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The Burning of Southeast Asia A recent article in Socialist Action, on the forest fires in Asia failed to point out the basic cause of the fires. The essence of the problem was reported in the November 29, 1997 New York Times . In his article “Asian Pollution Is Widening Its Deadly Reach”, Nicholas Kristof captured the degree of pollution from the burning of the forests in Southeast Asia:
“‘We have no health problems and no drop-off in attendance,’ Ratnajuwita, the matronly principal of a private school in the Sumatran city of Jambi, said as she sat on a couch in her office. ‘Everyone is fine. The only problem is that we can’t use the blackboards in the classrooms.’ Why? ‘The smoke is so thick in the classrooms that students can’t see what is written,’ Ratnajuwita explained patiently. Then she smiled reassuringly and added, ‘But there are no health problems.”’ “The smoke is so thick…that the students can’t see what is written.” This horrifying description is a graphic example of the extent of the pollution caused by the burning of the forests throughout Southeast Asia. The statement: ‘But there are no health problems”, just reflects the position of the Indonesian government and the ruling rich.”’
It is estimated that Indonesia’s forest fires, these past few months, have released as much greenhouse gas as the whole continent of Europe will emit this entire year. The escalation of “forest burning”is fueled by the drive to produce more goods (such as palm oil and rubber etc.) at a lower cost for the world market. Forest fires are being lit by the profit motive throughout the world’s rainforests. Rainforests are a basic resource that consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen through photosynthesis. This destruction of the forests takes away the natural means of dealing with “greenhouse effects”.
Along with the fires, the growth of industry throughout Asia, with no controls over the burning of coal, gas, and wood, has led to a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions. At its present rate, Asia will soon become the world leader in the production of these emissions.
The rapid development of industry in China and the rest of Asia has been done with no controls. Cars and other motor vehicles are being run with leaded gas. Factories are pouring their toxins into the rivers and sending toxins into the air. This is being done despite the present knowledge about pollution. Capitalists, on a world wide basis are well aware of the dangers of pollution, but they act like sharks in a feeding frenzy as they enter new markets in their quest for maximum profits.
What we are witnessing is the impact of capitalism through out the world and the logic of the “New World Order” opening up new markets on a world scale. Capitalism, at the present time, is running unchecked. Forests, never to return, are being turned into deserts. Streams are being turned into cesspools of industrial waste throughout Asia as a by-product of its “economic boom”.
What we are also witnessing is the globalization of pollution along with the expansion of capitalism throughout the world. No place on this planet is safe from pollution. Basically, these acts of capitalism are acts against nature’s current equilibrium. To be more precise, this are acts against the natural order that human beings need to survive. The capitalist system is working against the interests of humanity.
The problems of the environment are so immersed in our everyday lives, that it requires that everyone has to take control of the environment. In the long run, humanity needs a socialist society that has social control over production. Production for use and for the benefit of the human environment — not production for profit with its by-product of pollution.
Nature can and will survive humanity. The question is will humanity survive, or will the cockroach prove to be the superior species?
From the October 7, 2009 The Guardian: Deforestation on Sumatra island (24 pictures)
The UN wants to cut carbon emissions by paying poorer countries to preserve their forests in a scheme called Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (Redd).
Around 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to come from global annual deforestation, which often takes place in the most biodiverse regions of the world, such as Brazil and Indonesia.
The fastest rate of deforestation in Indonesia is occurring in central Sumatra’s Riau province, where some 4.2m hectares (65%) of its tropical forests and peat swamps have been cleared for industrial plantations in the past 25 years.Sumatran rainforest, 1986: The fastest rate of deforestation in Indonesia is occurring in central Sumatra’s Riau province, where some 4.2m hectares (65%) of its tropical forests and peat swamps have been cleared for industrial plantations in the past 25 years. Under the Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (Redd) scheme $30bn a year could be transferred from rich countries to the owners of endangered forests. But experts on all sides of the debate — from international police to politicians to conservationists — warned that the scheme may be impossible to monitor and may already be leading to fraud. Photograph: Charles O’Rear/CorbisA motorcyclist passes through the haze in Pelalawan, Sumatra, in 2006, when forest fires were raging across Indonesia. Visibility was reduced to as low as 30 metres (100ft) in parts of Borneo island, forcing cars to use headlights during the day and causing chaos for air travel. The demand for palm oil, which is fuelling much of the forest clearance and resultant pollution in Sumatra, has risen in recent years to meet a global demand for biofuels.Photograph: Beawiharta/Reuters