Forest fires in Indonesian palm oil concessions are destroying the local environment, polluting the air and endangering lives. The concessions belong to major household brands, such as Nestlé and Unilever. MARIANNE BROOKER reports
Ten villages and surrounding farmland have already been wiped from the map for a 50 sq.km airport and surrounding 'aeropolis' or airport city in West Java, Indonesia, writes Rose Bridger. And while investors are offered an 'attractive incentives plan', villagers are subject to fierce state repression and brutality. Now only a single village remains standing, but residents continue to resist eviction and demand an end to the project.
We may know that palm oil is wiping out rainforests worldwide, writes Philip Lymbery. But few realise that our factory farmed meat and dairy are contributing to the problem. As revealed in Philip's new book, 'Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were', palm kernels, left after pressing the fruit for oil, is a protein-rich livestock feed of growing importance. And nowhere is the impact greater than Sumatra, home (for now) to its own unique species of elephant.
Britain's trade in waste plastic to the Far East is booming. But it's not good news. The exported plastic is meant to be recycled under UK conditions and standards, but often is not, undermining bona fide UK recycling firms who face falling prices, reduced turnover, collapsing profits, and all too often, closure.
Land grabbing has been going on since the mists of time, writes Nikita Sud, and took off like never before under European colonialism. But now 'developing' countries are also getting in on the act - notably China, an economic superpower in its own right, as it ruthlessly, and often corruptly, expands its global land holdings at the expense of nature and small scale farmers.
Indonesia's plans to meet its Paris Agreement obligations by protecting its swamp forests, the world's biggest land reservoir of carbon, have been acclaimed by the world's press, writes Yuyun Indradi. But they contain so many loopholes and flawed compromises that - unless radically reformed - they are doomed to certain failure.
Over 300 major food companies used to buy palm oil from IOI, writes Annisa Rahmawati. But after the company was found to be destroying vast areas of Indonesia's rainforest and draining peatlands to make new palm oil plantations, it has been deserted by its customers. Now IOI must go beyond just sticking to the rules, and start actively repairing the damage it has caused.
The remarkable Leuser ecosystem in Aceh, Sumatra, has faced massive destruction over recent years with rice farms, palm oil, roads and mines, writes Bill Laurance. But that's all set to end with a moratorium on forest clearance that's supported at the highest levels of government, both state and national. This is definitely news to celebrate! But we must also maintain our vigilance.
Gorgeous coral fish are to be seen everywhere, writes Monica Biondo, decorating aquariums in restaurants, doctors' offices and living rooms. The coral fish trade is booming! But it's destroying the reefs themselves, and driving many species to extinction. The Banggai Cardinalfish is among those unlikely to survive as this evil trade lays waste to them and their precious habitat.
In 1975 Indonesia invaded the small Pacific country of East Timor, writes John Pilger, and then massacred a third of its population to suppress demands for independence. Now unearthed documents show the genocide was supported by Australia so it could grab the oil and gas reserves of the Timor Sea. Despite East Timor's independence, won in 1999, Australia is still stealing its oil and gas revenues worth $5 billion and counting.
There is a simple formula for restoring life to over-exploited coastal fisheries, write Jane Lubchenco & Steven Gaines, and it has been proven to work from the Philippines and Indonesia to Mexico and Belize: to create local marine reserves for the exclusive use of local fishing communities.
'No deforestation' pledges by global food corporations are yielding results, writes William Laurance. But now the Indonesian and Malaysian governments are calling on them to abandon their promises - even as the region's rainforests go up in smoke, cleared for new oil palm plantations. The companies must hold firm to their commitments.
Indonesia's President Widodo has promised strong action to put out his country's raging forest fires, writes Scott Edwards. Yet this year's conflagrations are the worst since 1997. His problem? Powerful elites in forested provinces are making big money from the burning. And they see little reason to heed Widodo's pleas - or anyone else's.
Just as Indonesia's forests are going up in flames, in part as a result of illegal logging on a massive scale, the country's Trade Minister has issued a regulation that would rubber stamp exports of illegal timber - also undermining a timber agreement with the EU that's due to come into force next month.
Thanks to massive forest clearance for palm oil plantations combined with drought conditions in this 'El Nino' year, writes Zachary Davies Boren, rainforest and peatland fires across Indonesia are set to emit more carbon than the UK, while covering millions of square kilometres with choking smoke.
The orangutans of Southeast Asia make a fantastic symbol of endangered rainforests, writes Liana Chua, rousing public opposition to palm oil companies and their bulldozers. But this story of good versus evil omits the essential human dimension. To save the rainforests and their great apes, we must make forest peoples a key part of the conservation narrative.
The burning forests and peatlands of Indonesia are once again casting a pall of choking smoke across the region, in the process releasing billions of tonnes of carbon. Promises to solve the problems stand betrayed - and COP21 commitments to tackle the problem are being weakened.