No opening sentence can accurately depict the hell on Earth imagery that is currently occurring in Indonesia. The 5,000-kilometer long stretch of land in the South Pacific is engulfed in raging flames, classified by many as the worst environmental disaster of the 21st century at this point in history.
The haze crisis is an annual occurrence for the people of Indonesia. Timber and farming companies have been practicing slash and burn agriculture in Indonesian forests for decades. Plantation companies, mainly focused on the selling of palm oil, move in to destroy what remains of the forest to plant.
The easiest way to clear the land is to torch it. What makes this year extraordinarily morose is an extremely dry year from a delayed El Nino rain season, creating the perfect environmental disaster scenario.
While the smoke has drifted into Singapore and Malaysia, the Indonesian people have suffered the most.
The Global Fire Emissions database has released reports stating the 100,000 active fires detected are currently producing more carbon dioxide than the entire U.S. economy daily and in three weeks the amount released is on par with the entire German annual carbon dioxide emissions. Visibilities in some cities have become limited to thirty meters. 10,000 respiratory infections have been reported since Sept. 4, including the death of three children by respiratory failure.
The beautiful Sumatran Tiger, Orangutan and clouded leopard species, among thousands of others, are being driven from their homes and displaced throughout the country. #EvakuasiKami, or #EvacuateUs were trending hashtags on Indonesian Twitter, calling the government to take action, evacuating children to Pekanbaru, the capital of the Riau province, where three twenty four hour shelters have been opened.
President Widodo desires to be democratic and may run the country, however he presides over a lawless nation where less than fifty years ago Suharto death squads killed millions in the 1960s, prospered from illegal deforestation. The Pancasila Youth is a paramilitary group making their living off of new government subsidies for palm oil production that instigates further burning. Their members are currently over 3 million.
So, where are the front-page headlines, relief efforts and social media trends outside of Indonesia to discuss this issue?
As a capitalistic establishment, the news media is designed to bring in viewers to their programs as well as bring those Nielsen ratings to advertisers and watch the money pile in. It’s a huge reason the broadcasting of egregious celebrity news and sensationalist journalism is so prominent and pervasive in our media culture. I suppose the world’s biggest climate crisis just isn’t desirable enough for the evening news time slot.
But, aren’t we to blame as well? When we don’t show that we care, the news doesn’t report on these issues and the government especially will not bother or feel the need to address them. It’s a reactionary process that starts with us. The easiest way to stop the process of scorching the Earth and garner attention from the media is for the public to offer their support. Eventually, it will hit and come back to these companies profiting off this process and damage their wallet.