School headmaster Pak Rimun, student speakers, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here at Pesantren Muhammadiyah Al-Mujahidin
Today, the U.S. will observe the 44th annual Earth Day, viewed as the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. Earth Day this year takes on even greater prominence because President Barack Obama has put global environmental concerns, especially climate change, wildlife trafficking, and oceans at the top of his priorities.
And there is no other country in the world where these priorities come into sharper focus than Indonesia. Your country has the greatest biodiversity in the world, but also faces serious environmental challenges that we are working with Indonesia to help confront. Kalimantan is on the front lines of these efforts.
Like many parents, I want my children to enjoy a better life and I want to leave the world a better place for the next generation. Part of that responsibility is taking care of others and being stewards of our natural environment. I believe we have a shared responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves and to respect nature’s wonder by preserving its water, landscapes, and wildlife.
Earth Day is a unique opportunity to talk about these critical topics. We are already feeling the impacts of climate change across the country and around the world. Our oceans are in trouble and the wild elephant, tiger and the rhino are facing extinction due to habitat loss and trafficking. Wildlife trafficking threatens more than endangered species: it threatens public trust in law enforcement efforts; it impacts local economies; and it is a health risk because trafficked animals and birds can spread disease and viruses. As a transit and destination country, the U.S. recognizes that we are part of the problem — and we are determined to be a part of the solution.
The U.S. and Indonesia are working together to counter wildlife trafficking and promote conservation. Recently, our two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance conservation and environmental law enforcement and promote awareness. Indonesia is home to the world’s largest biodiversity, and to five critically endangered animals that are found nowhere else in the world: the Sumatran and Javan rhino; the Sumatran tiger; the orangutan and the Sumatran elephant.
Our conservation support to rhinos includes a $750,000 grant to the Indonesian Rhino Foundation to support the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary; and providing technical equipment that identified additional rhino populations in Sumatra and here in Kalimantan. Our conservation support to Indonesian orangutans, tigers and elephants includes $13 million to protect orangutans and 500,000 hectares of their habitat. Our nearly $60 million Tropical Forest Conservation Act debt-for-nature swaps in Kalimantan and Sumatra.
But the most important message of Earth Day is that every person must do their part. There is a lot each of you can do. You could start a petition on Change.org. You could avoid products or events that harm animals, particularly trafficked animals. You could volunteer time with an organization of your choosing. You make the choice. But you can make the difference.