Sunday, August 20, 2006

In the Jungle

There are some things that a picture just can not do justice to. The enormousity and depths of the rainforst is one of these things. Pictures just can not capture the sounds, the smells and visual sensations of the jungle, it is one of those things that one could term sublime, awe inspiring.

Its always been one of my dreams to go to a rainforst. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend 4 days in the heart of the Taman Negara rainforest on mainland Malaysia. Scientists believe that the Taman Negara is the world's oldest rainforst, untouched by the glaciers from ice age, staying the same for almost 130 million years (in comparission the Amazon is said to be 10 million years old). Because of this it exists as one of most diverse habitations in the world with more than 350 species of birds, 14000 species of plants, and 210 species of mammals, and new ones being discovered all the time.

Despite this Malaysia's deforestation rate is accelerating faster than that of any other tropical country in the world, according to data from the United Nations. Analysis of figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shows that Malaysia's annual deforestation rate jumped almost 86 percent between the 1990-2000 period and 2000-2005. In total, Malaysia lost an average of 140,200 hectares — 0.65 percent of its forest area — per year since 2000. Declining forest cover in Malaysia results primarily from urbanization, agricultural fires, and forest conversion for oil-palm plantations and other forms of agriculture. What's more, to meet Kyoto protocol commitments, governments are trying to palm off (excuse the pun) biomass as fuels (biofuel) as a solution to climate change. Biofuels are mostly carbon neutral, and switching from fossil fuels to biodiesel is promoted as a solution to climate change. Rainforests will be threatened by increased demand for agricultural products to be raised on once forested lands, and by use of forest biomass as a fuel. An unregulated rush to biofuels will lead to more natural rainforest loss and fragmentation, increased pressures upon endangered primary forests, and more monoculture, herbicide laden and genetically modified tree plantations.

The governments of Europe and America need to acknowledge the ways in which they contribute to deforestation and stop them. Firstly There will be no chance to stop impoverishment of people and the destruction of nature in these nations without a solution to the debt crisis. The five countries with the largest rainforest areas are also among the world's most heavily indebted countries, and pressure to cut and clear the rainforests to finance debt repayment has intensified. The conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund often force heavily indebted countries to sell their natural resources far in excess of sustainable exploitation. The Debt Burden is a symptom of the global economic system which enables overdeveloped countries to exploit poor countries and consume the world's resources at an unsustainable rate. Any lasting solution to the problem of tropical deforestation requires an end to the present suicidal overconsumption and obsession with economic growth in the West.

I was sat on the other side of the Tamen Negara looking at this wonderful expanse of rainforest. My guide told me that all of the land on that side of the river had been bought by a palm oil company. Within 5 years there would be no rainforest there at all.

Useful References

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