Monday, October 01, 2007

On Ecology and Economy

Feeling a bit hot lately? Well, blame it (correctly) on global warming. For me, the best thing about the global warming concept is that we're finally accepting how interconnected the world really is. You can't stop global warming only by, i.e. reducing greenhouse gases in one place. You gotta do it everywhere!

Photo source: Environmental Investigation Agency, "The Last Frontier: Illegal Logging in Papua and China's Massive Timber Theft. Quoted in

Economically unfortunate for developing countries, all this concern about global warming has only surfaced nowadays, just when they're on a roll of development/ industrialization. How could developing countries ever compete/catch-up with their developed counterparts if all this development has to be curbed now? How is it fair that developed countries could go so far ahead inter-alia through colonialism, slavery, environmental destruction (all these were 'acceptable' at the time) and now they ask third world nations to compete with them without all those evils shortcuts?

And how did the governments of Aceh, Papua, and West Papua (all forest-rich provinces in Indonesia), react to the call to protect their forests and possibly forego 'development' (read: profits from palm oil plantations)? Economically, of course! And rightly so. Learning from Costa Rica, Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu plans to preserve its forests with "carbon credits" (WSJ, subscription required):

His proposal: Have papua become an active player in the word's emerging carbon markets - a system of exchanges that let investors and companies buy and sell the right to pollute.

Mr. Suebu's plans for Papua are on a large scale. He has proposed to reserve more than half of the land targeted for development for protection. In the meantime, he has applied heavy brakes to the (palm oil) plantation companies' expansion aims, so far refusing to grant them permission to proceed with their planned developments.

"In my mind, we have to save the forests of Papua and make money from that," said Mr. Suebu, 61 years old. "I know that Indonesia doesn't care about the forest."

So suppose ecology and economy are no longer a dichotomy, and that the money actually does come in: is the problem solved? Marianne Klute of Watch Indonesia poses a good question: Who should benefit from the money?

Should it be the plantation companies, which need to forgo palm oil profits? Should it be the government budget which, under Indonesian law, owns the forest? Or the special autonomous provinces? Or should the money go to the indigenous peoples so that they can continue to live in harmony with nature and, through their way of living, sustain the forest?


  1. sounds like a plan - i'm off to papua for my next hols!!

    one point tho: the planet may be connected in that global warming effects all (both positively and negatively) but there are also disconnects. e.g. western nations cause famine in africa thru global wamring? -- doesn't effect the west too much, cos african starve on their own continent in the main.

  2. Go for it, John. I've always heard it's beautiful there.

    And that's a good point you raised. Often the direct effects are not really interconected, but more like one way. It's a shame because usually people will react if something effects them directly.

  3. effects directly...
    what i see is what i believe...
    and its already too late to react

    but better late than never
    that's what i ever heard :)

    al gore won peace nobel btw...
    hmmph, is it a good news?

    oh ya... happy lebaran! :)

  4. Hi Nien, thanks! :)
    I think that's good news. People always talk about the latest Nobel issue. I reckon now we're going to see more exposure of global warming issues in the media. And that's good.