“If you haven’t got a concession for rainforest, you have a concession for mining. Everybody wants something out of the rainforests. And it just can’t sustain it.”
- Alan Knight, OBE
Borneo is the planet’s third largest island and is roughly the size of Texas. With more than 15,000 different species of flowering plants, it hosts the largest diversity of trees and plants anywhere on Earth.
A sequence of detailed vegetation maps shows the loss of forest cover over a 70 year period. Starting in 1950 when the forests were virtually intact, the animation extends to 2020 when nearly 95% of the forests are likely to be gone.
The forest and peatland fires which raged in Indonesia in 2015 were a legacy of decades of destruction by palm oil and paper companies. Almost 40% of deforestation between 2011 and 2013 happened in land used by these industries. Increased production has involved the clearing of more virgin forests in South East Asia, which has spelled disaster for local communities.
The rainforests of Indonesia are not only “the lungs of the planet,” they’re home to some of the most unique and endangered species anywhere: pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos, clouded leopards, sun bears, tarsiers, pangolins, and orangutans. Although protected in national parks, due to poaching and a lack of enforcement, their numbers are dwindling.
More than three million acres of forest is cut each year in Indonesia. That amounts to approximately 1% of the remaining forested land - each year. There are perverse incentives at the heart of the destruction taking place on the island of Borneo. Although millions of acres of previously cleared "degraded" land is available for planting, many plantation managers will clear virgin forests for their new crops, instead of using the already available land, so they can profit from the old growth trees they cut to clear the land.Once cleared they replace the forest with a mono crop of oil palm trees.