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February 09, 2007

Friend of The Forest


Last year, Indonesia had the world's highest deforestation rate, losing 30,000 square kilometers of forest. And there is no end in sight. 

In fact, Indonesia's Minister of the Environment is demanding their country be paid not to cut down trees. 

Lisa Curran is a tropical ecologist who teaches at Yale University.  She knows all too well how heated the fight over the Borneo Forest can get. Since the 1980s, Lisa has seen canopies of mahogany trees cleared, burned and replaced with paved parking lots. 

For the last 20 years, Lisa has been living and working in the forests of Indonesia to help locals learn how to preserve what rightfully belongs to them.  Her work recently won her a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship of $500,000.

Winning the MacArthur Award is like winning the lottery after 20 years of "Survivor."
-Lisa Curran

Dick Gordon talks to Lisa about her life fighting for the trees, and dodging the loggers who put a price on her head.



Last week, Senator Joe Biden thought he was complimenting Senator Barack Obama when he called the Illinois Democrat "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

Val Johnson of Chicago knows how it feels to be African American and hear "compliments" on how well he speaks English. But he never understood why he got the most flack from his own people for speaking standard English. 

Val recently heard Dick Gordon talking to a young African American man, Jabari Aali Shaw, who did not use standard English. Jabari spoke openly about how he was teased about his clothes and height while growing up in a tough part of Oakland.  And how he revered certain men who'd gone to jail and prison, places Jabari came to know first-hand.

Val sent Dick a four-page email, explaining why he had to, in Val's words "give up being black" because he spoke standard English:

In high school I was in a mental prison. The black kids accused me of being a token because I used correct English. You can't use correct English in the 'hood because you'll get called things like "Oreo" and "white boy" and "sell-out"... I started hanging out with white people because they took me in.
- Val Johnson

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