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“What we do right now will determine the future for all life on Earth. If we keep denying climate change, our future will probably be shorter than our past,” famed environmental activist Farwiza Farhan told Indonesia Tatler in an interview in September.  

As the Chairperson and Co-founder of HAkA (Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh) , Farwiza strives and fights for a stronger and healthier Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh, where she was born and raised. “The Leuser Ecosystem needs more attention as it is the last habitat on Earth where elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans still roam in the wild.” Farwiza and elephant.jpg

Photo courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

The 33-year-old activist said the ecosystem is currently facing threats such as  exploitation, deforestation, and large-scale infrastructure/monoculture projects to satisfy global demand for commodities like timber and palm oil.

Aware of the impact of these threats to the local environment and communities, Farwiza and some of her friends founded HAkA in 2012. With a main mission to strengthen the voice of local leaders and local organisations in policy-making, the NGO helps to create long-term sustainability in Aceh Province, both socially and financially.  

Besides helping local communities on a number of legal cases against a plantation concessionaire inside Leuser, she also mobilises them to file legal challenges against the government to revise the provincial spatial plan policy.

Her fearless action to fight destructive practises and corruption has paved the way for her to bring the battle for nature into the courtrooms. Now, Farwiza is focusing more of her work in supporting locals in their defense of the sustainability of the Leuser Ecosystem.

Nurturing nature

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During our interview, Farwiza said that her love of nature grew alongside her hobby of watching nature documentaries. However, she noted that she never intended to become an environmentalist. “I never thought about becoming an activist, but as a teenager I truly fell in love with the ocean after a snorkelling trip. It was such a magical moment underwater that led me to study marine biology.”

Having witnessed the destruction of the world she loves, she is now driven to do everything in her power to protect the sustainability of nature. “We seriously need to rethink our view on how to protect nature and the environment. The issue of climate change has been in the news since the ‘30s, but we are still debating it today.”

She added that it is ironic that people are unaware about what supports our lives and wellbeing. “According to the UN report on climate change, we only have 12 years left to fix the problem. By then I will probably still be thriving, but I can’t deny that my future will be shorter than my past.”

In September this year, Farwiza headed to the UN Climate Change Summit in New York City. For her, the initiative of raising awareness about sustainability should be done together.

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Learning that she can’t do the job alone, Farwiza and other Generation T honourees from Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, flew to Singapore for the Rolex Planet Perpetual Symposium to exchange knowledge about climate change with two of Rolex Testimonees, legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle and famed underwater photographer David Doubilet.

The symposium highlighted Rolex’s commitment to a “perpetual planet”, which include an enhanced partnership with the National Geographic Society to study the impacts of climate change, as well as Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative to safeguard the oceans through a network of marine protected “Hope Spots”. The campaign also encompasses the Rolex Awards for Enterprise that recognize individuals with projects that advance knowledge and protect human well-being and the environment.

Through its Perpetual Planet campaign, the legendary watchmaking brand also recognises individuals who have pushed back the boundaries of human endeavour by venturing to the most extreme places on Earth to shed light on the natural world.

Reflecting on their presentation, Farwiza said she got to see how fragile our planet is. For her, the symposium was an eye-opener that should motivate others to take action before it’s too late. “I think it is such a great thing that more and more people are aware of the importance of keeping our planet perpetual, especially for a big brand like Rolex,” she concluded.

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