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Articles by Robert Eshelman

Robert S. Eshelman is an independent journalist. His articles have appeared in Mother Jones, Abu Dhabi's The National, In These Times, and on

Featured Article

Clearing for pulp plantation in Sumatra’s Riau province.Photo: Rainforest Action NetworkOn a humid afternoon in Sungai Tohor, a coastal village in Sumatra’s Riau province, 50 or so men are packed into a town-hall conference room. They sit in neat rows of blue plastic chairs, many clad in knee-high rubber boots, loose-fitting polo shirts, and baggy pants — the casual uniform of an Indonesian farmer. Women and children peer in through open windows and doors. There’s excitement in the air, thanks to a gaggle of visiting journalists and enviros who have come to discuss the fate of the village — and a way of life now under siege.

Over multiple generations, residents of Sungai Tohor have built a thriving trade network that has brought them relative prosperity. Each month, they ship several hundred tons of sago paste — a starchy dietary staple produced from trees they cultivate in the jungle — to Malaysia and Java. The proceeds have enabled them to buy bright new motorbikes, build quaint homes, and maintain a slow-paced lifestyle that prioritizes family and community above all else. Some families can even send their c... Read more