Biologist Willie Smits to Speak at the ESRI International User Conference

uc20091Attendees Will Learn How Planting Trees Has Helped Local Communities and the Orangutan Population

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 organization created to raise money and awareness in hopes of restoring forests and empowering local people. In 2007, the organization 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.

“My lifelong goal is to save as much as possible from our global environment for future generations by providing real-life examples of harmonious living in balance with nature,” said Smits on the Masarang Foundation’s Web site. “I also believe that we cannot save the environment if we do not simultaneously take care of the people’s needs.”

According to Smits, the project has successfully created more than 3,000 jobs; reintroduced bird, lizard, and primate species; provided food for the orangutan; and lessened both floods and fires.

“Willie Smits’ dedication to improving the environment to benefit his community and the orangutan population is incredibly admirable,” said ESRI president Jack Dangermond. “Attendees will feel inspired after hearing more about the project and the success it has achieved.”

The ESRI UC, the world’s largest conference devoted to geographic information system (GIS) technology, will be held July 13–17 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. The conference draws thousands of users from across the globe who come together to learn, collaborate, and discover the latest developments in GIS. The conference theme this year is GIS: Designing Our Future. To find out more about the ESRI UC and to register, visit www.esri.com/uc.