Commerce or Corruption: The Economics of Mega-Dams


May 7, 2015 (Sarawak, Malaysia)

The Borneo Project has released Commerce or Corruption?, the second film in a series of short documentaries exposing the realities of proposed mega­-dam construction in Sarawak, Malaysia. The film release coincides with the 555th day of the community-led Baram Dam blockades. Mega­-hydro projects are driven by the Malaysian government through the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy, or SCORE. If built, these dams will force tens of thousands of people from their land, drive untold species extinct, pollute the rivers ­­the lifelines of the jungle ­­ and produce more greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt of energy than a coal­fired power plant.

“The damage inflicted by these dams would be massive, and the benefits are still unclear. Given that there is no sound reason to build these dams, the question becomes, why are these dams being built, and why now? ” asked Jettie Word, Executive Director of The Borneo Project.

Commerce or Corruption?, exposes the government’s true motivation behind the dams: personal financial gain. Private companies involved in construction and transmission stand to make gigantic profits from building the dams. Many of these companies are controlled by relatives and friends of the governor of the state, Taib Mahmud. Taib has been in power since the 1970s. Doling out the contracts would add even more gold to the already over­flowing coffers of politicians and their well­connected family members.

These mega­-dams also assume an outrageous energy demand growth rate. Sarawak currently produces significantly more energy than it can use, and proponents have no concrete plans for how to use or sell the energy.

The ongoing Baram Dam blockades, community-led non­-violent direct actions, involve men, women and children and have prevented loggers and the dam developer, Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), from accessing the construction area since October, 2013. The blockade is maintained by indigenous Kenyah, Kayan, and Penan people and demonstrates the tremendous local resistance to dam development and logging. Despite opposition to the dams, the government of Sarawak and SEB continue to overlook widespread grievances and push for unnecessary and harmful development. If completed, the Baram Dam will inundate 26 villages and displace between 6,000 and 20,000 people.

Broken Promises, the next film in the series, will be released in July. It will highlight the devastating impacts of forced relocation on indigenous communities. All of the films will be available on Malaysia Kini TV’s youTube channel, and on The Borneo Project website.

About The Borneo Project​– For over twenty years, the Borneo Project has worked with indigenous communities to protect their rainforests and land rights. Learn more at

Press Release Contact: Jettie Word, Executive Director The Borneo Project,

Heart of Borneo

The tropical rainforests of Borneo are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth.

By creating a network of protected areas and leveraging the support of businesses, WWF’s aim is that the island’s natural treasures are sustainably used, well into the future.

Learn more:

50 Years To Save This Species (UCSC Long Marine Laboratory)

Saving endangered species through physiology. We have 50 years to save the Hawaiian monk seal — to stop them from going extinct. The students that we train today are going to be absolutely key to saving the species. This episode of Onward California follows Terrie Williams, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, as she provides students with the hands-on knowledge that they need to make a difference. To see more stories visit

Nick Brandt (Fotografia en estado salvaje)


Nick Brandt es un fotógrafo ingles (nacido en Londres en 1966, actualmente vive en Topanga, California) que trata la fotografía de animales salvajes (normalmente de África Oriental) de forma artística, como contraposición al estilo normal del género de fotografía de animales salvajes. Sus fotografías, de un increíble romanticismo e impregnadas de una plasticidad casi pictórica, recuperan los antiguos senderos de la nostalgia, esplendor y belleza de un continente indómito de naturaleza salvaje, tan infinitamente hermoso como cruel, extenso y lleno de contrastes, e increíblemente seductor como es África.

El tratamiento de la luz, la composición, la atmósfera que crea es inigualable, teniendo en cuenta el contexto donde se encuentra y sus “modelos” tan particulares. Brandt retrata como nadie la naturaleza y sus animales, y magnifica la belleza todavía virgen de esos paisajes. Sus imágenes por momentos parecen rozar lo onírico y lo cinematográfico.

Ha logrado captar “El drama de los animales salvajes en acción, capturar ese momento único dramático sin necesidad de aparecer atacando.” Desde el año 2000, Brandt ha documentado la extraordinaria vida silvestre de África y su destrucción desafortunada. Su último conjunto de imágenes son retratos de los cazadores furtivos, transportando su inventario de colmillos de marfil gigante, así como los cadáveres en descomposición incluidos los de los flamencos, los murciélagos, jirafas y animales diversos.

HOME – Un film de Yann Arthus-Bertrand (2009 full length documentary)


We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth’s climate.

The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being.

For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because Home is a nonprofit film.

HOME has been made for you: share it! And act for the planet.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand

HOME official website

PPR is proud to support HOME

HOME is a carbon offset movie

More information about the Planet

Fighting for primate forests in the Bay Area

I attended a meeting tonight hosted by Bay Area Tropical Forest Network and Rainforest Action Network.  Leila Salazar-Lopez of Amazon Watch gave a talk about Belo Monte, a dam that will block the Xingu River in Brazil and threatens to displace thousands of residents including indigenous communities.  It will also cause irreparable damage to the Amazon’s fauna and flora inhabitants, its rich and complex ecosystem, and will massively impact global climate change.

Xingu River

A boy plays with a capybara on the banks of the Xingu River near Altamira, Brazil near where the controversal hydroelectric Belo Monte dam, will be built. Photograph: Andre Penner/AP

The Borneo Project, students from Stanford University and many others attended.  There was plenty to talk about not only within Brazil but other regions like Peru and Indonesia where the MSc in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University including Neotropical Primate ConservationLittle Fireface ProjectSelamatkan Yaki and International Animal Rescue (just to name a few) is dominating right now.


It is great to be getting more involved in conservation here in the San Francisco Bay Area!  I would like to recognize my countless colleagues fighting hard on the ground. Keep up the great work! I look forward to facilitating partnerships.

Please take a look at these videos about Belo Monte, a significant dam project that is in dire need of attention at this crucial time.

Amazon Watch: Standing with indigenous peoples and defending the rainforest

The Amazon: A Global Treasure

Rainforests sustain us. They help regulate the global climate and are vital to maintaining the earth’s fragile balance. The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest, covering an area larger than the continental United States. It houses one-third of the Earth’s plant and animal species and produces one-fifth of all its fresh water.

Nearly 400 distinct indigenous peoples depend on the Amazon rainforest for their physical and cultural survival. At current rates of deforestation, nearly 50 percent of the Amazon could be lost or severely degraded by the year 2020, and the vast majority will no longer be in a pristine state.

With global deforestation contributing 20–25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, Amazon Watch and our indigenous partners are providing a service to all humanity as we together seek to defend the rainforest. Each of us can take action. We may be the last generation that has a chance to protect this precious gem of our world’s cultural and ecological heritage – an irreplaceable source of life and inspiration.

Amazon Watch is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. They partner with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation of the Amazon’s ecological systems.

They envision a world that honors and values cultural and biological diversity and the critical contribution of tropical rainforests to our planet’s life support system. They believe that indigenous self-determination is paramount, and see that indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditional practices contribute greatly to sustainable and equitable stewardship of the Earth. They strive for a world in which governments, corporations and civil society respect the collective rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent over any activity affecting their territories and resources. They commit, in the spirit of partnership and mutual respect, to support indigenous allies in their efforts to protect life, land, and culture in accordance with their aspirations and needs.

Art of Conservation


Art of Conservation (AoC) provides innovative and comprehensive year-long conservation and health education programs for children attending primary school in rural communities bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. AoC’s overall approach is to teach lessons about the importance of maintaining a healthy environment for both people and animals, while instilling in them an understanding of and respect for themselves, their peers, and the natural world.

Please see the AoC website at