My friend Reverend Catherine Gross made me aware recently of a tiger that died a horrible death in Indonesia. This tiger is one of only 400 tigers left in the wild today. Tigers are a critically endangered species.
But there is more to the story than just the tiger. The tiger lives, as many do, in the rainforests of Indonesia and his habitat is being destroyed at alarming rates. Indonesia has lost 40 percent of its forest cover in the past 50 years. Between 2000 and 2005, loggers cleared an area the size of Portugal. Today, roads slice through the few remaining places where tigers live, meaning tiger-human conflicts are increasingly common. This habitat destruction forces tigers to have to move further and to different areas to find food for themselves and to have a place in which to live and raise their young. This particular tiger became trapped in a trap which was set to capture a pig, not a tiger. By the time rescuers located the tiger, he had suffered for days with his injuries in that trap and soon died.
There is one company among others primarily responsible for much of the Indonesian rainforest destruction: Asia Pulp and Paper aka ‘APP’. Many companies in the U.S. and around the world buy paper products from APP. Looking at their website, we can see a lot of claims made by them about “sustainability” and “green” practices. However, in reality, their practices don’t match up with their claims.
Mother Jones magazine has a couple features on this company, the first of which is called “How KFC and the Tea Party Kill Tigers“. The article states:
APP still has a firm hold on the US paper market. According to Greenpeace, KFC and several other fast-food chains owned by Yum Brands are among its major US buyers. And it enjoys political support, too: In March, the New York Times reported that the Tea Party-affiliated group Institute for Liberty has been lobbying to protect APP’s right to sell paper products to the US without having to pay tarrifs. (The Insitute for Liberty is known for its massive pro-business astroturfing efforts;it has defended Monsanto’s right to sell genetically modified alfalfa, and MoJo’s Stephanie Mencimer recently reported on its campaign against net neutrality.)
APP has tried to spiff up its environmental rep with a major PR push; its website claims that it is “committed to protecting biological diversity, particularly with regards to native plant species, Sumatran tigers, elephants, orangutans, birds and other animals.” The site also brags that APP’s carbon footprint is “remarkably close to neutral.” But last year, the Rainforest Action Network revealed that APP’s calculations of its footprint are sorely lacking, since they don’t take into consideration the carbon-storing peatlands that APP has destroyed.
Despite the greenwashing, APP’s lousy environmental track record finally seems to be catching up with it; several American chains, including Staples, Office Depot, and Target, recently ended their contracts with the paper giant. Will others follow suit before it’s too late for the tigers?
Another article from Mother Jones details the horrible death of this beautiful tiger: VIDEO: Sumatran Tiger Killed in Pig Trap
Because of habitat loss in the Indonesian rainforest, this big Asian cat is among the most endangered species in the world: Only 400 of them are left in the wild. (There’s some incredible footage of them here.) The major force driving the clear-cutting around their home is Asia Pulp & Paper, a vast paper company that wields a lot of power; its clients include Disney and several major toy manufacturers.
Earlier this month, in Riau, Indonesia, one of the 400 tigers stumbled into a snare set by villagers who wanted to catch pigs. When Indonesian conservationists learned of the situation a few days later, they sent in a rescue team to free the tiger, which by that point was badly wounded.
Indonesia has lost 40 percent of its forest cover in the last 50 years. The deforestation has been particularly intense in the last decade: Between 2000 and 2005, loggers cleared an area the size of Portugal. Today, roads slice through the few remaining places where tigers live, meaning tiger-human conflicts are increasingly common. The villagers who set the pig trap didn’t mean to ensnare a tiger, but because of clear-cutting, they could easily reach the formerly remote corners of the forest that used to belong to the tigers.
Asia Pulp & Paper, which logs regularly in the area in Riau where the tiger was trapped, has come under fire for its habitat-destroying practices. In turn, American companies that buy from APP have been criticized for doing business with APP. The outcry has yielded some positive changes: Last month, as a result of a Greenpeace campaign, Mattel promised to stop buying from APP.
Another article from GreenPeace is entitled: ‘Walmart, Kentucky Fried Chicken and other major brands driving rainforest destruction and pushing tigers and orangutans to extinction‘:
Beijing/Jakarta/London 6 July 2010 – Walmart, Auchan, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) are amongst the global brands fueling climate change and pushing Sumatran tigers and orang-utans towards the brink of extinction by using or selling paper made from Indonesia’s rainforests for products like cups, photocopy and tissue paper, a new Greenpeace report reveals today.
The report, ‘How Sinar Mas is Pulping the Planet‘, shows how major international companies are driving the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands by sourcing paper from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) , part of the notorious Sinar Mas group.
Ma Lichao, Greenpeace China forest campaigner, said: “This investigation shows how major international companies like Walmart and KFC are causing Indonesia’s peatland and forests to be slashed and burned for every-day paper products. Some of the world’s best known brands are pulping the planet.”
Greenpeace investigated two important rainforest areas on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and discovered that Sinar Mas is wreaking environmental havoc in both. The Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape is one of the last refuges for endangered Sumatran tigers and orang-utans. Kerumutan’s carbon rich peatlands are a key defence against climate change; some of the forest’s peat is deeper than three meters and thus illegal to clear under Indonesian law. Sinar Mas’ paper arm APP uses the logs from these rainforest areas to feed its Sumatran based pulp mills, which export pulp and paper products worldwide.
“These are just two of many important rainforests being decimated by Sinar Mas for pulp and paper and palm oil expansion. Indonesian President Yudyohono’s new commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation will be undermined unless he extends the moratorium on new deforestation licenses to cover all forest and peatlands that are currently slated for destruction by Sinar Mas and other companies,” said Ma Lichao.
Several leading companies have already responded to Greenpeace’s evidence of the Sinar Mas group’s illegal and destructive environmental practices in Indonesia and are cancelling their contracts with the palm oil and paper giant.
Today, Carrefour confirmed that it has already stopped buying from APP for its own brands, and Tesco has announced that it will do the same by the end of the year. In addition, Kraft has confirmed that it is phasing out APP paper and packaging, while Kimberly-Clark, Nestlé, and Unilever are implementing new policies that will also rule out supplies from APP, unless the company and its suppliers make substantial changes. Unilever, Kraft, and Nestlé have also dropped contracts with Golden Agri Resources (GAR), the Sinar Mas group’s palm oil arm, following recent Greenpeace campaigns.
“Sinar Mas is not only guilty of environmental abuses but is a repeat offender – its ‘sustainability commitments’ are not worth the paper they are written on. Greenpeace is calling on all companies like Walmart and KFC to stop doing business with Sinar Mas immediately. It also urges them to publicly support the need for the Indonesian government to fully protect Indonesia’s peatlands and to stop all rainforest destruction,” continued Ma Lichao.
The destruction of rainforests and peatlands is the key reason why Indonesia accounts for around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation. According to recent government estimates, Indonesia ranks as the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter.
The GreenPeace article and report referenced above was published in 2010. However the article detailing the horrific death of that precious tiger was dated July 25th, 2011 – the 25th day of the 25th month of Michael’s death.
That means that although many companies are modifying their policies to avoid buying pulp and paper from Sinar Mas/APP, and though Indonesian President SBY signed a limited decree in May 2011 declaring a two-year moratorium on new forest concessions to APP and other paper and palm oil companies, the problem still exists. The Indonesian rainforest is still being destroyed at an alarming rate, and the habitats of tigers, orangutans and other animals and plant species, some of which may not even exist in other parts of the world, are being destroyed with them.
And even worse, there’s this from SaveTheRainforests.org:
Often described as the Earth’s lungs, only in reverse, the tropical rainforests, take in vast quantities of carbon dioxide (a poisonous gas which mammals exhale) and through the process of photosynthesis, converts it into clean, breathable air.
Tragically, the tropical rainforests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. According to Rainforest Action Network, more than an acre-and-a-half is lost every second of every day. That’s an area more than twice the size of Florida that goes up in smoke every year! “If present rates of destruction continue, half our remaining rainforests will be gone by the year 2025, and by 2060 there will be no rainforests remaining.”
Every second . . we lose an area the size of two football fields!
Every minute . . we lose an area 29 times the size of the Pentagon!
Every hour . . . we lose an area 684 times larger than the New Orleans Superdome!
Every day . . . we lose an area larger than all five boroughs of New York City!
Every week . . . we lose an area twice the size of Rhode Island!
Every month . . .we lose an area the size of Belize!
Every year . . . we lose an area more than twice the size of Florida!
Unless Indonesian President Yudyohono extends the moratorium on new deforestation licenses to cover all forest and peatlands that are currently slated for destruction by Sinar Mas and other companies, this destruction will continue.
As I mentioned, on May 19th, 2011, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree to bring into force a two-year moratorium on new forest concessions. The moratorium was supposed to start in January 2011. The president was given a choice of two decrees to sign. One covered all forests, including peatlands. The other covered only primary forests and peatlands. Yudhoyono chose the latter.
Paul Winn of Greenpeace Australia-Pacific said, “This is a bitter disappointment. It will do little to protect Indonesia’s forests and peatlands. Seventy-five percent of the forests purportedly protected by this moratorium are already protected under existing Indonesian law, and the numerous exemptions further erode any environmental benefits.”
Teguh Surya of Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) told the Jakarta Post that “The President ignored input from civil society who care about conserving forests and threw its support to big businesses, such as palm oil plantations.”
The fact that the decree is late is probably not too important in the long run. It will run for two years from today. Whether two years is long enough is, of course, another question. However, the fact that the decree is too little is a disaster for Indonesia’s forests, indigenous peoples and local communities.
In the days before President Yudhoyono signed the less effective limited decree, RAN (Rainforest Action Network) sent a briefing note to more than 100 companies that consume pulp, paper and palm oil, requesting that they support a robust moratorium on forest concessions in Indonesia. The briefing said in part:
The Rainforest Action Network welcomes President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s leadership and strong international commitments to reduce Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions from its forest sector.
We encourage international customers and investors to do the same, by adopting environmental and social safeguards relating to their own investments and supply chains and by supporting a broad, clear and verified moratorium administered by non-interested parties that will effectively address deforestation and forest and peatland degradation.
Remember some of Michael’s last words before he died? His intent was to make his last tour primarily about saving the planet thus, ‘Earth Song‘ being planned as major feature of the shows.
I respect the secrets and magic of nature. That’s why it makes me so angry when I see these things that are happening in the world: that every second I hear the size of a football field is torn down in the Amazon. That kind of stuff really bothers me. That’s why I write these kinds of songs you know – to get some sense of awareness and awakening and hope to people. I love – I love the planet. I love trees – I have this thing for trees and the color and changing of leaves…I LOVE it. I respect those kind of things.
I really feel that nature is trying to compensate for man’s mismanagement of the planet. The planet is sick – like a fever. If we don’t fix it now its at the point of no return. This is our last chance to fix this problem that we have or its like a runaway train. The time has come “This is It”. People are always saying.. “Oh they- they’ll take care of it.” “The government will d-they’ll” They who? It starts with us. US. Or else it’ll never be done.