“In about 30 years, the forest will be gone”

Kalimantan River
Photograph by L.X. Gollin

After the positive news reported below, this story in the NY Times feels like a punch in the gut:

For as long as anyone can remember, Anyie Apoui and his people have lived among the majestic trees and churning rivers in an untouched corner of Borneo, catching fish and wild game, cultivating rice and making do without roads. But all that is about to change.

The Indonesian government has signed a deal with China that will level much of the remaining tropical forests in an area so vital it is sometimes called the lungs of Southeast Asia.

For China, the deal is a double bounty: the wood from the forest will provide flooring and furniture for its ever-expanding middle class, and in its place will grow vast plantations for palm oil, an increasingly popular ingredient in detergents, soaps and lipstick.

The forest-to-palm-oil deal, one of an array of projects that China said it would develop in Indonesia as part of a $7 billion investment spree last year, illustrates the increasingly symbiotic relationship between China’s need for a wide variety of raw materials, and its Asian neighbors’ readiness to provide them, often at enormous environmental cost.

Since this article is about to disappear behind the NYT’s subscription wall, I’ll quote at length…

Since this article is about to disappear behind the NYT’s subscription wall, I’ll quote at length:

From Indonesia to Malaysia to Myanmar, many of the once plentiful forests of Southeast Asia are already gone, stripped legally or illegally, including in the low-lying lands here in Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo. Only about half of Borneo’s original forests remain.

Those forests that do remain, like the magnificent stands here in Mr. Anyie’s part of the highlands, are ever pressed, ever prized and ever more valuable, particularly as China’s economy continues its surge.

Over all, Indonesia says it expects China to invest $30 billion in the next decade, a big infusion of capital that contrasts with the declining investment by American companies here and in the region.

Much of that Chinese investment is aimed at the extractive industries and infrastructure like refineries, railroads and toll roads to help speed the flow of Indonesia’s plentiful coal, oil, gas, timber and palm oil to China’s ports.

In one of the latest deals, on April 19, Indonesia announced that China had placed a $1 billion rush order for a million cubic yards of a prized reddish-brown hardwood, called merbau, to be used in construction of its sports facilities for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Merbau wood, mostly prevalent in Papua’s virgin forests, has been illegally logged and shipped to China since the late 1990’s, stripping large swathes of forest in the Indonesian province on the western side of the island of New Guinea.

The decision to award a $1 billion concession to China will “increase the deforestation of Papua,” a place of extraordinary biodiversity, said Elfian Effendy, executive director of Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental watchdog. “It’s not sustainable.”

The plan for palm oil plantations on Borneo was signed during a visit by the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to Beijing last July.

Under pressure from environmental groups, the Indonesian environment and forestry ministries have come out against the plan. The coordinating minister for economic affairs, who goes by the single name Boediono, said in April that he was still weighing the pros and cons of executing the entire plan…

…Indonesia’s environmentalists, and some economists, say chopping down as much as 4.4 million acres of the last straight-stemmed, slow-growing towering dipterocarp trees on Borneo would gravely threaten this region’s rare ecosystem for plants, animals and people.

Maps for the project have aroused fears that it would encroach into the forest in Kayan Mentarang National Park, where the intoxicating mix of high altitude and equatorial humidity breeds an exceptional diversity of species, second only to Papua’s, biologists say.

The area is the source of 14 of the 20 major rivers on Borneo, and the destruction of the forests would threaten water supplies to coastal towns, said Stuart Chapman, a director at the World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia…

…A three-day stay at a research station deep inside the forest told what is at stake for the ecosystem, first documented by Charles Darwin’s colleague, Alfred Russel Wallace, in an account in the late 1850’s called “The Malay Archipelago.”

Wild mango trees, tropical oaks, pale-trunked myrtles, sago palms, rattan trees and pandanas with shiny leaves like long prongs crowded the hills that rise almost vertically above the river.

Exceedingly tall and elegant dipterocarps towered over all, their green canopies filtering shards of occasional sunlight. Underfoot, tiny dew-encrusted green mosses, still damp in the afternoon, clung to rocks, and miniature versions of African violets poked their mauve flowers just above the ground.

Wildlife abounds, said Stephan Wulffraat, 39, a Dutch conservation biologist and the director of the research station run by the World Wildlife Fund. The forest is home to seven species of leaf monkeys, he said, and at high noon, a crashing sound high in the trees announced a group’s arrival. A red-coated deer made a fleeting appearance and dashed off.

On the gloomy forest floor, Mr. Wulffraat, who fends off leeches by tucking his pant legs into knee-length football socks, has set more than a dozen camera traps to photograph wild creatures too shy to appear.

Three years ago, an animal the size of a large cat with a bushy tail with a reddish fur sauntered by the camera. Mr. Wulffraat, a seven-year veteran of the forest, said that the animal resembled a civet, but he added that he and other experts believed that it was an entirely new species.

The discovery of a species of mammal like a civet is unusual, but dozens of new species of trees, mosses and herbs, butterflies, frogs, fresh water prawns and snakes have all been found since the station opened in 1991, he said. “This field station has more frogs and snake species around than in all of Europe,” Mr. Wulffraat said.

I was alerted to this story by a good friend of mine who did her dissertation work in this part of Borneo. She writes:

I talked to Pak (Mr.) Anye, the village spokesman featured in the article, countless times over the course of my stay there. He said to me – I don’t know who to believe any more. Everybody says they are on our side: WWF, miners, loggers, the government. Maybe we should just bring back head hunting and respond to outsider threats that way…

I have to hope it’s not too late to stop this. Certainly Chinese environmentalists understand better than most the impact of these sorts of development projects. Maybe they can help.

The Discussion: 32 Comments

Chinese help indonesian? Why shoud we after what they did to Chinese there?

May 6, 2006 @ 3:09 pm | Comment

Um, because we all share the same planet? Because these forests perform a vital function of cleansing the earth’s atmosphere? Because species will be lost forever? Because the people who live in Kalimantan, the Kenyah Dayaks, have absolutely NOTHING to do with the persecution of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia? Because it’s the right thing to do?

Because if China is willing to trade with them and simply exploit and pillage the land, it is absolutely shameful?

Should I go on?

May 6, 2006 @ 3:50 pm | Comment

Oh, wait, I have another. Because China wants to be a great power, and should show some positive leadership? I mean, don’t you want a better alternative to US dominance? How about setting a good example?

May 6, 2006 @ 3:53 pm | Comment

We’ll think about setting a good example as a great power after having USA’s GDP – per capita.

If the wealthies country can’t care less about global envrionment, we’d better have the wise to know ourselves and focus on minding our own business.

May 6, 2006 @ 4:58 pm | Comment

Bing, that is really idiotic. Sorry. You know I don’t generally use language like that. But if this plan goes ahead. the forest will be destroyed. There’s no second chance. No future. It has to be taken care of now.

If China is making these kinds of deals, it already is your business, and your responsibility. You want to excuse environmental pillaging on the grounds that America is wealthier than China?

America produces more greenhouse gasses than any other nation, but China is close behind. Is that a competition you want to win? If China is going to be a leader in the world, wouldn’t you prefer to set a better example? To show some actual leadership? Or is getting rich the only thing you think China should be about?

I think the US stance on greenhouse gasses and global warming is shameful, and I am praying (in a non-religious way) for a return to some sanity once the Bush Administration is gone. I’m happy to be a Californian, where we actually have stringent regulations on energy effiency and have legislated a mandatory 20% reduction of carbon load by 2020. I’m proud that my state protects its coasts and forests and wild lands and shows some real environmental leadership.

I’d like to see a China that is a confident world power that cares about these things as well. The China that is building Green Cities like Dongtan in my post below. That’s the China that can lead by example.

Wouldn’t you like China to be known for such positive things, instead of helping to destroy one of the world’s last remaining wildernesses?

May 6, 2006 @ 5:59 pm | Comment

And since I’m on my soapbox (sorry), I’d say, check out what Chinese Minister for the Environment, Pan Yue, thinks – he has bluntly stated that China’s development is unsustainable, that the economic miracle will end soon if new models aren’t adopted. The fact is, the rest of the world can’t afford to develop the way the United States has – and now, neither can the United States. We are facing a heavy reckoning, in my opinion. The current lifestyle in the US is also not sustainable, and we are going to have to make some big changes. The sooner, the less painful the changes will be – unfortunately it’s hard to get people to change until the wolf is actually pounding on the door.

Al Gore’s new movie about climate change, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, comes out in the end of May. It was a big hit at Sundance. Can’t wait to see it, personally.

May 6, 2006 @ 6:58 pm | Comment

Bing, you used to be smarter than this. You’re rapidly demolishing all claims to credibility by your tendency tothrow out blanket statements and then faling to back them up.

Lisa, this was a great follow-up post and proves TPD is always fair and balanced – thanks.

May 6, 2006 @ 9:00 pm | Comment

The problem is China DOESN’T want to set an example for the world. Unlike the U.S., it has no interest in exporting any ideology, and it has no interest in “leading” the world for the forseeable future. If nothing else, the Chinese government is consistent — they won’t interfere in how other governments run things, even if the impact is global.

Hu and Wen are sympathetic to China’s environmentalists, even if they don’t provide them with much support. But they are sympathetic because China’s environmentalists are mainly dealing with local matters, like China’s polluting factories.

China’s government is supporting development on a massive scale of alternative energy sources — hydroelectric, nuclear, even wind — but that is mainly to ease China’s energy crunch, not to reduce global warming, even if that eventually will be a side benefit.

The last I remember, China is not a democracy, but Indonesia is. It would be a nice gesture if Chinese activists lent their support, but that is exactly what it would be — a nice gesture. As citizens in a democracy Indonesians are the people in the position to actually do something about this.

And while I don’t support Bing’s viewpoint, it is totally understandable and a common one in China. All the industrialized countries destroyed forests on a massive scale during their development. Hell, it is still going on — much of the Brazilian rainforest was recently destroyed to provide coffee and beef to North American markets. There is plenty of blame to go around. You can say “The Chinese should do better than we did”, or “do as we say, not as we do.” But you can’t expect them to like that, not when most of them are riding bicycles while you’re driving Hummers.

If Western activists want to help, they should get their governments to put their money where their mouths are. License or even DONATE carbon-reducing technologies. Fund alternative Indonesian development.

Christ, even as I type that, I know how fricking hopeless it is, when you can’t even get Republicans to acknowledge global warming exists… Forgive the long rant.

May 6, 2006 @ 9:56 pm | Comment

Thanks Danfried.

Although you don’t support my point, obviously you know better how to sort out what I think than myself.

If China is not allowed to develop by following the developed world’s path, show us another way and help/fund us to do it.

We don’t and shouldn’t care about the leadership, why should we? CCP used to care a lot more about their nominal leadership in third world by splashing out aids while Chinese were starving.

I understand how important the forest could be. But it seems China is increasingly expected to take responsibility but refused a fair partnership. Everytime China is involved in this kind of business events, the first and almost all responses are “you can’t do it”.

You can’t invest in Darfur’s oil, there is a genocide going on. But after we take over, you may have a slice if you behave yourself.

You can’t work with Iran, they are developing nukes. But we will help arm india because the containment must continue.

You can’t buy our oil company, we don’t trust you. But we need to have a say in your banks.

You can’t trade with zimbabwe, but we don’t want your shoes and T-shires either.

If Chinese went to Indonesian because they are no longer allowed to chop trees in China, at least it’s a step forward.

May 7, 2006 @ 1:33 am | Comment

I agree China should act like a responsible superpower on the environment and on other issues, but there is no evidence it is doing so. My hope is that as China matures in this role, it will cease to be entirely focused on its own economic growth. China is trying to clean up its own environment not because it cares about the environment, per se, but because many of its citizens do and the government sees this as a critical way to mollify them. Since this reason doesn’t apply to the environment outside of China, there are no real brakes on the government there. It is a sad situation and as China gets richer and richer, this situation is likely only to worsen.

China Law

May 7, 2006 @ 7:35 am | Comment

Bing, I’m not going to make judgments on China’s trading with Zimbabwe. I may or may not approve, but I’m not Chinese, it’s not my government, and my own government has not exactly set sterling examples in this regard. But destroying this forest goes several steps beyond irresponsibility as far as I’m concerned. And I was also reacting to your callous first response – “why should China care after what Indonesians have done to Chinese people?” – which is so far beyond relevant to whether this project is a good thing or not that I was appalled to read it.

I quite agree with you on the degree of hypocrisy that characterizes so much of the economic relationship you brought up. But the truth is, China and the US are locked in a mutually dependent dance. The US wants China’s cheap imports and for China to buy its bonds; China needs the US to continue doing so to keep people working in its factories. It’s a dangerous situation for both sides, and I wonder how long it can continue.

Danfried, I agree with almost everything you said, and I didn’t intend to suggest that this was China’s responsibility alone. Obviously the Indonesian government is the more culpable party. I think in part I was reacting to the contrast with the many admirable goals of environmental regulators within China – something I have posted about many times, including the Dongtan project I wrote about the day before I posted this one. I have a great deal of honest admiration for the environmental movement in China and for the attempts of the central government to get a handle on these overwhelming issues.

The appalling lack of leadership on the part of the US, particularly in the last 6 years, is just inexcusable, and of the many crimes of the Bush administration, their environmental irresponsibility and outright efforts to destroy the framework of environmental regulations that have brought so much benefit to this country ranks pretty damn high in my book. Is it 2009 yet?

China Law, yep.

I guess my thought was that environmental activists, Chinese and foreign alike, understand that what happens to a forest in Indonesia affects the evironment in China. The US production of greenhouse gasses hurts the world as a whole. It’s that damned interconnectedness of everything, you know?

This is one of those areas where we have to look beyond borders, and it really is everyone’s concern.

May 7, 2006 @ 12:16 pm | Comment

And as a final p.s., I do realize that there isn’t much, if anything, that individuals can do to stop a train like this in its tracks, particularly in China, where citizen participation in government decisions is extremely limited, to say the least. I look at how I’ve felt during the last six years, as an American living under the Bush administration, the utter helplessness I felt when they decided to attack Iraq, and you know, I protested, I signed petitions, I called my senators and congressman, etc., etc., etc. Helluva lot of good that did.

I guess what I’m saying is, we can at least be aware and at least care about such things, and say that something isn’t right when it’s not right.

May 7, 2006 @ 12:30 pm | Comment

One of the main reasons that China needs this wood is that it banned logging along the Yantze after overlogging was blamed for the 1998 floods.

So, China is destroying other people’s environment because of a move to protect its own.

Ironic isn’t it.

May 8, 2006 @ 2:27 am | Comment

It’s not ironic. As I said eariler, it’s a step forward.

May 8, 2006 @ 3:27 am | Comment

“It’s not ironic. As I said eariler, it’s a step forward.”

Maybe you need comparitive example

During 21 century, China stopped cutting down its own trees and started cutting down other people’s – During 19 Century, Japan stopped killing its own people and started killing foreigner.

Congratualtions, you’ve just justified the rape of Nanking.

Bing, a step forward would be using recycled wood pulp or sustainable forrests. What is happening here is just shipping the problem elsewhere.

May 8, 2006 @ 10:53 am | Comment

And not to flog a dead horse, but…this forest plays an important role in pumping out oxygen into the earth’s atmosphere – it’s not just a local issue. And the loss of biodiversity would be tragic.

May 8, 2006 @ 5:04 pm | Comment

Wait; wouldn’t a oil-palm plantation pump the same amount of O2 into the atmosphere, seeing as how oil palms are trees too?

Actually, I think they would increase the amount of O2 synthesized, because the chlorophyll density (the amount of “Green area” per square meter) is higher for a nondiverse tree plantation than it is for a biologically diverse rainforest.

I can understand the O2 argument, but it’s not true. Then the question is, what’s the value of biodiversity to the Chinese government? Why should it care?

May 9, 2006 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

I’m not the expert, t_co, but we simply don’t know enough about the role of biodiversity in regulating the planet’s environment. I’d take issue with your argument because the density of what will be planted after the forests are cleared will be far less than what exists now. We do know that when remote forest/jungle areas are encroached upon, diseases that cross the species barrier to man frequently result (marburg, AIDs, SARs, for example). We also know that medical discoveries are made every day as a result of botanical research and also research into how indigenous people use native plants to treat disease.

So it’s a real mistake to think that because you are replacing what was there with something else that you will not have a significant loss. A palm plantation will never contain the amount of biodiversity that the native forests do. It won’t harbor animals that are found nowhere else in the world.

I also think, and this is based partly on emotion, I will admit, that there is an inherent value in preserving wilderness, when so little is left in the world.

May 9, 2006 @ 1:35 pm | Comment

(as an example, noted cancer-fighter Tamoxifen)

May 9, 2006 @ 1:38 pm | Comment

First, I must point out that it is probable that as much as 90% of all oxygen cycling is done by algae in the ocean. The difference between a forest and a plantation as far as oxygen and carbon cycling goes is, in the big picture, less than negligable.

Second, there is no evidence that loss of biodiversity has any effects whatsoever on anything that is not directly connected to that ecosystem. OK, everything is connected, but wiping out a forest on an Island in the Indonesian Archipelago is not going to send out shock waves. And who said that there will be a loss of biodiversity. That’s what national parks and sanctuaries are for. Nevermind that these isolated populations will likely be genetically unsustainable. Today, we are doing a pretty good job of “protecting” biodiversity.

These deals will go forward and on a global perspective nothing will really have happened.

What will happen however, is that the lives of the people living in and around these forests will be devastated. I don’t know anything about Borneo, but from my experiences in Southeast Asia the people mostly, depending on who you are of course, have at the least a decent quality of life. They are poor, but they can rely on the clean rivers and the abundant flora and fauna of the forest to supplement their meager incomes. They can supplement their food with fishing and hunting, they can cheaply or freely aquire building materials for their homes. Their agriculture requires less intense application of chemicals, because they can rely on the balancing forces of the surrounding forest, therefore growing food is significantly cheaper and healthier. This will all be taken away from them. Some will succeed and gain some wealth from the exploitation and lead more comfortable happier and likely healthier lives as a result. Many if not most will remain poor, and there will be no more fish swimming in clean rivers, no more animals to hunt in the forest, and no more resources to collect for building. There will be no more birds and bats controlling insect populations, no more snakes controlling the rats, and no more space for rotating crops. Chemical use, with its huge cost increase of production and detrimental heath effects, will become rampant. The people will go from being poor to desparately poor.

And one thinks that here lies the solution. We must integrate environmental protection with basic humanity. Healthy functioning ecosystems makes people’s lives healthier and better. To take this away from someone is a true crime that anyone can identify with. The evidence is scattered around the globe. Then one remembers that these people are poor, and I am certain that the worst thing you could be in this world is poor. Poverty screams for disrespect and exploitation. Although I am a cynic I still see this as a vital tool for protecting the environment. Someday I hope the poor will be respected. When that happens, the environment will benefit. But this is still a ways off, and the days of those forests in Borneo are numbered.

In Twenty Years

Borneo: A national park has been set up to protect the last remaining wild lands, however illegal logging and poaching from villagers is threatening the park. Patrols are necessary, steep penalties are meted out. One patrol comes accross villagers felling trees. The villagers, desparate to escape incarceration and a lengthy jail sentence and angry at their situation decide to fight. A rifle shot rings out and a ranger is wounded. More loud bursts penetrate this dark forest. One villager is killed and the rest captured to spend the next 10 years in jail, their families left to make do.

Shanghai: A man sits on his beautiful hard wood floor, very expensive and very rare wood indeed, with his head in his hands. Within one week his wife has been diagnosed with cancer, and his 7 year old daughter has finally been diagnosed with learning disabilities. He recently read a report of the prevalence of chemicals in people’s systems and wonders if this has something to do with his families misfortunes.

May 11, 2006 @ 10:40 pm | Comment

Anyone who disagrees with my prediction need only remember Bing’s wonderful

“It’s not ironic. As I said eariler, it’s a step forward.”

This, coming from what I assume (I know assumption is often problematic, but I do it anyway) to be an educated and curious person. A more seflish and, in todays day and age, ignorant comment I cannot imagine. Unfortunately I hear comments such as this quite commonly here in China. The wealthy nations’ environmental legacy is horrifying. They might progress or might not, but China certainly is not going to do so anytime soon. Pan Yue can say anything he likes. It is wonderful to see that he is tolerated, but is he listened to when push comes to shove? It sure seems to me that such is not the case. How many times have I read or heard “We need the resources and they have them.”

May 12, 2006 @ 12:36 am | Comment

“The wealthy nations’ environmental legacy is horrifying.”

Who is wealthy? If I were as wealthy as you, I could do better than you in terms of altruism.

Do you know how hard it is for most Chinese to work 10 times you guys do and live a life 1/10 the quality of yours? Live as them and do as you said, then talk about who is selfish.

May 12, 2006 @ 4:20 am | Comment

Sorry Bing,

I think that you misunderstood. When I referred to wealthy nations, I was referring to Japan, Western European countries and foremost the USA. Their legacy is horrible, no doubt about it.

By the way. Yes, I have lived as they have. In the end, this is a moot point, because the issues we are talking about have nothing to do with the hundreds of millions of poor people living in China. The riches of these deals will go to those that have, and those that have not will continue to be so.

May 12, 2006 @ 6:21 am | Comment


The West and Japan is quite hypocritical. They’re the ones who has been “exporting” all their environmental problems to other countries by buying foreign imports while protecting their own environments and touting that they are environmentally friendly. And Other_Lisa, California is just one hypocritical state. What? so the state has great environmental laws, YET, do you know the average American uses more of the world’s non-renewable resources per person than anyone else on the planet????

If you’re so concerned about China’s rising commercial/middle class eating up other country’s natural environment, I have a solution. Instead of complaining about stuff and driving your gas-guzzling SUVs, why don’t you send some money/coupons to China’s middle class in exhange for them to buy renewable wood. This is a great way to subsidize China’s apetite for wood. May be then you will save some REAL forests. BUT I guess your pocket cash for your next Playstation is more valuable.


May 12, 2006 @ 3:55 pm | Comment

This is not a competition folks.

Bash the US all you want. I do it regularly, and I’m a citizen, but the article in question has nothing to do with the US. It has to do with the Chinese government paving the way for Chinese businesses to directly or indirectly wipe out a truly rare treasure, and devestate the lives of the local people while doing so. This is a tragedy, and it is wrong. Wrong is wrong, whether it is perpetrated by the US, Japan, China or anybody. I don’t understand why it is so difficult for some people to admit that some of China’s actions might actually be, well…WRONG.

“why don’t you send some money/coupons to China’s middle class in exhange for them to buy renewable wood”

GIVE money to China’s MIDDLE CLASS. WOW, why didn’t I think of that one!!!!

May 13, 2006 @ 12:49 am | Comment


In response to the person you’ve just responded to..

First, what you define as “wrong” may not be wrong. Local Indonesians also get the benefit of the jobs created, and many hard-working Chinese in China get to have jobs processing the wood for China’s rising middle class which I think deservedly can use their new wealth to enjoy themselves, just as you do Dingle with your SUVs, Playstation, air conditioning(most polluting), etc. etc in the USA.

Dingle, you don’t represent most Americans anyways. So I’m not really bashing America since I live here too.

Now, having said that, the person did put forth a very reasonable proposition. That is, pay coupons to the wood-buyers so that they can buy more expensive but inferior renewable wood. So why aren’t you picking out your pocket money?

It kind of irritates me when so-called “green environmenalists” preach at everyone but they themselves don’t practice what they preach.

May 13, 2006 @ 12:04 pm | Comment


Yes, jobs are a good thing. The problem with your argument however is that it is the same argument that has been asserted by A-hole conservatives in the US for decades to justify their rape of the world’s resources. The overwhelming evidence points to the fact that they are full of shit. Environmental degradation created by export driven activity creates more poverty, not less.

Since not just one, but two people have brought up the subject of GIVING money to China’s MIDDLE CLASS, I will pretend to entertain it as a viable proposition. Upon contemplation however I come up with one problem. Such a system would be set up in the belief that China’s middle class is entitled to buy and use as much wood as they would like. Such entitlement is based upon their desire for such products and their ability to aquire them in an economically feasible manner, either by obtaining them through exploitation and thus avoiding the true cost of these products, or through aid subsidized sustainable products. If we take such a view of entitlement I come up with the following situation.

I am a non Chinese person. I have quite a lot of money, but am not “rich”, and I love Chinese artifacts. I really want to buy some, but the quality of such artifacts on the international market is not so good, and the cost is very high. In China, it is still easy to find excellent quality artifacts that I can afford. I have good contacts in China so while buying them is not exactly legal, it is not exactly illegal either. Many people say that it is wrong for me to take these national treasures out of the country and use them only for my personal pleasure. This is rubbish. If they don’t like it, then they should give me some money so that I can afford to buy the artifacts already on the international market. Otherwise I’m going to continue to take what I want because I can.

Lastly. Bing, May and t_coke. Please point out to me one word that I have written which can be used as evidence that I don’t “do as I say” am “hypocritical” or don’t “practice what I preach”.

May 14, 2006 @ 1:53 am | Comment


Quite manipulative of you to be using the Chinese artifact example to attempt to prove your point. The only problem with that example is that Chinese governmental laws prohibit artifact selling to foreigners, whereas the Indonesian government has legally agreed that private contractors can begin the logging. What Chinese buyers are doing in this case is perfectly legal. Besides, Indonesia has more representative government than China has, and I suppose the people there can always vote out their representatives if they don’t like it. I suspect most of the locals do like the contract since this contract generates JOBS. AND for many desperate in poverty in Indonesia this is a blessing.

Now, my proposition still stands. You can’t win your environmental battle just by preaching to the crowd, you need to offer concrete incentives to change market behavior. And I believe the best way is for you rich environmentalists to get together and pool your money so that you can sell coupons as I mentioned or provide an alternative source of wood that is better and less expensive. Otherwise, you are only preaching to the wind.

May 14, 2006 @ 11:24 pm | Comment

Save the rainforests? Just out of interest, where does the paper used to make your starbucks cups and pizza boxes come from? What’s your furniture made of? How about the morning paper that every one in the developed world must enjoy with a cup of coffee each day?

Don’t woodland creatures die when forests are logged for your benefit?

To what extent is your current lifestyle responsible for a lot of the environmental degradation today?

May 16, 2006 @ 2:10 pm | Comment


You want to titter over legality? We are talking about China and Indonesia aren’t we? That’s funny!

For more information about how Indonesia and China take “legal” logging so seriously please see:


And for insight into Indonesia’s transparency and commitment to the deal please see


Your reference to market forces has no merit on this discussion whatsoever, because this has nothing to do with a true market, where all costs are taken into account. This is about greedy chinese businessmen doing back room deals with politically and militarily connected Indonesians to reap huge profits for a selected few.

And about jobs please see


Even if the local soil could support an oil plantation, you can be sure that many if not most of the people employed will be imported from Java. The local people will be left, as I said before, desperately poor. Neither the Chinese nor the Indonesians are known for helping out the little man.

And again with the coupons. Even if I had money, which I don’t, I think that I could find, oh…. I don’t know…… THOUSANDS of causes more worthwhile than helping the Chinese to become “American with Chinese characteristics”.

You want an alternative source of wood that is better and cheaper? How, I ask you, do you think that you can get better wood than old growth hardwood? How, I ask you, do you get anything cheaper than through exploitation. It’s impossible.

Become informed before you make such ignorant comments.

By the way, the web links above were pulled off of quick google searches and are not the best or most informative, but do provide evidence that all is not happy in logging land. I don’t have the time for more.

May 17, 2006 @ 7:34 am | Comment


Web links are the least reliable indicators to research the subject.

I suggest you go to Indonesia and get an idea of what people think over there. AND I mean talk to ALL people, not just the select few “green environmentalists” you like to hang out with. I am willing to bet the opinion is pretty mixed, if not with outright support for the contract between China and Indonesia.


May 18, 2006 @ 10:31 am | Comment


I am embarrased to admit that the web links I provided are not of the highest caliber, too much haste, but did you even read them.

You “bet the opinion is pretty mixed”. Wow, you are a bold man. The problem is who to trust. The government? Did you even read the links provided? The Indonesian government publicly stated in March that it was canceling the deal, and then is going right ahead anyway. This fact does not give me a lot of confidence in the consensus of opinion. Do you trust businessmen, who stand to reap huge profits? How about the military, who is going to run the whole show? Or do you trust the World Wildlife Fund, whose recent trackrecord for integrating environmental protection with local sustainable economic development is impressive?

As I said in my first post, I’ve never been to Borneo, but I do have experience in Southeast Asia. I have worked with a forest ranger who has been shot on patrol. A friend of mine is currently in Jail for illegal logging. I have spoken with villagers who were lied to consistently, forced from the forest, and then left to make do as promises of progams and development turned into hot air. I have also spoken with villagers who gave up their land willingly under promises of jobs and economic growth for a pineapple plantation in one instance and shrimp farms, in another. The pineapple plantation made its profits and moved on, leaving the people landless and jobless. The shrimp farms are still in operation, but the wages and “economic development” were not as promised. Their living standards are the same as before, but they work twice as much and don’t have the dignity of ordering their own lives. The community is nothing of what it used to be.

Yes there are always mixed opinions, but my personal experiences dictate who I trust and who I don’t.

These deals have to do with ethnic tensions and disrespect, huge amounts of money, and a proven disregard for human rights on the part of both China and Indonesia. Just because you know nothing of the true stakes of this deal, don’t assume that others don’t as well.

May 18, 2006 @ 11:17 pm | Comment

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