The hundreds of forest and plantation fires burning in Sumatra are choking out Malaysia. Greenpeace have commented that “the 1997 fires in Indonesia’s rainforests added as much carbon to the atmosphere as all the coal, oil and gas burned in Western Europe that year.” How much is this?
Interestingly The Australian newspaper has focused on the impact of the fires on the Indonesian-Malaysian relationship:
The Australian, 12th August
“The thick smog presents the country with its worst pollution crisis since 1997, when smoke mainly from Indonesian bushfires blocked out skies across Southeast Asia. Fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which is a short ferry ride from peninsular Malaysia’s west coast, flare up around this time every year as farmers, plantation owners and miners burn forests to clear land during the dry season.
The opposition Democratic Action Party said Malaysians were “furious and worried” about the pollution and that it would mount a protest at the Indonesian embassy today as well as a public rally on Sunday.” end.
A Malaysian newspaper is comparing the cause of these fires to the 1997 fires and considering the role of their own companies with plantations in Sumatra:
New Straits Times, 13th August
“According to Plantation Enterprises and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin, who has just returned from Medan after meeting with Indonesian Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban, fires on plantation land made up 30 per cent of the hotspots while the rest of the fires were caused by slash-and-burn farmers.
This seems to be the reverse of the situation in 1997-98 when most of the fires were said to have been started deliberately to clear land for oil palm plantations. According to one estimate, up to 80 per cent of the burning in 1997 occurred in plantation company concessions, and 75 per cent of these were oil palm estates.
Oil palm plantations were certainly over-represented in the list of 176 companies charged in court for starting the fires of 1997-98.” end.
The Indonesian Jakarta Post seems to look to government for answers and suggest the fires are about slash and burn agriculture:
Jakarta Post, 14th August
“Too often the fires have been the result of land clearing by either farmers or speculators. While slash-and-burn agriculture is common among the indigenous populations, these fires can spread uncontrollably in dry conditions.
Since the major forests fires of 1997 and 1998, which created a region-wide crisis, various mechanisms and high profile meetings have been held to set up a joint mechanism to manage such catastrophes and provide early warning.
The repeated recurrence of fires proves that much of these efforts simply don’t work, or more precisely, haven’t been made to work.” end.
I wonder about the impact of the fires on the local fauna and flora?
We in Australia are too busy worrying about our own forests to concern ourselves with ecosystems elsewhere in the world. One Australian koala is far more significant than a whole troup of orang-utans.
We in Australia are not concerned that the plantations established in Indonesia are preceded by logging so that we can build our McMansions or renovate our inner city Federation jewels with a clear conscience. No dirty Australian wood holding my roof up.
We in Australia may comment as we wish upon the fact that Malaysian timber companies are contributing to the burning of the Indonesian forests and the pollution of KL. We in Australia are not prone to hypocrisy.
So long as we can buy cheap imported wood from SE Asia, we can indulge in closing down Australian forest industries to demonstrate our high morality. Our hands are clean and our souls are pure. All my friends agree with me, so I am assured I am right.
And loggers are all common working class people, even less important than orang-utans. They should get jobs in coffee shops or become software engineers, or management consultants.
Davey Gam Esq. says
Nice one Rick. I know a local prominent saviour of the jarrah forest who lives in an enormous house built of jarrah, and stokes his pot-belly stove with the same. Firewood heating is, after all, carbon neutral.
P.S. Aren’t the koalas destroying large areas of forest?