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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.

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