Kid, Aurélien Brulé – known as Chanee – fell in love with doublets. For over 20 years, with his association Kalaweit, he has carried out conservation operations in Indonesia, in collaboration with local populations. In his book “Looking forward to tomorrow, to keep saving…” he presents his latest project in progress: buy hectares of forest to protect the biodiversity found there. Meeting with an optimistic and pragmatic activist.
30 million friends: When you arrived in Indonesia, you were only in your early twenties. What was your trigger?
Channel: I met gibbons when I was twelve. I spent a lot of time in zoos watching them, but I soon realized it would just be a stage. I waited until I was 18 and had a bachelor’s degree in my pocket before I left. I chose Indonesia because it seemed to me that, at the time, it was the place where there were more concerns and more species of gibbons. There was no one to take care of them so the NGOs mainly focused on orangutans. If I wanted to help them, that’s where I had to go.
30 MA: In your book, you seem angry with some conservation actors. Do you think anger drives engagement?
vs.: Just anger, no. Commitment is based on convictions and a desire to make a difference, on the scale we can. In my case, it’s more frustration that drives me to action. Everyone does the same work of study, lobbying, information, while on the ground we have places that are threatened in the very short term and very few actors carry out concrete projects locally. There are NGOs that have the money to do what the Kalaweit power 100 is doing and that work is not being done. This is what frustrates me the most.
30 MA: You criticize some NGOs for transmitting only negative messages. Why do they do this, in your opinion?
vs.: To scare, it helps, among other things, to hit the wallet. Large NGOs use communication agencies to establish their campaigns, which are often built around negative messages. I don’t deny the challenges that await us, but I think we tend to hide the good news and that’s counterproductive. Anyone who wants to get involved, it’s important not to undermine their morale by telling them there is no hope. It’s wrong.
30 MA: What can we be happy with?
vs.: I list a lot of good news in my book because it’s a question I get asked often. For example, in our Supayang reserve, the tiger is back. This is also the case across Asia: the tiger population is increasing (with the exception of the Sumatran tiger), we are losing our range, which is decreasing because of human activities, but actually this is a good thing. news. What I want is to add nuances. The objective is not to say that everything is fine, but to explain that there are initiatives that work and that must be replicated.
30 MA: You devote several chapters to describing Indonesia’s land laws. Why was it important for you to show this technical aspect of your project?
vs.: In legislation, whether in Indonesia or France, there are tools that allow us to win victories at the local level. When observing the actors who deforest, I wondered what their tools and legitimacy were. On the spot, this involves, among other things, the right to land. Simply put: I acquire a land, I decide to protect it. Of course it’s actually a little more complicated, but the idea is that you have to be pragmatic, it’s the best way to get immediate results. When I have a 1,500-hectare pocket of forest in front of me to save, I can’t wait ten or fifteen years.
30 MA: What advice would you give to young people who would like to get involved?
vs.: I recommend it to everyone who wants to get involved to give a concrete answer to a given problem. For example, some, inspired by primatologist Jane Goodall, want to save chimpanzees. The problem is that there are already many actors who do this. To get started, you must first identify a certain population, in a certain location. In this case, you are not investing to save chimpanzees, but a specific population. It is only the concrete that brings real satisfaction. I think you also have to get rid of labels and be versatile. In Kalaweit, my activities range from managing a YouTube channel to studying Indonesian registration. Ideally, I would spend my days with baby monkeys in my arms. But is this how I will be truly effective?
To read: “Looking forward to tomorrow, to continue saving …”, by Chanee, published by Les Presses du midi.