According to Positive News, the forest dwelling indigenous people in Indonesia may soon have the legal rights to control those forests. This means they would be private property, and the government would cease to have control over them as a national resource. That means the Indonesian government couldn’t sell them to logging companies. It does mean the indigenous people could do so, but the idea is that they’d be much less likely to, seeing as the forests constitute their traditional and historic way of life.
Protection of the Indonesian rainforest is quite obviously an environmental win, but this law would also have a significant human rights side to it. Giving the indigenous people legal control over their forest homes – compared with the mere right to carry on living there – would give these people a greater respect and therefore a better quality of life.
The constitutional court actually already agreed to this on 16th May 2013, but the question is whether it’ll be properly implemented by local government. The logging industry will be fighting tooth and claw against this, as they’re making a tonne of money by chopping down the ancient forests – liquidating the natural capital. But as we know, trees are actually much more valuable while they’re alive. They turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, prevent soil erosion, stabilize the hydrological cycle, reduce the risk of floods and droughts and provide a habitat for millions of species. Luckily the Indonesian government – especially the forward thinking president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – seem to be realizing this at last.
I just hope they can get the logging industry to back off. It’s a dinosaur industry, really. It has no presence in a sustainable future. I mean we’ll certainly continue to cut and use timber, but not on the scale or with the brutal methods of today. True sustainable forestry is a million miles away from the quick cash clear cutting, like huge violent gashes on the landscape.
In Indonesia, their government have identified 365 distinct indigenous ethnic groups, adding up to millions of people. The forested lands they occupy must be quite a considerable amount of hectares, so this new law – if forcefully implemented – could be a big deal for the forests, the local people and the global community of life.