Extracts from speech given by His Excellency, Dr. Richard O’Brien, the Ambassador of the Embassy of Ireland, Singapore, at the launch of the book “The Doughty Warriors, it’s our forest too!”
6th october 2009
It is a very great privilege to have been invited to join you this evening to celebrate the birth of a remarkable new creation – a beautifully written work of real intellectual achievement and indeed a work of much more than ordinary novel enjoyment. The adventures of the doughty warriors – Joseph – Vinod – Xin Hui – Ibrahim – and little Faradilla with Katak – and the latecomer Toby Profundo - is a tale of critical importance to all of us who take seriously our presence in this remarkable place we call planet earth. For their story is also our drama as we – all of us who share and value the joys and challenges of both human and environmental solidarity – take responsibility for this place in the galaxy we call our home.
I want to congratulate Brenda Broster on a great literary and technological achievement – I have visited the web-site - and I want to acknowledge Brenda – if I may - as a wonderful storyteller at the forefront of Ireland’s international aristocracy of talented women writers – from Edna O’Brien to Maeve Binchy - Cecilia Ahern to Marion Keyes - and on to Anne Enright the winner of last year’s booker prize and many more. Of course from her own county Wexford - where she was born – she joins the internationally celebrated and acclaimed John Banville and Colm Tobin.
Superficially and at a first glance Brenda’s creation - the doughty warriors - might appear to be a simple story of a group of well brought-up middle class children being caringly sentimental about animals and trees and the fate of local indigenous peoples. But this is no simplistic story. Yes - it is a tale about children – written for children – which I am confident will be read by many – many – children. But it is most fundamentally a tale addressed to all of us. Yes - it is about children and their uncomplicated goodness and innocence – but it is also most fundamentally a tale about adults and our complicated relationships and arrogant selfishness. Brenda challenges us by bringing us into our own world of moral relativity and environmental vulnerability – she instructs us by means of a page turning parable – she tells us through the language of innocence and the voices of the innocent a story of corruption and ultimately of the vindication of community and indeed of new technology – of the destructive power of greed and the empowering value of generosity – of the importance of family and friendship and of harmony within humanity and the healing power of nature physically and psychologically. She tells of the challenge to all of us, young and not so young – innocent and arrogant – in the media and in the market place - so that we should take seriously all that the doughty warriors instinctively recognise as profoundly important in our life on planet earth.
Brenda highlights for us that sense of drift – for which we have collective responsibility – in addressing the damage caused by climate change to our inheritance. For too long we have wanted to convince ourselves that there was nothing we really needed to do - or perhaps could do – and in any event that it might be too expensive to do - to address the obvious dangers – so wonderfully and analogically described by Brenda in the cruel person of the evil palm oil baron and of the corrupt and selfish (but ultimately redeemed) politician – so there is hope of salvation.
Brenda highlights for us the crucial role played by deforestation. The world’s forests – which cover some 6% of the land surface of our planet – provide a home for up to 80% of all our species of animals and plants. The world has cleared almost half of its forests and half of the trees felled have been cut or burned in the twentieth century. At the current rate of destruction we will destroy a quarter of the remaining forests in the next 50 years.
Tonight I know that you will join the group of admirers – the circle of friends – of a wonderful book – an impressive narrative – a book of substance, of style and of significance – a tale that goes to the heart of our world today – and on your behalf if I may – and certainly on my own behalf - I thank Brenda for writing so beautifully, for thinking so creatively and above all for speaking so boldly on an issue of such vital importance to us all. Thank you.