Media appearances

San Francisco Chronicle: “A site of inspiration”

This is an excerpt from “A site of inspiration“, by Jessica Guynn, which appeared on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle’s business section on July 5, 2006.

Frankly, he gave a damn.

It all began in 1996 when Rhett Butler — a young Silicon Valley vagabond named for the “Gone with the Wind” rogue — stopped to cool his feet in a stream in the Malaysian rain forest of Sabah. As he picked leaf leeches from creases in his clothes and listened to the melodic hum of cicadas, he spotted a red-bearded orangutan silently swinging through the branches.

“Though the forest is never silent or still, it brings a deep sense of calm,” Butler said, gazing at butterflies in shades of yellow, orange and green fluttering through the lush canopy.

Eight weeks after he left the remote island of Borneo, that calm was shattered when Butler learned that the trees shading that idyllic spot had been logged for wood chips.

Rhett Ayers Butler in the Manambolo Canyon, Madagascar in 2004.

Spurred into action, Butler started writing a book about the rain forest that became the foundation for a grassroots Web site he created in 2000. His goal was to gather support for saving the wildlife and wild lands he had grown to love. What he didn’t expect was that the trajectory of his career would shift dramatically.

Read the full story, A site of inspiration, on

By Rhett Ayers Butler

Rhett Ayers Butler is the Founder and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. He started Mongabay in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.