Thursday, 28 June 2007

Deforestation - the cruel reality

On 27th June I saw a private pre-screening of a BBC programme about orangutans, to be screened on TV on 6 July at 7 pm in the Saving Planet Earth series. The BBC isn't allowed to be political, but this is a political issue. Watch the programme! See what the word deforestation really means.
I came close to despair watching the programme. There is a lot of evidence about the importance of rainforests not just for the creatures that live in them but for the world's climate systems. The trees absorb rainwater and carbon dioxide and put water vapour and oxygen into the atmosphere. It is not just Borneo rainforest but all rainforest that performs this vital role. Once the trees are gone, that process stops. Fertile topsoil is washed away, the land becomes sterile desert and the atmosphere is affected.
What the BBC didn't talk about, but we ought to talk about, is how to get the authorities in Borneo, where orangutans live, to stop the deforestation. If anyone has ideas on how to do that, please get in touch. Even if you don't like animals, it is in all our interests to save the rainforests and indirectly to save the orangutans that live in them.
The programme was about an orphanage for young orangutans which looks after them and reintroduces them to the wild. See or call 08456 521528. They are being orphaned because each orangutan (they are vegetarians) needs the equivalent of about 10 football pitches of rainforest to live. The rainforests are being bulldozed at a rate of 3 football pitches per minute to make way for palm oil plantations. To avoid starvation, the mothers forage for food in the plantations and are macheted to death by local people.
The long-term solution is to find a way for the local people to benefit from the rainforests staying, but since that involves politics, the BBC didn't talk about it much.
The scale of the destruction is vast. About 80% of the apes' habitat has been destroyed in the last 20 years. At this rate it is predicted that they will be extinct in the wild in 10 years' time. But if the Borneo rainforests are saved, so will be the orangutans.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

There is hope. As people become richer the rate of deforestation reduces drastically. To the point of reforestation in many countries.

You do hit the nail on the head with finding ways for people to benefit from keeping rainforest - the solution here is to allow people to own it. Just as with the common fisheries policy, common ownership or state ownership means that people have no incentive to preserve habitat, they take all they can as quickly as possible so nobody else does. Governments are not capable of preventing this.
If someone owns the land however, they will look after its resources. Harvesting some wood, but ensuring that they can make a living off the land for the rest of their lives which means preserving habitat.