I grew up in West Papua, which sits in the far west of the world’s biggest archipelago. I studied forestry in the province’s capital, but grew up in another city called Jayapura. If West Papua is considered frontier land, then Jayapura is certainly the wild west.

It’s an obscure and isolated part of the world. Wild, green and untamed, this part of the world is home to one of the earth’s last glaciers in the tropics and some of the richest biodiversity on this planet.

I’ve returned to my old stomping grounds for an important reason. Today, our ship, the Rainbow Warrior III, arrived in Jayapura, Indonesia to begin an ambitious and historic visit. Just three years ago in 2010, the Rainbow Warrior II was unceremoniously escorted back to international waters by the navy. But thankfully no such misunderstanding took place this time. We are here to celebrate my country’s stunning, yet fragile environment.

Rainbow Warrior Arrives in Jayapura © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace


For too long our forests and oceans have been under siege. Fifty years ago, 82% of Indonesia was covered with forests but in the last decade, this has dropped to 48% due to rampant deforestation for paper and oil palm plantations and mining.

Indonesia’s seas are also among the most diverse coastal and marine habitats, but experts identify the country’s coral reefs as among the world’s most threatened biodiversity hotspots, at risk from overfishing, pollution and climate change.

Rainbow Warrior Arrives in Jayapura © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace


But let me tell you why this is important to you, no matter if you’re sitting in Jakarta, London or Berlin.

The destruction of the world’s forests is one of the main causes of climate change, second only to the energy sector. Indonesia loses approximately 1.1 million ha, or 1.2% of its forest area per year.

And believe it or not, according to some estimates, Indonesia ranks as one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, behind countries like the United States and China.

But the world stands to lose a lot more. Only around 400 Sumatran tigers are still left because its habitat is disappearing. And in West Papua the bird of paradise is iconic to the region but now they are threatened as industrial plantations and logging imperil their homes.

My island nation, scattered between the Pacific and Indian oceans is teeming with life and unparalleled beauty, but so much is at threat. I hope our journey aboard the Rainbow Warrior will help support the political will needed so that initiatives like the government’s forest moratorium is strengthened and so industrial fishing doesn't kill our oceans. I hope this journey also will bring hope to other indigenous people on this island, to show that  together we can protect the future.

When I come back in ten years time, West Papua probably won’t be the frontier land it is now. But I sure hope development doesn’t mean losing everything that makes this country so beaituful.

I hope we will at least have learnt how to live in harmony with our environment.

Bustar Maitar is head of the Indonesia Forest Campaign