Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, October 22, 2015



Two years ago, the DUNER BLOG correctly predicted that the People's Republic of China would overtake the USA as the world's largest carbon-emitting nation on earth. We were correct. However, we are totally surprised to see a new entry at the #2 spot in the year 2015: Indonesia. No...the enormous island nation hasn't industrialized overnight...forest fires are raging out of control. They are spewing more pollution into the atmosphere than the American people do. Sure...the fires will eventually burn out or be extinguished by a tropical storm. Since there is zero chance of American driving less...Or China burning less coal...Indonesia's time as a Top Polluter Nation is short lived. But still worth noting!!

You're asking: Just how bad are these fires? So far, 1000,000 individual blazes have scorched 4.2 million acres. But what makes these infernos so dangerous is the tropical habitat they burn. 52% of the area affected are Peat-lands. These moist swamps contain the largest amounts of carbon of any landscape on the planet. Gizmodo calls them; "A pollution bomb, smoldering through centuries-old soil carbon and spewing COand methane into the atmosphere at record rates." Yikes! Only the SuperFriends could solve this!

A state of emergency has been in effect for months on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. In the city on Banjarmasin, air pollution levels reached a staggering 2,300 PSA on the Pollutant Standards Index. This is a new all-time record! More than 140,000 people have been hospitalized for respiratory illness. But it's not just Indonesia that is getting hit. This atomic-like explosion has invaded the entire Southeast Asian atmosphere. In short, people in Singapore and Malaysia haven't seen the sun in three months. Marathons and concerts have been cancelled. Tourism has pummeled: Last week, seven hikers were burned alive.

Singapore's Ferris Wheel doesn't look like much fun today!
How did it all start? Borneo and Sumatra (the world's third and sixth largest islands) have little government...but lots of natural resources. "It is the habit of locals to burn land in hope that new buds will grow" Major General Siburian explained. "It's passed down for generations. Unfortunately, this year, the spot fires have quickly spread." In addition to local farmers, these unregulated islands are a haven for shady, unregulated entrepreneurs. After the 'slash and burn,' cleared land is used for ranching and farming cash crops. As the general said, 2015 has been an abnormally dry year, and Indonesia has received much less rainfall than on average. Once all these fires start... Well, you know the rest.

While its easy to dismiss a forest fire on the Equator as completely unimportant to one's daily life, we here at the DUNER BLOG ask you to pause for a moment. Think about what future generations will ask when they read about people in the year 2015. 'Why didn't they send in the UN Fire Department?' they'll ponder. Everyone knows: As the population of the planet grows, natural resources become more and more important. Borneo and Sumatran rainforests and peatlands need our attention now. Until we get rescued by the SUPER FRIENDS, it's up to us!

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