Hopes Dim Further for Indonesia’s Rainforests

OrangutanA month ago I made the audacious statement that the rainforest movement had achieved a victory in protecting Indonesia's rainforests and orangutans from a huge oil palm plantation. I made this statement fully aware that Indonesia's rainforests were in frenzied crisis and hoping that supporting those in government working to conserve rainforests from such atrocities could make a positive difference. This hope has proven fleeting. I now realize I was wrong, am retracting the victory claim, and have realized there is little or no hope for Indonesia's large and intact ancient rainforests. I apologize for my error.
The latest news is that a Chinese company intends to set-up a massive timber plant in Indonesian Papua to process rare rainforest timbers for Olympic construction. This will set the stage for the final destruction of these relatively intact rainforests. The second story details the ongoing power struggle between various Indonesian factions for and against the massive oil palm project. These actions – which are so grossly unjust and unsustainable, and our inability to stop them – show just how impotent the rainforest movement has become.

Together with the nearly four million hectares of deforestation already occurring annually in Indonesia's rainforests, the new forces of rainforest destruction arrayed against Indonesia's rainforest ecosystems are simply too great. Nothing can stand against a billion Chinese consumers all aspiring to the wasteful and deadly living standards of Americans and Europeans.
EcoInternet will continue our campaign to support those in the Indonesian government that oppose these projects. But frankly, there is little hope that anything but the smallest little fragmented bits of Indonesia's rainforests will ever be protected, and perhaps I was crazy for saying there was. Let's keep on trying nonetheless.

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23 Responses

  1. Colin Fussell - New Zealand says:

    I believe we have reached a crucial point with Asia. Aspiring to become World leaders and lured by the spoils from rampant economies their hunger for resources has only just begun. This is a sobering situation. The populations generally have a poor attitude to environmental protection as well. How tragic. Having said that I believe we must continue the fight and use the power of the Web to achieve a degree of balance. We cannot afford to relent.

  2. Peter Pilot says:

    The Chinese are also planning to drill for oil off Cuba's coast about 40 miles from Key West which will further threaten the Gulf and Florida as well as Cuba .

  3. Nigel says:

    Thanks for your opinions Glen.
    This issue has now jumped a paradigm where good natured people do the right action.
    I would again ask you and our colleagues to aspire to long term self interest and to bring to the attention of Chinese NGOs and their influential contacts through organizations such as WWF, Conservation International and Greenpeace, irrespective of the romantic and pure ecological views you and I hold. A semblance of sanity is preferable to disaster by not being pragmatic at this point in time
    The concern with the PRC needs to be addressed with a cultural philosophy which we can all aspire to and the record of progress the environmental movement is achieving in Yunnan (province), as an example, and to develop this with Wahlia in Indonesia….remember those Indonesians who are wanting to work in alienated work environments which were once forested regret within six months their comments….like the newly acquired apprentice who leaves home thinking working with the mafia will help him and his family. Their wish for the return of the forest environment becomes urgency within a year of destroying it once the palm oil or similar has been produced. The idea that the conversion of a million year old forest to another environment is sustainable is just “pie in the sky” thinking. It is difficult enough in the relatively post glacial soils of the Palearctic region but in the tropics permanence is only when there is natural forest interceded with the slight variation leading to resuccesional processes, and only when all the ecological and biodiversity inputs are present.
    We must not despair; that leads to oblivion and we cannot allow this to happen. You and forest.org is the voice of the people the wildlife and the forest of these wonderful lands…..we need to readapt methods to suit the end need. Re-enlighten all who need our support with new ideas…….let us redirect the resources of the natural forests and successionary forests of Indonesia with the very day to day economies of local communities who still are the most popular sector of their society who need to forest for their survival.
    As destructive logging is undertaken by the criminal fraternity across the Indonesian provinces which have some form of forest cover, causing massive deforestation of Indonesia those only who benefit are the mafia gangs and their ecoterrorist methods of destroying the life processes which are not only destroying the romance of the forests but the very resources 80% of the people of these areas require to survive. It is this aspect which needs to be addressed and to be broadcast to the world in support of the work of the Borneo Initiative…of small scale sustainable actions. The “don’t deforest” is a slogan which turns no heads to the criminals of Indonesia where civil society is so corrupt that only action whereby employment for many can be redirected to 21st Century needs economy and not exploitative market export economy.
    (I shall leave your wits to interpret a needs economy).
    There are other factors I was researching years ago for my PhD studies. This included the hypothetical economy in nature of the real value of living resources to real needs of quality and sustainability. To be succinct we need to turn to reassess the “monetary” needs of action by the biodiversity and added it to the some total of economic input/outputs. Paul Hawken, Hunter and Amory Lovins have characterised this reality in Natural Capitalism, but it seems the idea has yet to come to fruition. I have mentioned this to you and I know you are totally engrossed and doing a wonderful job at forests.org (plus) but it is very wise to use the references here to support the relevance of a “natural biological capitalism” to promote the ideas as mentioned above. This situation need not be so destructive if the ideas behind it can be promoted. If you want I can help here because it is about time that the world was given a real lesson in economics and we need a truly global broadcast media to promote these paradigm ideas and realisms.
    Don’t despair.
    Your Colleague,

  4. Gerhard says:

    Dear Dr.Barry :
    There is certainly no reason whatsoever for you to apologize ! Who could have foreseen this Kow Tow through the Indonesian Government ? It is truly disgusting to see this and to realize how even the industrial nations around the world are creeping towards Beijing in order to curry favors from the Chinese Government just for money causes, although “Communist” (are they ??) China ignores Human Rights to an almost unbearble extent….
    Best regards,
    Gerhard L. Mueller-Debus
    Frankfurt a.M. (Germany)

  5. John Burridge says:

    I have forwarded this message to every list-serve that I am on. Time to get
    the Olympic authorites over here involved. All this for a two-week TV show!
    We have met the invasive species, as he is us. (Apologies to Pogo.)
    John T. Burridge

  6. James McNaughton says:

    Hi Dr Barry,
    I'm sure this could be turned into some very bad press for the IOC
    with the right handling. It is a complete sham that an Event such as
    the Olympics, which is supposed to represent hope for the future and
    reconciliation through athletics, is resulting in this kind of damage
    being done in its name.
    Keep on fighting and I will continue to offer both my financial (what
    little that is) and written support.
    Best Regards.
    James McNaughton

  7. Baerbel says:

    Hi Glen,
    I'm deeply troubled by your latest update that Indonesia's Rainforests are going to be further ravaged for the 2008 Olympic Games. Isn't there anything which can be done to stop looting the last remaining rainforsts by taking this up with the IOC? They can't really want to be exposed as being behind this type of looting and should have a vested interest in stopping the Chinese from going forward with their plans. There have to be alternative woods available for the constructions they need (or think they need), I can't believe that tropical hardwoods are the only option. So, instead of sending emails to Chinese and Indonesian politicians, shouldn't they perhaps be directed towards the IOC?
    Thanks for setting up all the ecological portals and for distributing the news – even though it very often is news I'd much rather not read….
    Take care

  8. Joel Mahy says:

    I'm sick about this scandalous land: China! one of the most anti-ecological land in the world!!!
    I'm trying to avoid buying chinese products, but it isn't so easy!!!

  9. Julian Salmon says:

    Dear Glen,
    Thank you for all your efforts, not just with the Indonesian Forests, but all the other areas you are involved with – I wish I had time to do more, but unfortunately at present I really don't have that much time.
    Having read your article below I wonder would it be useful to apply some energy to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) (or whatever it is called) to ensure that all their, at least future projects, are designed to be sustainably designed and not harmful to the balance of the world's eco-system?
    What is proposed in Indonesia is bad enough, but often, these massive Olympic structures/ projects involve massive concrete structures and steel works and history tells us that they are far from beneficial long term to the cities where the events are held.
    The IOC must draw up specifications for Countries to work out their bids against. Can we change the specifications?
    Sorry to put this onto you and your colleagues but I also hope it is helpful.
    With thanks and best wishes for a future!
    Cllr. Julian Salmon,

  10. Diana says:

    Why don't you call on the International Olympic Committee to have all
    athletic teams boycott the Games in China on the grounds that their actions
    are contributing greatly to the decimation of our natural environment? Maybe
    you could find something on the Olympics website which states the high
    principles on which the Games were founded – and compare these with the
    rather low principles – or lack of them that the Chinese are displaying.
    There's nothing to lose, is there?

  11. Anton says:

    Dear Glen Barry,
    when China is causing this huge deforestation in Papua for their upcoming Olympic Games, why we don´t try the other way around and claiming this
    brutal devastation to the IOC, Int. Olympic Comitee ?
    It´s simply unacceptable that China wants to show-up on such important international event as a powerful country destroying forests of other nations. The mighty IOC for sure will find a suitable way to intervein. Or ??
    This campain we´ve to start from now on.

  12. Arlene says:

    We must be protecting Indonesia's rainforests and for the orangutans, that is there home. Lets not ruin the rainforest for a huge oil palm plantation.

  13. Pete says:

    Hi Glen, Ive had a similar experience to you with the NZ govt's decsion to send the rare land snail to extinction.
    The Minister of Conservation gave state-owned coal miner Solid Energy every last tonne of coal from under the snail's habitat – this leaves only 0.4 ha free from strip mining, and this will be showered with blast debris and boulders rolling down from above.
    Sounds like a re-run of the Indonesian situation – despite concerns from the conservation arm of govt, the $$$ won out.
    I had some illusions about this govt, but none now.

  14. Louis says:

    Dear Glen-
    I was afraid of something like this (which I consider
    a major leap BACKWARD for humanity). I posted a
    message awhile ago under an alias on the Forest. Org
    Discussion Board that as Asian economies developed
    towards a critical mass there would be less interest
    among them in conservation matters and less
    opportunity for western conservation pressure groups
    to salvage ecosystems there under attack.
    Unfortunately, I was right. I still don't see much
    signs of respect for life on earth around the world,
    especially among Asiatic peoples (I include our own
    species in this assessment incidentally–countries
    with rotten human rights records like Indonesia and
    China usually turn out to have equally reprehensible
    environmental track records). Maybe I will be proved
    wrong as the jury is still out. But I think not. It's
    all terribly sad. I can see now why people become so
    cynical. If monsoon Asian lands do become transformed
    into wastelands in the next centuryit will be
    difficult for some folks to care about the people
    responsible for that degradation. And the desired
    result of propserity will likely vanish with the
    Well, all this inspires me to push for expanding
    NASA's budget–maybe there's other planets we can
    escape to so we can get away from nightmares like the
    “new Asia.”.

  15. Marlies van Dijen says:

    Dear Dr. Barry, There's absolutely no need to apologize. Question is: What can we do now? There is an immediate need for a tremendous amount of coordinated publicity around this issue. Where do we start? Chapeau for your work.

  16. Peter Doedens says:

    All this has to happen unfortunately.
    Living according to the capitalistic system is coming to its end. The destruction will be immense: deforistation, nuclear war, famine, diseases, large distruction of natural habitat and dangerous man causes changes in the Earth's eco system causing draughts, floods, super storms etc. etc.. Humans will realise when all these disasters are happing and millions start to die that we will have to change or disappear all together. It is like a smoker who first needs to get cancer in order to understand that the choice and action is his allone

  17. tony sheehan says:

    Glen don't give up. You're doing a class job. I'm a teacher in Ireland and when I tell the kids i teach about the orangutans and Indonesia they get really angry. They write letters to supermarkets and politicians etc which is great. Your e-mail alerts are vital to everyone who cares about the environment. So keep on rockin and keep those e-mails coming.

  18. Maurice says:

    For a moment there, Glen, I too had my hopes raised.
    Exeter Friends of the Earth (in the UK) hold a regular stall,
    and one of our most successful campaigns is the Palm Oil
    Campaign, and the plight of the orang-utan.
    To lose this wonderful creature on our watch would be a
    shameful dereliction.
    The public pressure is there and all we can do
    is to try and try to keep up that pressure.
    Thanks for all the work that you are putting in to keep that
    pressure up. It inspires me to do likewise here in the UK.

  19. Julie says:

    That's incredibly depressing news… Once the forests are gone the only
    things humans will have left to sell it their souls, and by the sound of
    it they are selling these already.
    Have to hope the Earth is strong enough to fight back… I am with her
    Kind regards

  20. Dan Whitman says:

    Do not give up hope Glen, you know we have had our backs to the wall before.
    Currently picketing Kimberly Clark, in Huntsville, Ontario Canada with Greenpeace!!!

  21. Candice says:

    Hi Glen,
    I really appreciate your updates, especially since I am studying Indonesian forests and conservation issues. I am a PhD student at UC Irvine.
    I wonder if perhaps the Olympic commiitee is the way in on this horrifying issue – if the Olympic committee condemns the usage of Papuan and Bornaen forests for building Olympic stadiums etc., perhaps it will gain enough negative publicity – perhaps they even have some leverage like reconsidering or something.
    Just a thought,

  22. Nicolas says:

    As a European environmental lawyer, I have often been disappointed by the
    poor results yielded by our actions. It is like a rear gard defence that
    we are loosing gradually.
    My only consolation is that in one century from now, some will highlight
    the fact that a few enlightned movements did their very best to halt these
    unsustainable patterns. Let keep this in mind.
    Yours sincerely, Nicolas de Sadeleer

  23. james says:

    i really feel sick at what there are doing. that country is big enough to hold the game without destroying the rainforest. when will people learn that we need the rainforest to survive

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