RIP Nordin of Save Our Borneo (1970-2017)

Nordin of Save Our Borneo Nordin protesting in Hamburg in 2011 (© Safrudin Mahendra)

Jun 26, 2017

Nordin, director of our partner NGO Save Our Borneo, has died of a sudden illness. We are mourning the loss of a selfless forest defender and great friend. He was 47 years old.

Nordin, director of Save our Borneo and a partner of Rainforest Rescue, was the most courageous and unflinching defender of Borneo’s nature. When he was born, lush rainforest still covered three quarters of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. The long houses of the indigenous Dayak stood on meter-high piles along the rivers. Orangutans – the “forest people” – built their nests in the canopy of ancient trees.

Over the years, he witnessed the decimation of the forest by the timber industry in the 1980s, the draining and destruction of one million hectares of peat swamp in the 1990s and the destruction of millions of hectares of untouched nature by the palm oil industry in the past decade.

Nordin fought the destruction of the forests, the massive expansion of oil palm plantations and the draining of the peat swamps. He uncovered the corruption and illegal activities of corporations. In his final months, Nordin, his team and local people had been hard at work rewetting a vast swathe of deforested, drained peatland.

The last two years were Nordin’s most difficult. His family and fellow activists suffered terribly during the 2015 forest and peat fires. Virtually all of them have been struggling with health issues ever since. He always faced nagging doubts: How would life go on – for humans and our cousins, the orangutans – when Borneo becomes uninhabitable? Yet Nordin never backed down.

From 1999 to 2006, he was the director of WALHI (Friends of the Earth) in the province of Central Kalimantan, and from 2008 to 2012 he served as a board member of WALHI Indonesia. Nordin was deeply rooted in his native land, revered by his friends and respected by his adversaries.

In late March 2017, Nordin won a crucial citizens’ suit against government agencies for lack of disaster relief. The court ruled that the names of the companies that set the devastating fires must be disclosed and the companies shut down. Thanks to this ruling and Nordin’s unflagging commitment, it will finally be possible to bring corporate arsonists to justice.

The shock of Nordin’s sudden death was reflected by a flood of condolence messages, reports and articles in local newspapers. “He was a model for us,” his fellow activists wrote. “Nordin lived for Borneo and acted with courage and persistence.” His sense of humor, patience and loyalty will be missed.

Nordin was also a loving husband and father of three children. Rhere, Mirza and Janeet now have to grow up without their father and family breadwinner. His family must not be allowed to plunge into poverty – please donate to ensure that his three children can remain in school.

Nordin visited our headquarters in Germany twice, speaking out against the rising consumption of palm oil that is destroying his beloved island home. He never stopped raising awareness of the terrible price that Borneo was paying for industrial agriculture and the production of cheap commodities for the globalized economy.

We have lost a friend and dedicated forest defender. Rest in peace, Nordin. We’ll keep fighting the good fight!