If Indonesia is the lungs of the earth, then Papua are the lungs of Indonesia. This part of the world, a seemingly forgotten place with lush evergreen forests, features some of the richest biodiversity in the world. I'm Weiju Lu, forest campaigner of Greenpeace East Asia, and recently I joined a ship tour that visited Papua. It was with honour to have been given this opportunity to sail with the Rainbow Warrior. The Rainbow Warrior has been the heart and soul of Greenpeace global campaigning for over 30 years, and this time it came to Indonesia to document a breathtaking yet fragile environment.
On May 9, the rainbow warrior and iconic ship of Greenpeace, arrived in Jayapura, Papua. The native Papuan dancers welcomed the Rainbow Warrior with their traditional dance. The dance was passionate, full of vitality and joy. “Indonesia is home to some of the richest biodiversity spots on earth, but continued land clearance to make way for industrial plantations and overfishing of our country’s oceans are putting all of this at risk. We hope our visit will support the political will needed to save this precious part of the world and add to growing momentum to have forests moratorium strengthened.” Greenpeace Indonesia’s Country Director, Longgena Ginting said in the opening speech.
The most unforgettable moment of the ship tour was when we went to Kwatisore for a local community visit and learned from the people how they live in harmony with the forest. Most of the villagers in Kwatisore plant two types of trees which they call Gaharu and Mohosi. Villagers will collect the bark of Gaharu and Mohosi then sell it to the nearest city. The bark of these trees can be transformed into a perfume ingredient. In this way villagers are able to make a living from planting those trees without harming the forest. However sustainable practices when it comes to natural resource management are under threat. One of these key threats is palm oil plantation expansion.
China is the second largest importing country of palm oil after India, with EU ranking third. World demand for palm oil is expected to reach 77 million tonnes in 2050 due to increased use in processed foods and personal care items, and the increased affluence of emerging economies like China, India and Indonesia. As demand for palm oil increases, substantial areas of tropical forests are often cleared to make room for large plantations. Indonesia loses approximately 1.1 million ha, or 1.2% of its forest area per year.
Deforestation is not only leading to the loss of forest and biodiversity in Indonesia but also contributing to carbon emissions, making Indonesia the third largest emitter in the world.
As we all live on the same planet, we share the same responsibility to protect the environment. To protect the forest from destruction should be everyone’s obligation. As a consuming country, Chinese people could ask companies to provide them with deforestation-free palm oil products in order to support efforts to protect Indonesian forests.
Image: Papuan traditional dancers celebrate the arrival Rainbow Warrior in Manokwari, Papua. The Rainbow Warrior is in Indonesia to document one of the world’s most biodiverse – and threatened – environments. © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace