When I began, everyone said, “You can’t do it all. You have got to focus. You can’t do education and forestry and agriculture and education—you’ve got to choose.” But what’s the point of educating a young woman if she goes back to her village and dies because of a lack of sanitation? It’s all inter­connected. We need to solve for these problems at the same time—and it’s clear Farwiza Farhan has taken this truth to heart.

Forests like those in the Leuser Ecosystem are one of the great lungs of the world, absorbing CO₂ from the atmosphere and storing it in their leaves and trunks and the forest soils. And if these forests are cut down, then that means all that CO₂ is released back into an already burdened atmosphere, into the greenhouse gases that are blanketing the world and trapping the heat of the sun. Defending the ecosystem from industry, from development, from poachers, as Farwiza and her fellow activists are doing, is essential work. And that work and the work of other like-­minded young people will make a difference to the future of our world.

Goodall is a conservationist, a U.N. Messenger of Peace, and the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute

Photograph by Muhammad Fadli for TIME

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