Indonesia is currently undergoing one of the worst environmental disasters of the 21st century. Fires rage across the length of Indonesia as a result of companies looking to profit from the land. The smoke has reduced visibility to 30 meters in some cities while there are reports of children who have choked to death. There have been over 10,000 cases of respiratory infection and counting.
The fires stem from the greed of timber and farming companies who seek to clear the land to plant their products of pulpwood, timber, and palm oil. The simplest way for them to clear the land is to illegally burn it to the ground and start anew with their product.
The environmental issues that arise with this are numerous. Hundreds of species of animals and plants are widely affected including species unique to that area. The C02 emissions are perhaps the most devastating aspect of this disaster. The fires are said to be producing more CO2 emissions that the US economy. This is a result not only of the burning trees, but also the ground itself, which continues to burn lightly for weeks after the fires surge through an area. The smoldering peat releases clouds of methane, carbon monoxide, ozone, and other gasses into the atmosphere.
In a state that has endured years of organized crime and illegal deforestation, there is not very much attempt at reform. While the president, Joko Widodo, explains he wants to prevent the forest fires, his governmental actions—including subsidies for palm oil production—appear to promote the opposite. In response to public pressure, some companies have agreed to quit rainforest deforestation; however, Indonesia’s government has condemned these companies’ decisions as hindrances to the country’s development.
Despite this environmental disaster’s significance, the corporate media continue to under-report this story. Compelling coverage of Indonesia’s fires and the reasons for them would bring critical awareness and reform.
Made Ali (translated by Phillip Jacobsen), “Children Are Dying from Respiratory Ailments as Haze Blankets Sumatra,” Mongabay, September 14, 2015, http://news.mongabay.com/2015/09/children-are-dying-from-respiratory-ailments-as-haze-blankets-sumatra/.
George Monbiat, “Indonesia Is Burning. So Why Is The World Looking Away?” The Guardian, October 30, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/30/indonesia-fires-disaster-21st-century-world-media.
Student Researcher: Mitchell Hash (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Nicole Wolfe, (Sonoma State University)