The Indonesian Forest Fires

Andy B ( an El Reg Reader) writes in to ask well, what about these Indonesian forest fires then? And the truth is I know very little about it.

I’m simply never going to take the word of someone like this:

Lindsey Allen is the Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network. A veteran environmental and social justice activist, Lindsey has spent her career preventing commodity expansion into globally critical forest areas.

Yet it’s also possible that this is a real and serious environmental problem:

The conflagrations raging out of control across Sumatra and Borneo are a global scale environmental and human rights emergency, but the players involved, from the Indonesian government, commodity producers and traders, to Western snack food companies, have so far largely failed to connect the dots to strike at the core of the problem.

So, the background, much forest land is cleared to use as palm oil plantations. Much of this land is also deep peat soil, the clearance leads to this drying out (ie, going from swamp to peat really) which then makes it possible that the stuff burns. Obviously, vast areas of metres of peat burning is going to produce significant pollution, both particularate and CO2.

That the fires are happening seems to be without doubt.

At which point I don’t actually know.

As above I’m not going to take the word of some hippie that capitalism’s all at fault. But who the heck knows, it’s not a perfect system and maybe this time they’re right?

I have my suspicion that it ‘s this:

Companies like APP are quick to accuse small farmers and villagers of lighting many of the fires. Even if that is true,

As with the Amazon rainforest it’s not in fact large companies clearing the ground, it’s landless peasants burning off a few acres (possibly getting out of control) to grow runty corn for a living. In the Amazon the large companies most definitely ploughed the cerrado for soybeans, but that’s a very different thing.

But other than my suspicion of hippies and their wailings I don’t actually know.

Does anyone around here?

7 thoughts on “The Indonesian Forest Fires”

  1. The Indonesian and Malaysian lads in my office don’t seem to be much the wiser, either.

    I do know that the smoke pall has covered Phuket though, and as such is potentially reducing the value of my property there. This alone ought to be grounds for a Daily Mail article.

  2. The smoke has also reached as far as Davao, and even been seen in Manila. Happened 18 years ago when I was first posted to the Philippines. IIRC the biggest problem is that it happens in areas where the land permits authorities are in bed with the local villains. After it is cleared they sell it on to the local farmiers.

  3. If, as you suggest, it is peat that is burning, rather than the vegetation that grows upon it, then that would seem rather wasteful. The Irish have been using it as a source of domestic fuel and electricity generation for years.

  4. Funny how the Eco Warriors are nearly always Social Justice Warriors too. I just don’t see the logical connection.

  5. It’s been happening for donkey’s years but this year is notably bad. Partially weather related but some of the effect is due to (boo hiss) agribusiness as Indonesia has been growing its palm oil production steadily. One reason is so the oil can be used for biofuel.

    So it’s at least partially the fault of the tree-huggers.

  6. You’re all looking at this one the wrong way up. The key question you need to ask here is ‘who eats palm oil?’ and it’s overwhelmingly the poorest people on the planet – all of whom have darker shades of skin – who will suffer the effects of having one of their main foodstuffs banned or made more expensive.

    As usual, the neo-racists are pretty transparent once you realise what they’re up to.

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