, ecological, egalitarian worldview" that would eventually inform his work for such publications as Outside and Cond Nast Traveler. Reflecting on his decades-long writing career, Shoumatoff describes environmental conflicts in Borneo and wonders what conservationists intent on saving the rainforest can do in light of increased economic demand.
The Wasting of Borneo
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  • $33.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Nature
  • Published: Apr 11, 2017
  • Publisher: Beacon Press
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 224 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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