Photographer's Note

I went to the Malaysia International Landscape and Garden Festival last weekend. It was very disappointing as the quality of the displays was poor and certainly not up to international standards. I couldn't believe some of the so-called landscaping displays - like the one I have pictured above (this was not the worst - see the workshop for an even more ghastly display). Perhaps some Malaysians might like to 'landscape' their gardens with plastic flowers and animals, but this doesn't fall within my definition of landscaping.

This display did get me thinking though. I had just finished reading that morning’s local paper in which it was reported that Sabah’s Malua and Ulu Segama forest reserves, which had previously been earmarked as Malaysia’s biodiversity gift to the world by the end of 2007, are set to be logged in a month or two. The state-owned Yayasan Sabah had just appointed three companies to log the reserves which are home to sun bears, gibbons, Borneo pigmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos and orang utans.

I couldn’t believe that one arm of the government had decided to bequeath these reserves for the benefit of future generations, and then another decides to issue logging permits. It seems like the right arm doesn't know what the left arm is doing.

Over the border in the Indonesia, things are even worse. The International Herald Tribune recently reported that China had placed a US$1 billion rush order for 28 million cubic feet of an expensive hardwood called merbau for use in the construction of facilities for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Merbau - also known as Borneo Teak - comes from a lowland rainforest tree which has been exploited so intensively around the world that only a few sizeable natural stands remain in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The order from China will involve chopping down 4.5 million acres of the remaining forest. A Borneo village elder was quoted in the story as saying “Wood is gold.” But then added, matter-of-factly: “In 30 years the forest will all be gone.”

I recalled what the world-renowned Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki, said in a speech to a conference on the environment in Kuching last November. He said that in 1932, 95% of Sumatra was covered in forest, but today it is only 5%, and Borneo was heading the same way. He told the conference that the present generation had used more of the world's natural resources than any other generation in mankind's history. “We are leaving nothing for our grandchildren,” he remarked. David Suzuki said future generations would look back on this generation and ask why we were so selfish. Why did we use up so much of the world's resources in one generation? Why did we leave nothing for the future?

So maybe this is the landscape of the future. No more forests or fauna - just plastic trees and animals to remind us of what the world once looked like. At least it’s more colourful than the rainforest - and there are no pesky leaves to sweep up.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1237 W: 108 N: 2568] (7789)
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