Local People, Global Forests

Indonesian rainforest. Not my image.

Indonesian rainforest. Not my image.

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.



8 thoughts on “Local People, Global Forests

  1. Tegan, this is a huge win for Indigenous people. I can’t understand why there isn’t more reclaimed wood being used for building new things, It would start a whole new industry and eliminate the need for as much new woods being cut. I just read an article by Woody Harrelson (American Actor) who is involved with a company that is making paper from the straw left behind after clearing the wheat fields. He says you can’t tell the difference between the straw and the wood pulp papers. That would also cut down on the timber needed.

    • That sounds like a fantastic method! I really have no idea why paper is still made from virgin forest. Apparently, in England hundreds of years ago when most of the land was covered with woodland which the king wanted to clear for agriculture and town expansion, he ordered that paper should be (temporarily) made from wood instead of other plant fibers in order to clear the forests quicker. You could easily argue it was a bad plan then. But the context was very different. The fact that today the world suffers a critical deforestation problem while toilet paper is made from forest is diabolical. What could better symbolize the arrogance of our species?

      • Don’t get me started on toilet paper. I found three brands of 100% post consumer recycled toilet paper in my town a couple of years ago and narrowed down which I preferred. A few weeks ago, I went to buy more to learn it was discontinued. There were no recycled brands available in that store. I knew the local drug store carried a 2 types, neither of my favorite, but only the one I disliked was available. I then went to WalMart (which I never shop at out of principle) but left there empty handed as there were no recycled of any content available. I ended up at the drug store to buy the only brand available in my entire town.. I guess I have to start buying online to get recycled paper. It seems like we are going backward instead of forward.

  2. Pingback: Friday Faves, August 23rd | Living Simply Free

  3. It makes sense to give indigenous peoples legal ownership over their ancient lands even though such property law has no recognition in indigenous culture.


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