It's not just big corporations that are killing Indonesia's forests

Corporations are easy targets as environmental bad-guys -- they're big, faceless, wealthy entities.  And in countries like Indonesia, many corporations -- including oil palm, wood pulp, timber, and mining companies -- have had bad environmental records.

But it's an oversimplification to blame the corporations for everything, as Indonesia-based conservation scientist Erik Meijaard argues in a recent editorial.

It's not just corporations that are killing forests  (photo by William Laurance)

It's not just corporations that are killing forests (photo by William Laurance)

Meijaard homes in on an uncomfortable truth: half or more of all forest destruction is evidently caused by smallholders -- farmers and locals who burn or log forests, often illegally.

In a recent email message, Meijaard adds that deforestation is also being driven by small- and medium-scale investors.  "These are not small, poor, disadvantaged farmers, but government and law enforcement officials, local legislature members, local business people."

One key problem is that the rule of law in Indonesia is so lax, and corruption so rampant.  Even those who get caught usually find it easy to bribe their way out of trouble.

Indonesia's newly elected president, Joko Widodo, was originally trained as a forester, and he is being urged to follow through on his campaign promises to "eradicate illegal logging, illegal fishing, and illegal mining" and "enforce environmental laws".

In politics, promises are cheap.  Action is what counts.  And despite plenty of talk and promises in the past, Indonesia now has the world's highest rate of forest loss.

A number of mega-corporations in Indonesia have recently pledged to halt their forest-destroying ways.  The jury is still out on these promises.

But it's going to take a broader effort -- to enforce the law and protect environments from all illegal exploiters, large and small -- to save Indonesia's vanishing forests.

 

Protect wilderness from rapacious road expansion

The world's last surviving wildernesses are under assault--from unbridled road expansion.  That's the key message of a press release today, distributed on the International Day of Forests (March 21).

Roads to ruin... forest clearing in the Amazon

Roads to ruin... forest clearing in the Amazon

Current estimates suggest that, by 2050, we'll have another 25 million kilometers of paved roads--enough to encircle the Earth more than 600 times.  Around nine-tenths of those roads will be in developing nations, which sustain many of the planet's most biologically important ecosystems.

In wilderness areas, new roads often open a Pandora's Box of environmental problems--such as illegal deforestation, colonization, fires, hunting, and mining.  In the Amazon, for instance, over 95% of all deforestation occurs within 50 kilometers of roads.

The press release was led by European MP Kriton Arsenis, a respected wilderness advocate who runs the RoadFree initiative, and featured comments from ALERT Director, Bill Laurance.

"When it comes to roads in wilderness, the key is to stop the first cut," said Laurance.  "Keeping roads out is the only truly effective way to ensure wilderness will survive."