Brunei with its abundance of oil and gas, has never had to exploit its jungle habitat which fortunately, that means there is a wealth of jungle all around us.
When I first arrived in Brunei, I used to wonder how everbody coped without air conditioning. The answer is simple. They did not need it. Living in the suburbia, surrounded by baking hot concrete and tarmac constantly results in the heat radiating back at us. No wonder we can't live without air conditioning.
Its totally a different scenario when you step out of the hot sun and enter into the shades of the jungle canopy. It is like stepping into a different climate zone. It is not only cooler, but it is like an envelope of peace descends around you.
The stillness of the trees and the quiet of the forest contrasts with the incredible abundance of life everywhere. By comparison, in the suburbs only a few miles away, we are subjected to the constant noise of a non-stop flow of traffic. In the jungle, apart from the occasional birdcall or gentle swish of a passing troop of monkeys swinging through the trees, everything is incredibly quiet and peaceful.
The idea of living close to nature obviously appeals to someone. From the little way along the track that leads into the jungle, there is an unfinished house. With a grand size of about four thousand square feet, it has not been completed and is now falling into disrepair. The house only had one inhabitant, a deadly looking red and black snake. However, such things do not trouble intrepid real estate agents in Borneo. We take these things in our stride. Especially when they turn out to be made of plastic!
When I enter the jungle I found stands of bamboo everywhere, and judging by the signs, some had been recently harvested for their shoots. It is hard work, but you can make a couple of hundred dollars in a day or two by collecting bamboo shoots and selling them.
As I sheltered in the comparatively cool air of the jungle canopy, the land owner and interested party discussed the value of the land. It occurred to me that, although we rather casually place a cash value on a place like this, in reality it is priceless. We take for granted the paradise around us, because incredibly, it is so commonplace. We casually assume that it will always be here and that it will always be like this. We now understand that our environment is much more fragile than we once believed. Just because this paradise is a commonplace to us, we must not become complacent. The earth is the only home we will ever have, and probably the only real home that humankind will ever have. We must always remember, its real value is much greater than the cash value that we place upon it.
Published 21/8/09 - Borneo Bulletin.