A New Green Low: "The mass killings in 1965 live on in global emissions from forced forest fires"

Aerial View of Indonesia's Forest Fires, 2013.
Aerial View of Indonesia’s Forest Fires, 2013.

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

What is the difference between killing a million people, and burning down a few trees? Maybe not a lot, according to Oscar Nominated Film Director Joshua Oppenheimer.

Why today’s global warming has roots in Indonesia’s genocidal past

The mass killings in 1965 live on in global emissions from forced forest fires – and through human rights abuses in the palm oil fields.

There has been tremendous concern over the ways climate change will affect human rights, but little attention to how human rights abuse affects our global climate.

Fifty years ago, Indonesia went through a genocide. The massacres may be relatively unknown, but in a terrible way the destruction continues, and threatens us all. In 1965, the Indonesian army organised paramilitary death squads and exterminated between 500,000 and 1 million people who had hastily been identified as enemies of General Suharto’s new military dictatorship. Today, the killers and their protégés are comfortable establishment figures whose impunity, political power and capacity for intimidation endure.

Over this past year the lawlessness that began with the genocide arrived in all our lives. Some 130,000 forest fires in Indonesia darkened the skies over much of south-east Asia last summer and autumn, destroying more than 8,100 square miles of virgin rainforest – an area larger than New Jersey or Wales. The fires released more than 1.75 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equal to the total annual emissions of Japan. While last year’s fires were the worst on record, fires on a similar scale have burned annually for nearly 20 years, making a mockery of our efforts to curb global warming.

The fires are started by Indonesian and international companies to burn rainforest and replace it with oil palm plantations. Palm oil is the world’s most commonly used plant-based oil, and the market for it has exploded along with the global middle class. Setting fires is the cheapest way to clear land for new oil palm plantations.

This is both the world’s worst ecological disaster and a human rights catastrophe – and we are all implicated. We benefit from this rule of fear and the destruction of the forests by consuming many of Indonesia’s exports. Palm oil is used in many beauty products, snacks and desserts from companies like Starbucks, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza, Unilever, and countless others. While a few companies have started to make meaningful strides towards eliminating conflict palm oil from their products, most remain recalcitrant – to the detriment of Indonesians and our global ecosystem.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/03/genocide-indonesia-human-rights-abuse-climate-change-palm-oil

Indonesia suffered huge injustices under the repulsive General Suharto. But Indonesia today is a democracy. An imperfect democracy, with rampant corruption and human rights abuses, but nevertheless a democracy, a country in which an elected civil government controls the military, a country which is genuinely attempting to clean up its act, with strong government support for powerful institutions dedicated to rooting out the worst abuses, and building a better future.

What about Oppenheimer’s claim of “human rights abuses” in the Palm Oil industry? I’m sure that in a country as corrupt as Indonesia, many Palm Oil operations are far from squeaky clean. But Palm oil is not an unmitigated disaster for poor people. Palm oil jobs and income are a major source of employment and poverty alleviation in rural Indonesia.

Although only contributing around 14 percent to GDP, agriculture provides employment for over 41 percent of the Indonesian population and provides around two-thirds of rural household income. The palm oil industry is a significant contributor to rural income in Indonesia. In 2008, over 41 percent of oil palm plantations were owned by small land holders, producing 6.6 million tonnes of palm oil.

With over half of Indonesia’s population lives in rural areas—of which over 20 percent live below the poverty line—the palm oil industry provides an incomparable means of poverty alleviation. Limiting the conversion of forest to agriculture or palm denies considerable prospective economic benefits and improvements in living standards to the rural population, condemning them to declining standards of subsistence.

Read more: http://worldgrowth.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/WG_Indonesian_Palm_Oil_Benefits_Report-2_11.pdf

I am not suggesting that improved rural income excuses corruption and abuse of human rights. But to ignore the progress Indonesia has made, to compare illegally burning a few trees, as part of a process which creates life changing jobs and income for some of the poorest people in the world, to a brutal genocide which occurred 50 years ago, is a gross insult to the memory of the victims of a dark period of Indonesia’s history.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
May 4, 2016 4:59 am

“global emissions from forced forest fires ”
AGW is a theory that carbon from fossil fuels that had been sequestered from the surface-atmosphere carbon cycle and climate system are extraneous carbon and the introduction of extraneous CO2 into the surface system can destabilize the climate system.
forest fires are surface phenomena just as the use of wood chips and ethanol. surface phenomena are part of the current account of the carbon cycle and therefore irrelevant to AGW.
have AGW activists forgotten their own theory?

Reply to  chaamjamal
May 4, 2016 6:16 am

You forget,
the Gore Bull Woe Mann can do anything, and come from anywhere.

Reply to  chaamjamal
May 4, 2016 6:29 am

AGW is a cult and cult members do strange things.

Reply to  chaamjamal
May 4, 2016 10:03 am

Agreed. That was indeed what was said by those who taught the theory. Forest fires are not part of the theory.

Reply to  chaamjamal
May 4, 2016 1:25 pm

From the perspective of the planet as a whole, all of what we call Life is just a ‘skin disease’. The atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the geosphere will continue to do what they have been doing for billions of years.

May 4, 2016 4:59 am

Envioro-leftists are stuck in the 1960s. It’s as if all that has been done to improve/protect the environment, all the fortune that has been spent, never happened.

Reply to  Gamecock
May 4, 2016 6:43 am

Virtue signaling, that’s all. In a secular world, they are all desperately clawing for a basis on which to claim, “I’m better than you.” Around here they build an 8,500 sq. foot house and whack a few solar panels up on the roof, then claim they’re “green.” Asshats.

Reply to  Goldrider
May 4, 2016 7:35 am

“How many fossil fuels had to burn to make your stupid solar panel?”

James Francisco
Reply to  Goldrider
May 4, 2016 9:53 am

“drednicolson May 4, 2016 at 7:35 am
“How many fossil fuels had to burn to make your stupid solar panel?””
Not to mention the 8500 Sq ft house.

May 4, 2016 5:07 am

It’s more warped reasoning.
Also, the ash from the burning in Indonesia has an impact, the CO2 was no doubt partially consumed by the rest of the forests surrounding the torched land.
Conflating genocide with global warming and today’s farmers trying to feed themselves is ludicrous self delusion.
Another writer lost in a concept that bears no relation to the real world.
It’s an environmentalist guilt argument and as we know, shaming will follow, and I quote.
“This is both the world’s worst ecological disaster and a human rights catastrophe – and we are all implicated”
Yes “we are all to blame for what happens” goes the shaming guilt trip, the old worn out environmentalist mantra.

Reply to  Mark
May 6, 2016 2:40 pm

+1 Amazing, isn’t it. One has to numb one’s self. How such unconsciously conscious people can make such a ruckus and have it cheer-led and sanctioned by an assembly of loud media outlets.

Margaret Smith
May 4, 2016 5:08 am

There seems to be a frantic desire to reduce absolutely everything to their obsession with convincing us to believe.
Human rights and CAGW are an excellent example .of an oxymoron.
The carbon credits scam destroys rain forest, too, but this only helps the very rich.

May 4, 2016 5:08 am

The genocide happened because the dictatorship had the support of prominent nations’ governments like the lead nations in this AGW scam

May 4, 2016 5:18 am

Oh goodie! More 1st world problem guilt. I can’t wait to see what comes next. /snark.
What a bunch of rubbish!

May 4, 2016 5:20 am

Suharto caused global warming. The pause started when he fell from power.

May 4, 2016 5:28 am

So they are burning forests down to make way for BIOFUELS plantations. Makes a lot of sense.

Reply to  ClimateOtter
May 4, 2016 10:05 am

If it made sense, they wouldn’t be doing it.

May 4, 2016 5:36 am

Well if you can chop down forests to make pellets and call it a green fuel, I guess burning down forests to make green fuels is OK to. How can so many people not understand cause and effect? How can people think those that support this crap are “green”?

May 4, 2016 5:58 am

“an average of 110,000 south-east Asians die every year as a result of the conflagration”

Tom in Texas
Reply to  Eric Worrall
May 4, 2016 6:56 am

Nice Eric, The one main thing I noticed was that the burning of Biomass was extremely harmful because of all the other compounds in the trees. Go UK, Seems that American and Canadian trees are better than yours for this.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
May 4, 2016 6:58 am

Plus global mortality, mainly the third world, is from inhome cooking fires as a result of lack to affordable energy which is not a result of models.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
May 4, 2016 6:57 pm

That certainly makes life simple for you. All Scientific modelling is dismissed. No analysis needed. Modelling is no good.
A few trees? “More than 2.6 million hectares of forest, peat, and other land have burned in 2015 — an area 4.5 times the size of Bali.” “Early estimates of the total economic costs of the fires in 2015 in Indonesia alone exceed US $16 billion.” http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/12/01/indonesias-fire-and-haze-crisis. These claims are probably dismissed with a slight gesture, and “world growth.org” opinion accepted with nary a murmur.

Reply to  Geoffrey Preece
May 5, 2016 12:14 am

Geoffrey Preece

A few trees? “More than 2.6 million hectares of forest, peat, and other land have burned in 2015 — an area 4.5 times the size of Bali.” “Early estimates of the total economic costs of the fires in 2015 in Indonesia alone exceed US $16 billion.”

Yet, in 2014 – after 150 years of supposedly fatal fossil-fuel use, the Antarctic sea ice anomaly – just the “excess” sea ice around Antarctica! – set a all-time satellite era record of 2.14 Million square kilometers! An “excess” sea ice area larger than the entire area of Greenland! And the CAGW propaganda (er, government-funded academic bureaucrats), worried endlessly about glaciers and icebergs the size of Manhattan’s central park. Yes, there are fires. Fires set by desperate individuals starving because they have been denied fossil fuels to run tractors, plows, harvesters, trucks and power plants.
There have been fires burning continuously (and uselessly) in exposed coal seams out West since Lewis and Clark wrote about them in 1803.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Eric Worrall
May 5, 2016 9:06 am

Mr. Preece, you deserve a decent answer. There are two problems with modeled deaths due to ambient air pollution
1: Modeled deaths due to air pollution are well known to be ludicrously inaccurate, based on wild supposition with little actual input or constraint, and often mean people who die at old age slightly before they would have without the effect. While certain things, such as lung disease due to smoke inhalation, are well known, there are other very questionable ones, such as the purported link between particulate emissions and heart attacks, which I personally still cannot wrap my mind around the mechanism. As almost no one has “air pollution” listed on their death certificate, these are also unverifiable. An unverified model is a hypothesis, not data in and of itself. Reporting these results as data is simply false.
2: Even ignoring the accuracy, the deaths due to pollution ignore the very real deaths that would occur due to poverty if there had been no such industry. Poverty kills people on orders of magnitude above all other causes. Worse, people struck down by hunger or disease due to poverty are often young, making their deaths far more tragic than people with slightly shortened lifespans.

Bruce Cobb
May 4, 2016 5:59 am

Eco-whacko Greenie Warmunists truly have no shame. They just love to play “connect the dots” with their fave ideology, CAGW.

May 4, 2016 6:06 am

But isn’t replacing the forest with more CO2 absorbing palms (eventually) carbon neutral? And Indonesia may be “democratic” but has sharia law which hardly fits in with complete western concepts of that term.

Tom in Texas
May 4, 2016 6:18 am

A couple of years back, I was working on a plant redesign for the conversion of palm oil to biodiesel. The large amount of glycerin, water and a few other impurities would need to be removed. One issue that perplexed me was the unit that was chosen spent a little time under water during IKE. This plant was directly on a canal the led to the Houston ship channel. I imagine the best part was most of the equipment. specially the electrical, was at least 8′-0″ above grade and 15′-0″ above normal tide. When the ship channel is on the north side of a Hurricane, well there is not much to slow down the incoming wall of water. Last year when I saw all the fires burning, one thing stood out. Where in the heck were all the greenies. All I can say is follow the money and there they be’s.

Reply to  Tom in Texas
May 5, 2016 9:30 am

Yep, industry is made to weather hurricanes. Homes, not so much.

Mike M the original
May 4, 2016 6:18 am

“Palm oil jobs and income are a major source of employment and poverty alleviation in rural Indonesia.”
Mandates for biofuel and the ban on trans fats created the top two economic incentives to destroy tropical rain forests. We can argue about trans fats until the cows come home but to suggest that alleviating rural poverty somehow justifies biofuel is insanity. Is there any question that the fake demand for solar panels and wind turbines has not enriched the lives of rural Chinese mine workers? So I suppose that “justifies” chopping down forests in Germany to plant solar “farms” as much as biofuel from palm oil justifies destroying rain forests? The “green” movement is not saving the planet – it is destroying it. Biofuel for energy is evil and should be banned world wide.
The demand for palm oil as a biofuel DOUBLED in only six years primarily from the EU biofuel mandate and over 80% of it is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. https://news.mongabay.com/2013/09/europe-importing-more-palm-oil-for-biofuels-raising-risks-for-rainforests/

May 4, 2016 6:36 am

I’m surprised that they didn’t declare that killing trees was as bad as killing people.

Reply to  MarkW
May 4, 2016 6:42 am

Only if that wood is to be used for housing, or cooking, or anything else we’ve been doing the past 15,000 years to advance our quality of life / civilization. If however it gets chopped to make way for solar panels and wind turbines, then it is a GOOD thing.

Reply to  MarkW
May 4, 2016 6:45 am

Ha! Wait til VEGANISM is outlawed as cruelty to plants!

Mike M the original
Reply to  Goldrider
May 4, 2016 7:21 am
Reply to  Goldrider
May 4, 2016 1:47 pm

I’ve had this thought for awhile. First they have to get people off meat, then make it illegal to eat vegetables. I expected the same reasoning with windmills – first shut down the powerplants (coal), then when everyone has grown used to substandard amount of energy from windmills, they would suddenly “discover” that windmills are killing birds – so off will go the windmills as well. That way they’d have us get used to less and less until we’re back to the stone age.
It’s not working though. People – especially meat-eaters – just aren’t co-operating! The push-back is strong and getting stronger. The doom-and-gloomers are getting scared, this time with good reason. They will be running soon.

Bruce Cobb
May 4, 2016 6:52 am

Huge irony alert: it is the biofuels idiocy which is, in large part driving the huge uptick in demand for palm oil. Biofuels, of course, are the sole creation of Warmunist ideology, since they are “carbon-neutral”.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
May 5, 2016 9:33 am

They aren’t claiming problems due to palm oil for biofuels, merely it’s use as a food, especially in chocolate. However, slave labor to make cocoa butter is all good. 🙂
Note: this is supposed to be sarcastic. I realize it’s difficult to tell these days.

Tom Halla
May 4, 2016 7:16 am

So third-world biofuels are now politically incorrect?

May 4, 2016 7:26 am

The hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance in all this is stunning. It’s bad to burn the rain forrest, but good to promote the out of control development of palm oil as a “renewable” fuel.
Palm oil plantations are proliferating throughout the tropics, from Malaysia and Indonesia to Costa Rica. Contrary to the claims of “alleviating poverty” by “empowering” small farmers, the plantations are being subsumed into mega-corporate operations and the locals employed as serfs – as is true with all such agricultural booms. During the height of the banana boom in Panama, faced with a worker strike, the United Fruit company simply shut down an entire huge plantation and moved on, abandoning the town of Puerto Armuelles leaving the locals to fend for themselves.
Walking through a mature palm oil plantation is like some vision of hell, contrary to the pretty pictures you see on the Internet. Darkness at noon. Deep deadfall rapidly covers the ground without constant plowing of new paths by the workers. It is infested with spiders, insects and the birds that feed on them. The trunks of the trees are covered with ferns, while vines and mosses drape from the “leaves.” Working in this environment, especially in the rainy season, must be right up there with, oh say, a copper mine.
But never fear – biological competition is brutal in the tropics. Give it twenty years and an insect will come along, like the beetles that devastated the Australian sugar cane industry, prompting the introduction of cane toads, or the virus that wiped out the banana industry in the very same tropics as the palm oil. Humans love monocultures, nature sees them as big fat evolutionary opportunities.

Reply to  markopanama
May 4, 2016 9:07 am

What’s wrong with pulling up stakes and moving on when unions make your current operation unprofitable?

Reply to  MarkW
May 4, 2016 5:08 pm

Nothing is wrong with efficient labor markets. The liberal fantasy promoted above is that these industrial agricultural operations will create some kind of heaven on earth for the workers in the name of saving the planet. Nothing could be further from the truth.

John W. Garrett
May 4, 2016 7:29 am

Oppenheimer is clearly insane.

May 4, 2016 7:31 am

here, here Eric.
I notice in the list of things that we evil western consumers use into which evil palm oil finds its way at the expense of virgin rainforest, there was no mention of the methyl ester and hydrodeoxygenated biodiesel produced from palm oil; more of the stuff that while costing more energy to produce than it ever provides is nevertheless supposed to help us fight gullible warming.
The word ‘hypocrit’ springs to mind, as it often does when reading this sort of green-blob bovine faeces.

Gary Hladik
Reply to  Erny72
May 4, 2016 1:59 pm

I, too, found it odd that the full article didn’t even mention biofuels, a major reason for increasing palm oil demand. Was the author feeling guilty, perhaps?
As for the CO2, the author shouldn’t get his panties in a bunch about it. Presumably the palm plantations will re-sequester much of it as they mature.

Ed Bo
May 4, 2016 7:49 am

At least it doesn’t have the horrendous environmental consequences that fracturing rock a mile below the earth’s surface does…

The Original Mike M
Reply to  Ed Bo
May 4, 2016 12:30 pm

“horrendous environmental consequences” – Which are a drop in the bucket compared to the EPA’s poisoning of the Cement Creek with 3 million gallons of ACTUALLY dangerous material.
What’s in fracking fluid? http://www.exxonmobilperspectives.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Fracking-fluid-components.png
What kind of poisonous minerals were detected in the King Mine discharge?
https://www.epa.gov/goldkingmine (Notice how generous they are with OUR money huh?)

May 4, 2016 7:58 am

In fairness, a lot of trees HAVE been murdered…

John Harmsworth
Reply to  BallBounces
May 4, 2016 5:46 pm

They were asking for it! All high and mighty!

May 4, 2016 8:04 am

Oppenheimer views the issue in much the same much the same way as his German predecessors did in Namibia in the very early part of the 20th century. At that time Germany controlled the area, and the Kaiser’s government thought it would be a wonderful wildlife park with plenty of resources. The natives who lived on their land kept messing that up with their hunting, and their wood cutting, and all of the other things humans do when they live in a place, so the Germans set about on an organized system of liquidation. Well over 100,000 black men, women, and children were liquidated while the operation ran (look up Namibian Genocide) in one of the first great genocides of the 20th century. (not hard to make the connection to the genocides that were to follow)
The Germans wanted a beautiful, big, park. Those icky natives were in the way. Mass murder seemed (to them) to be the obvious solution, and men like Oppenheimer are the ones who pave the way to its fruition.

Reply to  WWS
May 4, 2016 10:18 am

First of all, I had never heard of the Namibian Genocide. Like other genocides, it is hard to comprehend the human suffering.
However, your assertion that it somehow had to do with a wildlife park seems a little off base. It would appear that the genocides were reprisals for rebellions. Seems the locals didn’t like their land being taken by German settlers. When they tried to take it back, the Germans killed most of them (about 75%).

May 4, 2016 8:11 am

“The fires are started by Indonesian and international companies to burn rainforest and replace it with oil palm plantations.”
Ah, no mention above of the real driver of the palm oil expansion, biofuels. Biofuels are always more expensive than oil or gas. The subsidies they receive prove categorically that they are not economically effective.
Why no mention of this evil driver of this industrial expansion?
Also, as the half-life of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 5 years, all that burning is a transient thing. Yawn.

Reply to  higley7
May 4, 2016 9:09 am

Even more transient than that, since as soon as the fires are out, they are planting oil-palm trees, whose growth will absorb most of the CO2 that the fires released.
Not saying that is a good thing or a bad thing, just commenting on how it affects CO2 balance.

May 4, 2016 9:34 am

I am sure that rain forest is burnt to clear the land for new plantations. However, existing farm fields are bunt to clear the way for the next planting as well. The picture shows a multitude of small fires, rather than a few large ones. To me, this indicates subsistence farmers farming as they always have. Nothing to do with palm oil at all.
Perhaps this article shows that environmentalists hate subsistence farming with the same passion and disdain they have for subsistence fishing.

May 4, 2016 2:02 pm

Up at FT Mac in northern Alberta right now, they are wishing they hadn’t succumb to the pressure of the treehugger outfits. Instead, they should have been doing controlled fire burns and cutting fire breaks. The entire city of 80,000 is being evacuated and some of it has already burned to the ground, as the fire continues to rage and has even gotten into the down town part.

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  Rob
May 4, 2016 5:57 pm

Same thing keeps happening in Australia. Enviromentalists [sic] demand policies that lead to a worse environment. But, of course, they don’t care because, for them, it was never about the environment, it is about control.

Robert of Ottawa
May 4, 2016 5:54 pm

Crocodile tears and gloating over the fires destroying Fort MacMurray, center of the oil sands, from Forest Ethics in a mass e-mailing to its “supporters”.
In the days to come there will be much discussion about the fires and how they fit into patterns of overall planetary warming and increasing wildfires. But for the moment, let’s focus on making sure we are doing everything we can for our fellow citizens in crisis. For more information on the Fort McMurray fire and evacuation, click here.
With a heavy heart,
Karen Mahon
National Director

Disgusting POS is Mahon, Canadian lackey of San Francisco based forest Ethics.

Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
May 4, 2016 8:42 pm

I wonder how the Fort McMurray fire started.

May 4, 2016 5:54 pm

I quote: “… While last year’s fires were the worst on record, fires on a similar scale have burned annually for nearly 20 years, making a mockery of our efforts to curb global warming…”
I am sorry for the victims but the massive release of carbon dioxide that this implies evidently did not change our climate, one way or another. There is simply no experimental demonstration that carbon dioxide changes climate or we would hear it ceaselessly on every propaganda channel.

Johann Wundersamer
May 5, 2016 4:19 am

‘Palm oil is the world’s most commonly used plant-based oil, and the market for it has exploded along with the global middle class. ‘
Because women need fruitrition in theyr hair Shampoo :
Vitamin C, Coffee, cow milk, palm oil. And low fat when affecting their hips.

Johann Wundersamer
May 5, 2016 4:43 am

And that’s how stalinistic communist infiltration works:
Every McDonalds Kolchose looks the same. As every Apple outlet.
And every Hair Shampoo is for Hair nutrition so Cholesterol in Shampoo is a no go.
But for bald man there has to be Coffee, motor oil and nettle extract in Shampoos – antropomorphism:
That fine little hairs on the nettle plant must make my bald get flourish when applied externally.
mod – ad lib

Johann Wundersamer
May 5, 2016 5:31 am

And that’s practical anthromorphism:
porky appraises taste.

May 6, 2016 3:22 am

Conflict palm oil ??? Seriously ?
I live in Jakarta.
This piece is ridiculous.

Brett Keane
Reply to  ImranCan
May 7, 2016 9:58 pm

IIRC, the dictator Soekarno was on his way out after losing to our British Commonwealth forces after invading Borneo. He got his Communist backers to help foment a communist uprising in his favour. That was a bad mistake in a Muslim country and he was replaced by dictator Suharto, with the mass slaughter herein referred to. A very rough potted version.

%d bloggers like this: