Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
July 23rd, 2008
Burning Season
Video: Full Episode

Every hour in Indonesian rainforests, an area the size of 300 soccer fields is mowed down and burned. Often this clearing is done to make way for oil palm plantations. The resulting palm oil is used for cooking, cleaning and even as a biofuel. But the fires farmers set to clear their land have helped to make Indonesia the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — exceeded only by the U.S. and China.

A 29-year-old Australian “green” entrepreneur named Dorjee Sun believes he has a solution to reduce those harmful greenhouse gas emissions. He has canvassed the world pitching the sale of Indonesia’s carbon credits to polluters in the West.

His business model would maintain the standing swaths of Indonesia’s rainforests by selling their carbon credits. Burning Season follows Dorjee Sun on a whirlwind trip into boardrooms around the world – from Starbucks to eBay to Merrill Lynch – as he tries to convince skeptical financiers that his proposal is viable.

To carry out his plan, local political leaders in Indonesia must also agree that their forests are worth more alive than dead. Small farmers like Achmadi, who makes a living by cutting down trees to plant oil palms, fear the layers of government officials will be the only profiteers from the carbon credit sale.

Burning Season kindles both sides of the climate divide and explores whether capitalism can step in where altruism has so far failed to succeed.

Sorry, this video is not available.
  • Elsa Kendall

    This was one of the most eye opening insights to this problem I’ve seen. Sun’s visionary approach and the governors’ desire—all three of them, to save their rain forests—was both inspiring and uplifting. Achmadi’s emotional response to the necessity of his own burning to make a living, and pleading to God to show him what he should do, was a poignant and honest look at the plight these farmers face. Aaron Brown’s interview with Tom Vilsack was excellent. Five stars all around. I’m so grateful I happened across it and I will share it with many, many people.

  • Isaac Wantland

    This is ridiculous, scary, sad, frustrating, and unfortunately, unstoppable. Americans are going to give their money, earned from progress and development, to people across the world, to do nothing. It’s like global welfare, with the offshoots being a “conservation army,” decreased sovereignty, and a global market for the sale of air futures. Darjee San is an apocalyptic genius selling an immeasurable product that he does not own. Most Americans have no clue how this will impact them after 2012, when Kyoto expires and Bali takes over. We will simultaneously be subsidizing US farmers to plant more than necessary (and thereby consume more land here) while paying foreign farmers to do nothing. This endless cycle of us “polluting” and then “paying” is a thinly veiled attempt to “criminalize” progress, promote laziness, prevent innovation, and redistribute America’s wealth. Amazing! This is snake oil on a global scale. It is unstoppable, as big name players like Merrill Lynch are already behind it. The saddest part is most Americans are clueless to the entire situation. The only question I am left with is how can I get a piece of this “trillion” dollar pie?


    This program turns out to be a commerial for Mr. Sun’s company selling carbon credits. If you watch real close, these carbon Attorney’s are having a real problem in not laughing out loud when discussing these contracts. one thing for sure they will laugh all the way to the bank, thats for sure.It sounds more like a con, than anything else or it could also be considered black mail. I know why Merrill-Lynch is in the tank, with Idiots like these running a company. Sure glad I sold my stock a long time ago.

  • James Jordan

    This is the planets most significant problem currently!Global warmineg,is progressing much moore rapidly than the ‘Majority of ” Scientists” anticipated. We are at the gratest CO-2 levels in over 7000,000 years, and this does not include ” methane”, that takes approximatly 200 tears to break ” DOWN!! We produce it, as do almost all living enteties !There are billions on tons,trapped in the Tundra of Aladska and Siberia !In 2006 Russia had a forest fire in Siberia almost the size of Pennnsylvania.This will release the ” Methane!In Greenland temperature rise was recorded at over 7 degrees greater than ever before, in 2007 !!! This is not the two little to three degrees we speak of. Hundreds of square miles in the Andes are now “Iceless”, compared to 1935 !!! We must address ” Global Warming”, now, we really do not have the 50 years many “Scientists Believe “! With ” Geometric Progression!!!”, the temperatures will rise much moore rapidly than anticipated. America needs to lead, as we have in the past. No more plastic ” BAGS!!! Cut co,2 and methane, public transportation is needed, new technologies (Do not Destroy “los Alamos”, and “Sandia National laboratories, they do much moore than defence work, as the “Democrats” would have us do! NASA can be of great research benefit including our private sector !!!In “The Wilson Quorterly”, there is an article on population growth, at over 6.5 billion ” Homo, Homo Sapians, this adds a new demension to previous “Planet Earth warming!”. Our last warming was the Asteroid that wiped out the dinosours 165 million years agoe, the previous thee were CO-2,& Methane. The bacteria that caused this has been identified! The warmer it gets the more there is of it.No apathy!Let’s have a sense of “Urgency!” James Jordan

  • Barry Olson

    Mr. Sun may be a business man but at least he’s trying to help. I encourage Bob and Isaac to please share their insights toward a better solution with the rest of us. I’m fresh out of ideas. There must be some way for us to be content on this planet without destroying it in the process.

  • Jim Bowen

    Forests, or the land they reside upon, are the econonomic base of those who live near them. in this case, Dorjee managed to take a “deforestation for profit” model and turn it into a “forest protection for profit” model. In my opinion its brilliant creative thinking.

  • Aaron Loyd

    I agree with Barry. What’s unstoppable is the thinking of people like Isaac who seem to see pollution as someone elses problem. It’s amazing to me that Isaac seems to suggest the rest of the world is lazy and should progress. Progress to what, isaac? Ours is not a sustainable solution. UNLESS…we pay to keep other parts of the world from “progressing” to the point of our pollution levels. That’s what carbon credits are all about. Sure, it’s a tax on us and our industry. But it’s a necessary evil.
    And Dorjee Sun is not trying to sell anything. He admits in the documentary he owns none of this. He is trying to broker a sale. And I applaud his vision. I hope he earns millions.

  • Agustina

    I was never a fan of carbon credits because they provide little incentive to pollute less, and they further reinforce the perception that poor farmers just trying to feed their families have of politicians and business as greedy and corrupt. Unfortunately governments have been unable to provide effective solutions to the problem of global warming because they only focus in the short term. The refusal by the US delegation to sign this agreement is a perfect example of why nothing is being done. Issac is wrong when he says that we will be paying foreign farmers to do nothing. Their job will not only give them a sense of ownership but improve their quality of life and provide protection to thousands of acres that otherwise would be destroyed. If people see that their participation matters and makes a difference they are more likely to support these efforts. These farmers are not stupid, they know that burning the forest degrades the environment but many see no other alternative. The destruction of forests around the world is not something we can continue to ignore or see as someone else problem. We need leadership and we needed it now. No one benefits from burnt down forests.

  • Jason

    I think it is already to late for us all. The trees, the humans, the animals. We are all living on this tiny world with which we and our previous generations have upset the chemistry that will sustain us. I think everyone is in a state of denile about it. We are all already dead. It will make no difference what anyone does now. We had our chance to live a sustainable life. Wonder what the next dominant life on Earth will be? As far as human kind, I feel the worst for the humans who still are living in tribes and bands in the jungles who have lived as we were intended. They are doomed by all the consumers of the world who make up things like carbon credits to sell to one another. It was only a matter of time anyway. Our huge population makes our sustained existence questionable within itself regardless of how we live.

  • Amy

    I agree with Jason; it’s a case of too little too late, regardless of how innovative Sun’s idea is. These environmental problems are increasing exponentially, and nothing short of reverting to tribal life is going to be a drastic enough change to prevent what is already happening. Sun’s work is commendable, but it is dangerous ground to align environmentalism with economics. If it is about money, it is about power, not the good of the environment, and power corrupts into greed. It is inevitable.

  • Ruby Kidd

    BRAVO for the outstanding program BURNING SEASON on global climate change and saving the Indonesian rain forests. What an inspiration DORJEE SUN is to all of us for his tireless global effort and his passion to save the planet. Something for all of us to think about…an impressive and outstanding broadcast. May we Americans inspire, support and demand global leadership on this vital issue.

  • Gilberto

    I want reduce/off-set my carbon footprint, but want others to do so too. This planet is going to hell in a hand baslket and we’re the cause. If businesses and/or poor farmers don’t have an incentive, then we’re really going to be in trouble. I think Isaac is wrong and fatalistic. Let’s give it a try.

  • jj

    Isaac yes change is scary. But look at this as positive the high tax in carbon will generate new idea and new startups with low emission. And your kids and your self will breathe easy and healthy. Get control you fear and fear only fear it; learn to live in peace and harmony with your neighbor in the global villages. If you don’t do that you are the only person you will safer.

  • jj

    jj, you are a wise person. Most of us look at Issac’s comment and despair. You see the person behind the vitriol. I hope I can learn from your approach to others.

  • graham eco man

    7 minuts into part six theres an edit or scean cut between a very important two pieces that give me a suspicion that what he was saying its not what he really said. enlighten me. and what a great way togo greener. also i recoment a movie called “HOME” its great a deserves a good watchin.

  • eddie torres

    Hemp energy versus petroleum energy, enough said.

  • Kelly

    I LOVE THIS!! I think Dorjee is a visionary for our future. AT LEAST HE IS DOING SOMETHING!! To work with every counrty and the natives that base their survival on the trees and the land, is the best option. It will not work any other way. I say Go Dorjee!!!!! He is one that truly understands it is about money and that is the only way we can convince the farmers and Big buisness to cooperate with us! Thanks for all the hard work Dorjee! KEEP IT UP!

  • peeps10

    umm did Dorjee Sun accomplish his company to actually get up and running. Did he do it. Did he achieve his goal?

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 WNET.ORG Properties LLC. All rights reserved.