Tembak village is a magical place; everybody lives in harmony with one another. It is the perfect balance between pure Dayak culture and traditions, and a small quantity of modern day technologies. The small amount of energy the village does consume comes directly from their micro-water power sites, which generate energy using the multiple river streams that wind through pristine jungle.
What really inspires me about these people is that they have avoided the desire to follow Western culture and become overtaken by greed, as many indigenous communities in Borneo have. This outstanding passion and strength has overpowered the palm oil industry time and time again from penetrating their property for environmental exploitation.
The people in Tembak are so happy, yet on the outside it appears they have so little in comparison to our lives. But they actually have a great deal more. These people are appreciative of what they have in life, as opposed to what they don’t have.
The children don’t need electronic games to entertain themselves – all they require is a ball, some elastic bands or sometimes even a bundle of sticks, and they use their wonderful imaginations to create a game out of the materials they do have. They spend much of their spare time outdoors playing and exploring, often without the company of adults. This allows them to learn boundaries, build social skills and maintain good health. This is an important stage of child development, that in my option, many Western children in today’s world sadly don’t have the chance to experience.
In Western society, we are slaves of a cycle, a cycle of constant consumerism. We are made to feel unsatisfied and always want more. We work and work to earn more money and purchase more commodities. This intense, busy lifestyle can easily cause stress, depression and a wide range of other health problems. The time we spend working long hours for more money also deprives us of time we could be spending with our families and friends.
It makes you question the true key to a happy life – if you have a high paying job, lots of money, a great house and a shiny new car, does this really provide happiness? The people of Tembak have family, friends, an incredible sense of community, a relaxed atmosphere and little money, but they always seem to enjoy life.
So I ask myself: what type of society provides a true wealth of happiness? One that has removed itself from the natural world, destroyed most of its surrounding environment and is driven by materialistic incentive? Or one that respects and lives with nature, values family and friendship above everything else and is not overtaken by greed?
One night in Tembak I was sitting in one of the village houses. I watched as Nenek Suri, an elderly Dayak woman, sat staring into the television (the only electronic item in the entire home) in the corner of the room, captivated by the Western-style advertisements that flashed by on the screen promoting products and luxurious lifestyles. I wondered what she was thinking to herself? Was she observing Western culture and how different it is in comparison to her own culture, or was her mind being poisoned with envy and the message that ‘money is everything’?
For these reasons, I believe it is essential that indigenous villages be protected from falling into the cycle of consumerism that has been woven by Western society. While the people of Tembak do not engage in activity that destroys their natural landscape, many other communities in Borneo are choosing this path.
This is where projects like DeforestAction are vital, to work alongside communities to provide alternative income revenues, to help educate the adults and children about protecting the environment and perhaps even allow them to teach us, Westerners, some valuable lessons about appreciating life.
Written by Thomas King
Orange Power’s sponsorship allowed Thomas to spend 1-14th May in Borneo with 15 other passionate environmentalists from around the world selected to partake in the three month filming of a documentary. “Rise of the Eco-Warrior” aims to highlight issues caused by unsustainable palm oil production. To learn more about the project visit www.DeforestAction.com.