Redlands, California—Indonesian biologist Willie Smits will deliver a keynote address at the 2009 ESRI International User Conference (ESRI UC) in July. Smits will share his inspirational passion for rebuilding forest habitats and orangutan populations. He will talk about a project under way in eastern Borneo that is helping communities by creating a better future for local people, trees and the orangutan.
Smits is driven by the idea that rebuilding orangutan populations begins with improving their forest habitat, which had been damaged by deforestation. To this end, Smits serves as chairman for the Masarang Foundation, a nonprofit organisation created to raise money and awareness in hopes of restoring forests and empowering local people. In 2007, the organisation opened a palm-sugar factory that uses thermal energy to turn sugar palms into sugar and ethanol, returning cash and power to the community. The factory provides local people with alternatives to the short-term fix of harvesting forests to survive.
The ESRI UC will be held July 13–17 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. The conference theme this year is GIS: Designing Our Future.