Deforestation is Out of Control in Indonesia
Indonesia has a population of about 230 million the U.S. has about 300 million occupying an area about three times the size of Texas. The islands of Indonesia straddle the Equator between Southeast Asia and Australia to the south. Its position in the western Pacific puts Indonesia on the other end of the El Niño cycle: when El Niño brings rain to North America it brings drier weather to Indonesia. A strong El Niño in 1997-98 combined with extensive logging to form a perfect storm of wildfires in Indonesian rainforests. These fires got worldwide attention and disrupted lives and the economy of Indonesia, but fires in the rainforest are symptoms of a larger problem, an ecosystem in collapse. People are rushing to exploit the timber in Indonesia before the woods are either protected or entirely cut over. As recently as twenty years ago about half the rainforests in Indonesia were in relatively good shape, but in the next few years most of the major islands Borneo, Sumatra, Sulawesi and the Greater Sunda Islands will have lost virtually all their forests to logging. This tragedy of the commons writ large will impoverish the Indonesian people and degrade their life support systems, one of the most beautiful and biologically complex ecosystems on the Earth.
We spoke with Douglas Fuller about his work mapping the remaining forests in Indonesia.