Indonesian Fires – Joining up the dots

Guest post by Rupert Bear.

As this catastrophic environmental disaster unfolds it will be interesting to see how the media reports it and whether the bloody dots are joined up. I am picking that it will go mainly unreported and the “dots” will remain (a little fresher – blood red and sticky) but largely unjoined for the moment.

At least as far back as [June 2013 the World Bank][1] was warning that climate change made what we are seeing now in Indonesia likely. It also makes it very likely in a lot of other places.

Not that in 2013 (or 2015 for that matter) this report was ever likely to influence the greedy shortsightedness that presently directs Big Business, delivering our world to this and many, many other similar tragedies.

Now being described as a [“crime against humanity”][2] the fires in Indonesia are really crimes against nature. **Humanity is so arrogant, even in how we admit our environmental guilt.**

Through the eye searing smog that now shrouds these beautiful islands we can see the tipping points of many catastrophes and sense in the gloom greater yet more terrifying ends. Rare species, both plant and animal, already on the edge of their existence will have been terrifyingly tipped into the oblivion. Borneo pygmy elephants, Sumatran elephants, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinoceroses, and both species of Orangutan placed beyond recovery ? A population with well over 250 million will become that much more fragile socially, economically and politically. Some cultures will be lost.

Rather than increasing a desire to co-operate with us, this event will bring pressure in opposite and unhelpful ways upon the people of Indonesia. Given the vacuum in the production of Palm Oil and it’s byproducts we can see worse is to come.

Global palm oil production is dominated by Indonesia and Malaysia. These two countries together account for around 85 to 90 percent of total global palm oil production. Indonesia is currently the largest producer and exporter of palm oil worldwide.

The massive impact that these fires have had on Indonesia’s ability to supply the global market will create a fury of similar short sighted and destructive response – both within the region and around the world. **Slash and burn is the quickest route to fast profit**.

In all the places where the last thing we should do is slash and burn that is exactly what the blue suits of business will be directing to take place.

You may be sure this is what is happening right now. From the board rooms of Astra, Bakrie, Cargill and of course **Wilmar** to the stock market floors around the world, money is being directed to achieve exactly this outcome. Effectively creating environmental damage by several magnitudes greater than these Indonesian fires.

And why would they not? – the collapse of supply in Indonesia, in the parlance of business, is an **opportunity for a killing**.

Someone’s loss is another one’s gain. Except we all lose in this game. Supply capacity will be replaced from elsewhere in the region, South America, Africa – anywhere the land and native people can be exploited.

Wilmar is the largest palm oil trading company in the world, accounting for about 45% of globally traded palm oil and holding a ‘land bank’ of over 600,000 hectares, principally in Sabah, Sarawak, Sumatra and Kalimantan in Malaysia and Indonesia. It is also expanding its operations into Africa.

Here in New Zealand RD1 and therefore Fonterra have a special tie to Wilmar International – [they buy PKE a Palm Oil byproduct exclusively from them.][3] Surprisingly Wilmar have been described as the [worse company in the world.][4]

And this is where it gets more interesting and difficult for everyone. Fonterra now have real PR difficulties with their relationship to PKE and their shareholders. In September Fonterra issued [new guidelines to farmers to limit their use of PKE][5].

PKE, is produced from the mechanical extraction of oil from the fruit of the oil palm, it is popular with dairy farmers as a cheap source of supplementary fibre, particularly in droughts and floods and when grass runs out. Something that tends to happen a lot sooner when you are intensively farming land (more hooves on the land and then some). It is something that also happens more often thanks to climate change.

**Feed industry figures show New Zealand imported 2.01 million tonnes of PKE last year, up 25.7 per cent on the previous 12 months.** That is a lot of PKE ! Seems our farms have been using too much of it.

In a letter to farmers, Fonterra said to future-proof its position as a trusted supplier of pasture-based milk it wanted to increase that value by ensuring milk came from predominantly grass-fed cows.

To achieve this it was establishing guidelines for the use of PKE, recommending a maximum of 3kg per cow per day.

“Currently, these guidelines are voluntary…..” the letter said.

[The New Zealand Herald reported][6] Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard saying farmers would take a dim view on cutting back on palm kernel.

“It’s been fairly contentious among farmer-shareholders,” he said. “It hasn’t gone down too well.”

Well this is a fine mess. Luckily we have Tim Grosser and the TPPA and a free market. Welcome to climate change – **this changes everything** !

https://youtu.be/IpuSt_ST4_U

[1]: http://blogs.wsj.com/indonesiarealtime/2013/06/22/could-climate-change-worsen-southeast-asias-forest-fires/
[2]: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/26/indonesias-fires-crime-against-humanity-hundreds-of-thousands-suffer
[3]: https://www.fonterra.com/nz/en/Recycle+Bin/Sustainability/Environment/Palm+Kernel+Expeller+%28PKE%29
[4]: http://www.alimenterre.org/en/breve/palm-oil-giant-wilmar-ranked-the-worst-company-in-the-world
[5]: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/rural/284929/farmers-told-to-limit-palm-kernel-feed
[6]: http://m.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11520977

Environmental catastrophe in Indonesia has NZ link

Rupertdebear drew attention in today’s Open Forum to an ongoing environmental disaster in Indonesia.

The catastrophic environmental, financial, social disaster presently taking place in Indonesia is grossly under reported in our media. Why? Radio New Zealand have some reporting on what is taking place with a comment that links the events to New Zealand Farming.

He linked to an RNZ report  Indonesian haze chokes orangutans.

Indonesia’s threatened orangutans are being choked by the haze from the land-clearing fires burning on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, and being driven out of their habitat into farmland, where they risk being shot.

They covered more of the poor cute animals in danger story before getting to the crux of the problems.

The smoke in this part of the Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan has been dense for three months.

Visibility at times is less than 50 metres, and the pollution is so thick that an estimated half a million people are suffering from acute respiratory problems.

The scale of this man-made disaster is immense.

One organisation, the Global Fires Emissions Database, estimates Indonesia has overtaken China and the United States to become the world’s biggest polluter.

It is extraordinary for a nation without major heavy industry and where most people cannot afford to drive cars.

Repeating: The scale of this man-made disaster is immense.

But as Rupetdebear says the media in New Zealand don’t seem to have been particularly interested. Rugby has been far more important it seems.

But there is a New Zealand connection to the massive deforestation as our farmers use KDE, a palm plant by product. The expansion of palm production has driven deforestation in South East Asia.

Maggy Wassilieff explains:

The drivers for increased palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia are:
1. very productive plant
2. The demand for trans-free vegetable oils (FDA regulations)
3. The demand for biodiesel.

The palm kernel foodstock is a byproduct of palm-oil production.
It was never the driver for the plantations.
Ill-judged green ideas on biomass fuels and “healthy” foods have played a role in the environmental destruction of Asia’s finest tropical rainforests.

And Rupertdebear adds a long comment but it’s worth repeating in a post:

PKE is a byproduct of these industries which in themselves have dirty secrets large and small. The whole question of Palm Oil is a subject of complex considerations and difficult decisions.

However it is significant that there is compelling evidence that here, in NZ, substantial amounts of PKE are derived from uncertified sources. In other words it is illegal under one or several jurisdiction and certainly immoral and unethical. Leaving this where it falls, I believe that New Zealand farming sector needs to be held to account. In a recent exchange on the Radio New Zealand website I posted this response the recent environmental report on farming.

I am not providing the links here – but you may follow my authorities here:

rnztalk.nz/t/farming-damaging-environment-report/1846/17

Many of us think that the environmental damage caused by New Zealand farming is serious. It gives rise for deep concern on many levels. Issues of cost and efficiency, public health including the imminent threat to our water supply and long term food safety, animal welfare, even how we think of our self as a nation and our international reputation. The list could go on.

Many of us have seen the environmental problems with our own eyes. As someone who retains a close association with the land, I recognize such damage when I see it. Even if I had not had this experience, a casual reading of the media would alert me.

This month the Otago Regional Council’s regulatory committee heard that non-compliance in the 2014-15 financial year was the second highest since the council introduced its effluent discharge enforcement policy in 2007-08. Action over “effluent rule” breaches also peaked in 2014-15, with 18 infringement notices issued and 25 prosecutions undertaken.

Travel south and the situation appears worse. Hundreds of Canterbury dairy farmers have been caught out breaking their resource consent conditions
.
A report by Environment Canterbury (ECan) found more than a third of dairy farms were breaking effluent discharge rules in the last 12 months. In the Orari-Opihi-Parora zone, the third largest in the region, more farms were breaking the rules than following them.

At the beginning of this decade the Crafar Farms became the poster boys for dirty farming. Over a five year period (2007 -2011) multiple pollution and animal welfare offences of the most sickening kind took place – protected, one suspects in large part, by the money involved. At the end it was estimated the Crafar Farms owed $NZ200 million.

Lessons from The Crafar Farms are many but two that are particularly relevant are debt driven compromises and overstocking. The constant chase for the next dollar and unforeseen consequences – perhaps.

One of the many disturbing aspects of this type of crime was the time it took agencies charged with controlling pollution and animal welfare to effectively respond. As reported in 2009 by the New Zealand Herald there are questions (that are still unanswered) about how MAF dealt with the Crafar Farms. These questions include how animals were slaughtered and the speed with which authorities moved to bring under control a management that simply wasn’t managing in the best interests of anyone – man nor beast.

If you think that our authorities are now onto the question of farm related pollution you might want to think again. How does 11 years of polluting sound. To put this into context consider this question, what is the difference between a terrorist and a farmer?

What might be your response to the discovery that a “terrorist” was planning to release toxins into your water supply or poison your food ?

How about someone who releases 300,000 litres of effluent into a river on the Coromandel over a nine hour period ?

Well a Coromandel farmer was found to have done this and far worse in August this year. Over a period of 11 years a “staggering” amount of dairy effluent seeped into the Tairua River. He was finally fined less than $10,000 per year.

“In some respects this is about as bad as it gets,” said council investigations manager Patrick Lynch.

“Often we find discharges that result from carelessness, or even negligence, but someone deliberately polluting is rare, thankfully.”

Well I agree with Mr Lynch that we can be thankful that deliberate pollution is rare but I think we should be very concerned that they often find discharges that result from carelessness!

It is this careless risk that really speaks to the problem. What we know of the incidence of pollution from farming is but the tip of the iceberg. The far greater amount goes undetected except in our analysis of water quality. And the report card on this continues to frighten. As NIWA states:

“Despite a comprehensive clean-up of dirty ‘point-source’ discharges in the 1990s, water quality in many of our lakes and rivers is still declining. The cause this time is ‘diffuse-source’ pollution associated with intensive land use, particularly pastoral farming”.

And it is not as if we have only just discovered this. Read about the outbreak of bacillary dysentery in 1965-66 mainly centred in Stratford and the general problem with pollution from the Waitangi Tribunal.

The problem is well documented, well understood and closely related to our approach to climate change. Similar forms of denial are evident in both cases. Indeed in the way that we tolerate the destruction of our environment we see the tolerance to the destruction of our planet.

As I write this a fire is raging across the 5000-kilometre length of Indonesia.

To quote the link I am providing

“It is surely, on any objective assessment, more important than anything else taking place today. And it shouldn’t require a columnist, writing in the middle of a newspaper, to say so. It should be on everyone’s front page”.

A great tract of the Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st Century – so far.

On this news site the most dominant story is one of Rugby!

I encourage you to follow the link above and see where we are heading. Watch the video it is happening now and it is horrifying.

Many of us think that the environmental damage caused by New Zealand farming is serious. It gives rise for deep concern on many levels. Issues of cost and efficiency, public health including the imminent threat to our water supply and long term food safety, animal welfare, even how we think of our self as a nation and our international reputation. The list could go on.

Many of us have seen the environmental problems with our own eyes. As someone who retains a close association with the land, I recognize such damage when I see it. Even if I had not had this experience, a casual reading of the media would alert me.

This month the Otago Regional Council’s regulatory committee heard that non-compliance in the 2014-15 financial year was the second highest since the council introduced its effluent discharge enforcement policy in 2007-08. Action over “effluent rule” breaches also peaked in 2014-15, with 18 infringement notices issued and 25 prosecutions undertaken.

Travel south and the situation appears worse. Hundreds of Canterbury dairy farmers have been caught out breaking their resource consent conditions
.
A report by Environment Canterbury (ECan) found more than a third of dairy farms were breaking effluent discharge rules in the last 12 months. In the Orari-Opihi-Parora zone, the third largest in the region, more farms were breaking the rules than following them.

At the beginning of this decade the Crafar Farms became the poster boys for dirty farming. Over a five year period (2007 -2011) multiple pollution and animal welfare offences of the most sickening kind took place – protected, one suspects in large part, by the money involved. At the end it was estimated the Crafar Farms owed $NZ200 million.

Lessons from The Crafar Farms are many but two that are particularly relevant are debt driven compromises and overstocking. The constant chase for the next dollar and unforeseen consequences – perhaps.

One of the many disturbing aspects of this type of crime was the time it took agencies charged with controlling pollution and animal welfare to effectively respond. As reported in 2009 by the New Zealand Herald there are questions (that are still unanswered) about how MAF dealt with the Crafar Farms. These questions include how animals were slaughtered and the speed with which authorities moved to bring under control a management that simply wasn’t managing in the best interests of anyone – man nor beast.

If you think that our authorities are now onto the question of farm related pollution you might want to think again. How does 11 years of polluting sound. To put this into context consider this question, what is the difference between a terrorist and a farmer?

What might be your response to the discovery that a “terrorist” was planning to release toxins into your water supply or poison your food ?

How about someone who releases 300,000 litres of effluent into a river on the Coromandel over a nine hour period ?

Well a Coromandel farmer was found to have done this and far worse in August this year. Over a period of 11 years a “staggering” amount of dairy effluent seeped into the Tairua River. He was finally fined less than $10,000 per year.

“In some respects this is about as bad as it gets,” said council investigations manager Patrick Lynch.

“Often we find discharges that result from carelessness, or even negligence, but someone deliberately polluting is rare, thankfully.”

Well I agree with Mr Lynch that we can be thankful that deliberate pollution is rare but I think we should be very concerned that they often find discharges that result from carelessness!

It is this careless risk that really speaks to the problem. What we know of the incidence of pollution from farming is but the tip of the iceberg. The far greater amount goes undetected except in our analysis of water quality. And the report card on this continues to frighten. As NIWA states:

“Despite a comprehensive clean-up of dirty ‘point-source’ discharges in the 1990s, water quality in many of our lakes and rivers is still declining. The cause this time is ‘diffuse-source’ pollution associated with intensive land use, particularly pastoral farming”.

And it is not as if we have only just discovered this. Read about the outbreak of bacillary dysentery in 1965-66 mainly centred in Stratford and the general problem with pollution from the Waitangi Tribunal.

The problem is well documented, well understood and closely related to our approach to climate change. Similar forms of denial are evident in both cases. Indeed in the way that we tolerate the destruction of our environment we see the tolerance to the destruction of our planet.

As I write this a fire is raging across the 5000-kilometre length of Indonesia.

To quote the link I am providing

“It is surely, on any objective assessment, more important than anything else taking place today. And it shouldn’t require a columnist, writing in the middle of a newspaper, to say so. It should be on everyone’s front page”.

A great tract of the Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st Century – so far.

On this news site the most dominant story is one of Rugby!

I encourage you to follow the link above and see where we are heading. Watch the video it is happening now and it is horrifying.