On Friday I was strolling around the city. I was giving my eco responsibilities a rest. Buying cheap chocolate, not always remembering my zero-waste promises. I sat for a “melt” sandwich in a coffee shop when I came across the essay about the fires in Indonesia.
The article left me shaking, choked up, trying not to spill my coffee as I gathered up my belongings and clumsily tossed out the disposables I had used. Indonesia was dying – if now I never get to see the species I dreamed of seeing, I have only myself to blame.
I was seeing on Guardian UK photos of air that had turned copper. Rainforests reduced to matchsticks. Flames swallowing up the most diverse ecosystems anywhere on Earth. Last week, Indonesia produced more CO2 pollution than all the industry in the US and more than what every single person in Germany produces in a year.
Indonesia is one of the places most damaged by that evil palm oil. We say it hurts the orangutans. But Indonesia is so much more. It hosts 12 percent of the world’s mammals, 17 percent of all bird species. Almost 2,000 species are endemic. In fact, all monoculture farms harm native habitat. Sugar cane, produce, coffee, cacao.
Some of the most rich rainforests, growing for hundreds of years, are cleared in the blink of an eye. They’re slashed, then burned. It’s not just palm oil, though that industry seems to prefer virgin rainforest to abandoned farms. This year’s El Nino created catastrophic fire conditions that turned Indonesia’s peat into a tinderbox, as it stores decomposing matter. Both the forest and the ground are burning.
And if I sound like a broken record on agroforestry, it’s because this method would have prevented the fires. Produce grown in the shade creates a structurally complex habitat; which in turn stores carbon, stores water, and gives tropical fauna a viable home.
The solution is shade grown coffee; demanding agroforestry-grown produce. Avoiding monoculture the way we’ve learned to avoid plastics and pesticides. There are more steps, stay tuned. And I encourage you to stop at some point to read Monbiot’s essay.