"We Have Eleven Years"

“Welcome to the most important time in human history,” announced Dr. Kinari, founder of Alam Sehat Lestari and Health in Harmony, to the packed auditorium. “We have eleven years.”

She paused. You could hear the air conditioner rumble. “Eleven years to start drawing down carbon before we may reach irreversible tipping points.”

My sketchnote of the Planetary Health Talks, in watercolor and ink. Click to magnify.

I sat in the front row, shivering slightly in my formal batik shirt and long skirt. All around me sat an audience of Jakarta's mover and shakers. We had gathered for the Planetary Health Talks, ASRI's event for the 2019 International Day of Forests.

After twelve years of pioneering Planetary Health work around Gunung Palung National Park in western Borneo, Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) was making its debut in Jakarta, spreading its message of success, hope, and urgent need.

ASRI's marketing and communications manager, Oka, did an incredible job with all the graphics and promotion of the event. Check out her Indonesian travel blog, Bee Balqis!

Collin and I tagged along for a week in Jakarta to help the talented ASRI team—general affairs manager Lia, marketing and communications manager Oka, conservation director Dika, founder Dr. Kinari, and executive director Febri—put on the event.

ASRI's executive director and I stand at the first Planetary Health Talk, in the Facebook room. Collin and I helped design this banner during our time in Jakarta. 

The first Planetary Health Talk, aimed at a millennial audience, took place at a venue called the Facebook Community Room. It felt like a slice of Silicon Valley, complete with fridge of free snacks, colorful mismatched couches, inspirational quotes, and blank walls equipped with sharpies for graffiti.

After the first Planetary Health Talk, we had to take a group photo, of course! (Complete with Facebook emojis.) Photo credit: Oka Nurlaila.

The venue was just right for our small audience of about 25 people. Dr. Kinari, Dika, and Febri introduced the idea of "saving forests with a stethoscope." I spoke about my wonderful experience as an ASRI volunteer. The director of Gunung Palung National Park expressed the importance of collaboration. Collin ran the technology.

The audience learned about the importance of healthcare for forests, and the importance of forests for health. Several people said they were inspired to volunteer with ASRI. It was a successful night, but low-key compared to the second Planetary Health Talk later in the week.

I was honored to speak about my connection to ASRI, and how important it is to take the first step from inertia to action. Photo credit: Oka Nurlaila.

The second Planetary Health Talk was a bigger affair, hosted in the @america venue in one of Jakarta's glossier malls. We had to pass through two layers of security to get in. The venue, sponsored by "the American people," looked like a page out of my passport, decorated with patriotic slogans about democracy and liberty.

The audience of 80 people gathered. Around me sat ambassadors from America, the United Kingdom and Peru, and the wives of the American and British ambassadors, Mei Chou and Rachel. The national anti-tobacco campaign's leader was in attendance, as well as journalists from the Jakarta Post and Mongabay Indonesia. Philanthropists, educators, and even the beauty-queen Miss Indonesia were here.

The lights dimmed, and the talks began.

Dr. Kinari hushes the audience with her blunt call to action: "We have eleven years." Photo credit: Oka Nurlaila.

Dr. Kinari and Dika wowed with their urgent message of hope for forests based a solution that works. You can watch a video of the Planetary Health Talks here (start at 18:15 to skip the introductions), or check out my sketchnote above for a summary of the highlights.

For me, the most powerful moment was the question and answer session. A dozen people stood up to share their perspectives:

"ASRI should come to the schools of Jakarta and share this story – because here on the urban island of Java, we don’t know our own forests anymore."

"Indonesia has turned the Paris Climate Accords into law – is our country on track to reduce carbon emissions through reforestation?"

"I am the Peruvian Ambassador, and we have similar problems. More than 10 million hectares deforested in fewer than 20 years. We would like to replicate this system of radical listening and healthcare for forests."

The audience of 80 people at the second Planetary Health Talk included many of Jakarta's public figures. We were all impressed by the urgency and hope of ASRI's Planetary Health model. Photo credit: Oka Nurlaila.

Hearing the response of each audience member reminded me just how many people are working together to heal the bodies—both human and non-human—of the Earth.

As Dr. Kinari said, we have eleven years to start drawing down carbon on a global scale. We are at the most important moment in human history. We can only do it if we work together.

What will you do with your next eleven years?