News

    Greenpeace: Indonesia's Forest Fires Threaten World

    Environmental activists, climate experts say burning of fossil fuels may account for 20 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions

    Multimedia

    Brian Padden

    While the burning of fossil fuels is considered the main contribution to global warming from humans, tropical deforestation also plays a significant role. Climate experts say it may account for 20 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental activists say to reduce global warming the international community should pay countries such as Indonesia, Brazil and Congo to protect tropical forests. VOA's Brian Padden traveled with Greenpeace activists to Riau Province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra to look at how deforestation threatens the world.

    Burning forests to clear land for agriculture has long been a lucrative endeavor in Indonesia. Agus Nata is a palm oil farmer who owns eight hectares of land. Years ago he cut down and sold any trees of value on his land. Then he burned what was left.

    He says burning the fields is the cheapest and easiest way to clear the land. The global market for the palm fruit he now produces, which can be used to make biofuels, is growing. Large agricultural companies are also clearing and burning vast areas of forest. In the past 50 years, more than 72 million hectares of Indonesia's forest have been destroyed.

    For some communities in Indonesia, such rapid deforestation threatens their traditional way of life.
     
    Pelli, a fisherman on the Kerumutan river is happy today because he caught a five-kilogram snakehead fish. His family has lived on the river for generations and depends on the forests for wood for his home, his boat, and his nets. He is worried about what would happen if the land near the river were developed.

    He says it is dangerous and quite threatening. Where else, he asks, can they find wood to make what they need?

    Deforestation also has harmful regional effects. Smoke from large forest fires in Indonesia and Malaysia has reached Singapore and other countries in Southeast Asia.

    Clearing forests also removes trees that help absorbe greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, or CO2. Many climate experts say CO2 and other greenhouse gases, most of them released by burning fossil fuels, contribute to global warming.

    In Sumatra, the problem is compounded because the ground in the jungle is covered with moist decaying vegetation known as peat. The peat stores vast quantities of the carbon dioxide. Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace say that drying and burning peat releases the CO2 into the atmosphere. Because of deforestation, Indonesia is now the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter, after the United States and China.

    Volunteers from Greenpeace are building a dam in Sumatra to focus on both local and international solutions to the problem. The dam will restore an area of peat-land forest that was damaged by fire. Greenpeace is using the project to encourage Indonesian volunteers like local student Joni Heriadi to become more involved in protecting the local environment.

    He says he wants to join Greenpeace because he sees so much destruction of the forests.
     
    Greenpeace also brought international journalists here to see the deforestation firsthand.

    Bustar Maitar, an Indonesian Greenpeace leader, says these activities are part of a global campaign to urge rich countries to provide financial incentives to developing countries to stop deforestation.

    "One of our demands is to ask the developed countries to at least put money on the table, at least 30 billion euros [$44 billion] to helping countries like Indonesia, who have the forests, to save the forests from deforestation, to solve the climate crisis, what we are facing now," he explained.  "Without that we are not confident we can solve the problem of the climate crisis," he said.

    The issue will be on the agenda at upcoming global climate talks in Copenhagen. Nations will meet to try to hammer out a deal to reduce emissions both from industrial activity in developed nations and from deforestation in developing nations. One mechanism being considered would allow a polluting industry to pay another business or government to reduce emissions, which could pay countries to leave forests standing.

    However, it is not clear an agreement will be reached in Copenhagen, as some developed countries, including the United States, say they want the large developing countries to commit to binding emission cuts, which nations such as China have rejected.

    Maitar says without international assistance little can be done to stop developers from burning the forests for short-term profit and long-term global environmental damage.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.