Indonesian Deforestation


Written by Jamie Woolley
24 Monday 24th November 2008

Last week I was involved in a major direct action halfway around the world in Indonesia. For the past six weeks, I've been on board our ship Esperanza which has been highlighting the damage being done to the country's forests by the expanding palm oil, pulpwood and paper industries, and the impact this is having on climate change. As the tour draws to a close, we're going out with a bang, blocking palm oil exports from a major port in Sumatra.

You can help too: write to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of Indonesia, and tell him to end the destruction of these incredible forests by clicking here.

Banner in the devastated forests of Riau province

It's been an action-packed week, starting with a massive banner in the devastated forests of Riau province, where oil palm and acacia plantations are rapidly replacing the dense forests and carbon-rich peatlands. When these peatlands are drained and burnt, vast quantities of greenhouse gases are released.

occupying the anchor chainWe moved on to the port of Dumai, where we painted 'Forest Crime' slogans on palm oil tankers. Then one of our climbers prevented a giant tanker, loaded with crude palm oil, from departing its destination in the Netherlands by occupying the anchor chain for nearly 24 hours before the police forced him down.

ChainAn hour before dawn the next day, theEsperanza moved in to block a tanker from docking and so prevented it from loading up its cargo of palm oil. She kept her position for a few hours, until two tugs forced the Esperanza out of the harbour. So, while it was disappointing that we were unable to continue the blockade for longer, we achieved an awful lot in the time that we had.

The producers of the palm oil shipments we've been obstructing, such as Sinar Mas and Wilmar, are all members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an organisation which is supposed to improve environmental and social standards in the industry. But these and other RSPO members are still destroying valuable forests and peatlands, so the organisation currently is nothing more than greenwash for companies like Sinar Mas. We're calling for the RSPO to immediately tighten its standards.



Climate crime

But after the week of direct actions there has been a sudden eagerness on the part of Sinar Mas to talk to our campaigners. The other day we spoke to Daud Dharsono, president director of Sinar Mas. When challenged about the deforestation his company is perpetrating, his response was, "It's only a small area." However, Dharsono has agreed to a meeting at the meeting of the RSPO in Bali. But we've made it clear that we won't halt our exposes and actions until Sinar Mas publicly backs a moratorium on deforestation in Indonesia.

What we're doing on board the Esperanza continues the work we did earlier this year to convince companies like Unilever - which buy palm oil from Indonesia and elsewhere for use in foods and cosmetics - to put an end to deforestation and peatland destruction. Only by working on all links in the palm oil chain, as well as politicians in Indonesia, will we reach our goal - a moratorium on all deforestation here.

Write to the president of Indonesia now, because only he can put an immediate stop to the devastation of these magnificent and vital forests. CLICK HERE 

You can get the latest updates from the Esperanza on our ship tour blog here


Jamie Woolley

All images credited Novis/Greenpeace.

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