Willie Smits long ago abandoned the customary role of the microbiologist. After working in the Indonesian rainforest for three decades (and marrying a tribal queen), he has taken it upon himself to regrow the delicate ecosystems ravaged by ruthless forestry, save the orangutans (OrangutanOutreach.org) and invent a hi-tech system for harvesting sustainable ethanol from sugar palms (without even cutting down the plant, or "harvesting its organs," as he puts it).
Indonesia is now the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses and the largest producer of palm oil, a dubious substance that ends up as ethanol and cheap food additives. Smits' alternative not only produces sustainable ethanol, but dries food, pumps out clean energy and water, and offers satellite telecommunications to local farmers.
Special thanks to Pop!Tech for making this interview possible.