Every year, there is a burning season in Indonesia. Areas of rainforest the size of Denmark are cut down and set alight by farmers and corporations to develop palm oil plantations. As well as destroying the habitat of critically endangered orangutans, new scientific evidence shows that deforestation comprises 20% of global carbon emissions, contributing significantly to climate change.
A 30-year-old Australian environmental entrepreneur, Dorjee Sun, sets out to find a solution. Using expertise gained during the dot-com boom, Dorjee forms a small carbon-trading firm and signs up three pioneering Indonesian governors to partner in his venture. His idea involves selling the carbon credits represented by large forest areas in Aceh and Papua to big carbon emitters in the West. Despite the scepticism surrounding carbon trading, Dorjee’s quest for a ‘big deal’ takes him from Sydney to New York, Washington DC, San Jose, San Francisco and London.
Meanwhile, another burning season is underway. Achmadi, a small-scale Indonesian farmer, sets fire to his newly acquired piece of forest to clear it for palm oil. But he too has to face up to the impact of his burning on the global climate. And in Borneo, Danish-born Lone Drøscher-Nielsen rescues and cares for orangutans injured or orphaned by the fires. As she prepares for the release of rehabilitated orangutans back into the wild, the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali commences. Everything hinges on whether all the countries of the world can agree on the wording of a new climate change protocol and whether protection of forests will be included. As the drama of this historic moment plays out, Dorjee relentlessly pursues his deal. Is he a pioneer or a profiteer? What value does his concept offer to the remaining forests of the world and to the challenges of climate change?.
The film was updated in 2009 with a new ending which included the impacts of the global financial crisis and a meeting with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film had a theatrical release in Australia and a digital release in the USA through FilmBuff. The DVD remains widely used in the education sector.
The production attracted philanthropic support through the Documentary Australia Foundation, including from an unnamed Melbourne family trust. Broadcast partners were ABC, BBC and CBC with National Geographic as distributor. Financial support was also provided by the Film Finance Corporation Australia, the NSW Film and TV Office and the Australian Film Commission. A total production budget of $755,529 was raised.