Hi. My first name is Mark, and my last name is Kuroski. I guess I should also say that my middle name is David, in case you were wondering. When I was a kid I wanted to be a paleontologist, then a few years later I had dreams of becoming a video game programmer. In the end I chose the logical path between both of these careers…a musical theatre actor, and as a musical theatre actor I can honestly say that I never imagined my skill set taking me to the island of Borneo where I would fight for the rights of indigenous people, work to stop deforestation, and save orangutans in captivity. To be chosen as an eco-warrior, everyone interested had to create a two minute video explaining why they were the right person for the job. I don’t have an environmental background, but I do have a background in music, performance, and digital video so I decided to sing my application and edit together a fun little music video.
It’s been quite a journey since I submitted that video close to a year ago. I’ve met some of the most incredible people I’ve ever known, and seen things that I thought I would never see. I’ve never even been much of an outdoors person. My parent’s would take me on nature walks as a kid, and the whole time I’d just be looking forward to going back home so I could play my newest video game.
As an adult I still feel more comfortable behind my computer screen, safe from giant flying beetles and poisonous snakes, rather than being outdoors under the glare of the burning sun…but Borneo is the adventure of a life time. It’s the kind of adventure that I’ve read about in my favorite books, and it’s the kind of adventure that changes a person.
Twenty days of the journey into Borneo have already come to pass, and it’s some of the events of those twenty days I’d like to share with you in this blog; however, there is so much more that I could write about! Borneo is a magical land, filled with beautiful people. Words just can’t do it justice.
Before I continue writing I must confess that about 1/8th of my brain lives in Middle Earth…a world created by author J.R.R. Tolkien who wrote the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Walking through the jungle I couldn’t help but feel like I was exploring the ancient Forest of Fangorn, or looking up at the enchanted boughs of the Linden trees that I’ve read about over and over again. There is a tangible feeling of wonder and awe that seems to rise from the very soil these forests grow upon. For twenty days I travelled with ecowarriors from around the world. We were the fellowship of the forest journeying with a veritable wizard of science, hope, and love for all beings that inhabit this land. His name is Dr. Willie Smits, and with the determination of this fellowship combined with the efforts of millions across the planet there is a very real hope that this land can be saved from the greed of oil palm companies who have fixed their collective eye on the last of these incredible, pristine forests.
Sometimes, in order to build a bridge, first you have to break one.
I think building bridges is over-rated. So many organizations talk about building bridges that it’s getting close to becoming a cliché. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a much more beneficial and bonding experience to break a bridge.
At the start of the twenty days, film director Dr. Cathy Henkel interviewed each of the ecowarriors individually. During my interview she asked me if there was a possibility of creating a third Borneo song and video to be shared with the world on the twentieth day.
With the cameras rolling I confidently nodded my head and said that most definitely there would be a third video, while on the inside my stomach hit the floor.
How was I going to deliver on this promise? Writing songs is difficult for me. It takes hours of playing around on a piano for me to even get the start of a song…I didn’t have that kind of time, and there were no pianos or keyboards to be found.
Luckily everything came together in the village of Ensaid Panjang. We had some downtime in which I was able to work on my laptop to combine some copyright free music loops into a catchy tune. Then it was easy enough to come up with lyrics to match.
We had one day to get most of the shots, and that was my favorite day of the journey. So much of our trip was emotionally difficult, filled with disturbing scenes and heart wrenching stories…but the day we made this video was just pure fun and excitement!
And of course the most exciting moment was when the bridge broke. It was a blessing that none of the kids were hurt, in fact they all began laughing once the fall was over, and laughing is always better than crying…unless of course you’re laughing so hard that you start crying which happened to many of us afterwards when we watched and re-watched the shot of us falling!
The last night of our stay in Ensaid Panjang we played the finished music video for the entire village. The longhouse was filled with joy and camaraderie as we watched that bridge break. It was so much more meaningful than watching a video of a bridge being built.
Everyone Loves to Dance
Dance and music truly are universal languages. We were welcomed into most villages by a traditional dance, and almost every time we were invited to join in. Here are some pictures of the eco-warriors dancing with our new friends. I wasn’t quite able to get the movement of the arms and hands when trying out the traditional dance moves…but it was certainly fun to try! I’ll have to practice before the 80 days begins.
Here we are walking across another bridge. This one was made for vehicles to pass over; however, if this had been after the other bridge collapsed I would not have dared getting this shot! There are five countries represented in this picture all holding hands and walking in step which I think makes for a pretty cool photo…and luckily we didn’t break this bridge! By the way, DeforestACTION donated money towards rebuilding the bridge that we did break.
I like this shot because we are all pounding our fist in solidarity, standing up to the illegal palm oil companies! You may have noticed that I’ve had to change my outfit due to falling through a bridge into an empty riverbed filled with mud. It was so much fun hanging out with my fellow eco-warriors and all the kids. Trying to communicate to them across the language barrier what we were supposed to do during each shot was the most fun game of charades I’ve ever played.
I can count ten and a half smiles in this photo, but in actuality there are over twenty smiling, laughing faces. This was a hilarious shot! Eco-warrior Paul stood behind the camera and gave the cue for the group of kids to come running towards us…and let me tell you that when a group of beautiful Dayak children run directly towards you it’s impossible not to smile! However, this is also a sobering photo because as it was taken three kilometers away bulldozers are destroying the forests these kids and their families depend on.
My fellow eco-warriors are some of the most diverse, passionate, caring, and fun people I’ve ever known. The expertise each person brings to this project is incredible, and the respect we have for each other keeps us connected even when we are spread across the planet. For the rest of my life Borneo will be in my heart…and so will this amazing group of people.yed!
The forest is burning, animals are being killed, and a people’s future is at stake…something needs to be done.
I hate the photograph below. I hate it because it instills a feeling of despair. If you look at it, it becomes all too easy to imagine an orangutan family in the nearby trees, a group of Dayaks preparing to defend their village a few kilometers behind the camera, a bulldozer to the right of the photo flattening a sacred Dayak burial ground, and to the left a team of foreign oil palm workers who will most likely come across the orangutan family, kill the mother, and sell the babies into the animal trade.
These are the problems DeforestACTION is working to stop, but at the moment these situations are happening all over the island of Borneo. The eco-warriors took a four day journey up the Melawi river and we saw the destruction. We saw the blackened earth, we saw the bulldozers, we witnessed the cruelty towards orangutans, and we heard the anguish in the high priest’s voice as he said his people would fight until their last drop of blood to protect their ancestral burial grounds.
If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is around to hear it…does it still make a sound? YES. It makes a very loud cracking, crashing, booming sound.
DeforestACTION teaches us to hear the sound of that tree falling on the other side of the world…to hear the sound of consequence. The sound of global consequences stemming from our local actions. Here in the United States we vote for president every four years, but all of us vote everyday whenever we pull some cash out of our pocket to make a purchase.
Why is the forest being cut down? Why are tons of carbon released into the atmosphere? Why is a people’s livelihood and future being destroyed? It’s not because of palm oil companies…it’s because I, and millions of people like me, want to buy a KitKat bar at the cheapest price possible.
So what do we do? Well one thing I’m going to do is not purchase a KitKat bar until palm oil is removed from their ingredient list, but what else? Join DeforestACTION! Follow us online and learn everything you can about what’s happening in Borneo…then spread the word! Organize local events to raise awareness, write to politicians calling for clear labeling of palm oil, and use your voting power as a consumer to purchase environmentally safe products. We are here to help you, but DeforestACTION is only the beginning.
A Day in the Life of a Student
Just getting there was an experience! We were a motorcade of moped’s being driven by our friends in the school’s English Club. We all spoke as individuals in various classrooms, and then enjoyed some sports with the students.
I played volleyball. While I didn’t score my team any amazing points, we did have a lot of fun…which is what it was all about anyway.
It’s going to take faith, dedication, and a lot of hard work.
There are times when the problems of our world seem so big, so impossible to solve, that just thinking about everything that’s wrong sends your head spinning into a spiral of negativity…paralyzing you into a state of inaction that could last anywhere from a day, to the rest of your life.
The brutal beatings of baby seals in Canada, the daily massacre of dolphins in Japan, the sale of critically endangered orangutans in Borneo, deforestation, climate change, poverty, water shortages, world hunger, and the ever looming energy crisis just to name a few.
these problems don’t exist, and I know that we can. As cheesy, naive, or blindly optimistic as that may sound…if we can’t even believe that it’s possible to solve the problems of today, than nobody is going to try.As I think about what to write in this final paragraph, I take a moment and look up from my computer. I see the faces of my niece and nephews stuck onto my fridge in an odd collection of magnetic frames, and I begin to picture the faces of the Dayak children, and the young people all around the world who want to help them. I see my fellow eco-warriors laughing together in the longhouse, and I picture the passionate face of Dr. Willie Smits as he speaks about saving the orangutans. While these faces swirl around my thoughts I am hit with the realization that there is pure, unadulterated good in this world, and when we combine the good lying within all our hearts…there will be nothing that can stop us. Let’s save the world.