30 million reasons to believe we can make a difference

There are times when working for an environmental organization is a soul-crushing experience.The Sumatran Rhino, one of the world’s most endangered mammals. © CI/Photo by Russell A. Mittermeier

On miniscule budgets we battle against global obstacles so monumentally important that if we fail, the whole of humanity is in a heap of trouble.

It’s not helped by the fact that so often we seem to be on a one-way street towards a rather bleak future – carbon dioxide emissions are getting worse, the oceans are being ravaged to feed our greed for cheap fish, the fresh water systems that keep billions of us alive are being undermined and the forests that provide us with medicines and suck the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere are being chopped down…

It can make you want to curl up in a ball and hide under your desk.

But then some victories are won, and suddenly you realize that the changes we need can be achieved.

The US Government’s decision to forgive around $30 million of debt to Indonesia is one of those little victories, and Conservation International has helped to make it happen. It means that 13 sites in Sumatra that provide habitat to some of the world’s most amazing species of animals have more protection, and will hopefully continue to support populations of tigers, rhinos and orangutans.

Boy in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. © CI/Photo by Sterling ZumbrunnIt also sends a message to other nations around the world – that the US Government believes that these things matter and is willing to put its money where its mouth is.

This swap is not going to solve all of the problems that lead to my desire to hide under the desk. In reality, 30 million dollars is a drop in the ocean compared to the colossal amount of money needed right now in order to deal with the world’s environmental woes (otherwise we will face a much, much bigger bill in the future). But the swap will make a difference in Sumatra. And, sometimes, these are the small victories that give organizations like CI the boost we need to redouble our efforts, and keep on knowing that we can help to make a difference.

It’s a bit dark and stuffy under the desk anyway…

LEARN MORE: Explore Sumatra’s forests and CI’s work in Indonesia.

Wall Street Journal: U.S. to Forgive Indonesian Debt in Exchange for Conservation Plan
Reuters: Indonesia, U.S. in debt payment deal on forests

Rob McNeil is the International Media Director for Conservation International.


  1. Brett Howard says

    Many thanks CI for making this happen. It was the best piece of news to cross my computer screen all day! I am a young marine biology major and sometimes thinking about my future career is like staring down the barrel of a gun and I too get that hopeless, ‘hide-under-my-desk’ feeling. I couldn’t agree more that its the small victories like these that make it worthwhile.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *