Fires Of Indonesia: Pollution Essay, Research Paper
Fires of Indonesia
What is the single most environmental issue that is plaguing the eastern half of the world? The raging fires in Indonesia and Asia. These fires are releasing more CO2 and other toxic chemicals in a few months than most countries do all year. The fires are also producing a thick smoky haze that is clouding the entire area. What is the exact cause of this problem? Scientists are quick to point out several causes, but one that is standing out is the defiant act of setting ablaze fields for the use of farmland.
The Indonesian government has taken a stand against the fire, but has done nothing to actually stop the farmers from destroying the land. The actual problem is that the farmers are burning their land to make way for their crops. The farmers not only set the fires in the first place, but also chop down trees to make land open for crops. This deforestation adds to the problem because they just let the trees lay and the wood tries and is perfect kindling for the fires. This logging for the way of plantations is one cause that is leading the way. The government has no real reason to stop the farmers because they are bringing in the money for the country. This use of fire is a ?cheap and often illegal way of clearing land.? (http://forests.lic.wisc.edu/ric/wrr37/fires.htm) This shows the blahtent disregard for nature and the entire community. If the farmers only had the means to clear their land in a way that didn?t cause such a destructive effect on the earth there wouldn?t be such a problem. But these farmers are not educated to the destruction that they are inflicting. This is a problem everywhere. People are not being educated to live in a world-view society. They only think for themselves and not for what they are doing to the earth. In third world, or developing countries this is a large problem because they are barely able to get the education they do now in addition to getting extra learning that is not directly tied into finding a job and earning a living. If there were classes at the elementary level that established a sense of world-view living then people might not do many of the things that they do. Education is the first step in solving any pollution problem. Sure there are other more expensive alternatives to clearing land than just setting ablaze the grass and rain forest, but in these third world countries that cannot afford decent shelter that isn?t an option. So instead of trying to find more alternatives they just use the cheapest and most destructive way of clearing the land, fire.
Not only does this fire destroy the land, but it also creates a great deal of smoke. This smoke, or haze, as it is being called has spread out over the entire area. It covers most parts of Indonesia, China and other eastern Asian countries. Not only is this haze causing visibility problems because it is so thick, but it is also causing several health-related problems. ?Smoke has caused breathing problems for infants, the aged and those in poor health.? (http://forests.lic.wisc.edu/ric/wrr37/fires.htm) It is not exactly know how many people have died from respiratory problems associated to the haze, but it is certain there have been fatalities connected to the smoke. The smoke has also been associated with plane and boat wrecks. These wrecks have led to the closing of several airports. The visibility has diminished so much that planes are not able to take off and fly. To think that this smoke is choking people is a tragic thought. This smoke hangs low to the ground and ?clings? to everything. Third world countries are know for having high birth rates and that means that there are many children that are living in these smoky conditions. Problems that can arise from these conditions are asthma, respiratory infections and several diseases that can result in death. The smoke is one of the contributing problems to the fires.
Another cause of the fires is El Nino. The same weather disturbance that plagues the U.S. with strange weather is also effecting the weather fronts in Indonesia. El Nino is effecting the seasonal monsoon rains. Normally the refreshing rains arrive around November; El Nino has pushed them back to December. The Indonesian weather has become drier and with the rains being pushed farther back the land is a tinderbox waiting to explode in flames. The drought that is being brought on each year causes more and more fires because the rains don?t last long enough to quench the thirst of the ground. The weather disturbance know as El Nino has been effecting the Indonesian weather since the mid 1980?s. Each year the climate becomes drier and the fires that spring up around the country rage on for weeks and even months before they die out or are put out by concerned citizens. Not only do the rains extinguish the flames, but they can also diminish the smoke that hovers over the area. In areas that have an air pollution index of ?655? (http://www.foe.co.uk/pubsinfo/infoteam/pressrel/1998/199802201135556.html) Anything over 100 is considered unsafe. Rain clears the smoke out, but only for a few weeks that the monsoons are there and then they leave and the smoke returns.
But people are the only organisms effected greatly by the fires. All species of wild animals are being greatly effected. Everything from rhinoceros to orangutans are losing their homes and grazing land to these fires. Most of these animals are either endangered or protected to begin with and these fires are ?making a bad problem worse.? (Wildlife Conservation v.101 pg. 49) At a time when we try to help the numbers of all endangered species there are several species that are right in the middle of these fires. Not only are these animals? habitats being destroyed, but also more importantly they are loosing their food source. Most animals in the Indonesian area are herbivores and that is exactly what the fires feed on. All the lush vegetation is fuel for the inferno that burns for half the year. This is again where education would help. If the citizens were informed of the importance to conserve the habitats of these animals they might find other ways of clearing their land. But instead these creatures are getting pushed to the side and are being taken advantage of in the worst way. In an area where little is done to protect endangered species these poor creatures are suffering because of the stupidity of man. They are dying because farmers are setting fire to their fields because it is cheaper than other methods. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
Not only are people and animals hurting because of the fires, but the local economy is also suffering greatly. These non-developed countries strive to get people to come to their countries to put more money into the economy. But who wants to go someplace that is covered in a thick haze and is on fire most of the time? Not a lot of people. And since airports are closed there aren?t a lot of ways into places like Indonesia. These fires have greatly damaged the economy. Estimates are that there has been ?millions of dollars lost because of the fires.? (Far Eastern Economic Review Oct. 25, 1997 v.160 pg. 5) Just like any place tourism is a major business in Indonesia and other East Asian countries. With this haze covering half of the area all countries are hurting. China has also taken some economic damage because of the fires. The haze reaches parts of china and is having the same effect it is on Indonesia. So instead of actually trying to save a little money clearing land they have actually lost more than it would have ever cost to clear the land with machines or by other means. This again shows that there needs to be education to teach these people about current events and how their actions can adversely effect the environment and themselves.
A bigger problem than any damage to the economy or to people is the effect that the fires are having on the environment and in particular the ozone layer. The fires are producing Co2 at an exponential rate. And there is one contributing factor to the Co2 production. In Asia and Indonesia there are marshy areas that are called peat bogs. These bogs are filled with dead organic matter and there in turn filled with carbon. The problem is that the Indonesian government and people want to use this marshy land to plant crops and use for farming. These bogs are naturally created by nature. So again instead of finding another place to farm or a better way of doing things these peat bogs are being set on fire. This is having the same effect of just setting large puddles of oil on fire. Hundreds of years of dead organic matter are fueling the fires so they burn for long periods of time. The thick black smoke that is being produced from the fires is mostly pollutants. This is having the same effect on the area as when the oil fields were set ablaze during the Desert Storm war in ?91. At that time Sadam Hussein, knowing that he was loosing the war and was trying to save face, had his troops set fire to all the oil pumps as they retreated. The environmental issues that he created at that time are still being felt today in the amount of greenhouse gasses and the abnormal weather patterns that are plaguing the world. Now there are the peat bogs that are being set afire. And what is worse is that the government has encouraged it. The president of Indonesia has done nothing to try and create awareness or to prevent or stop the fires from starting. ?It is estimated that the amount of Co2 and greenhouse gasses being produced in just a few months exceeds the amount that England makes all year.? (New Scientist March 21, 1998 v.157 pg. 36) That might not sound like much, but remember that that includes the gasses produced by factories and by cars. Also there are hundreds of hectares of rain forest that are being burned. This happens when loggers cut down trees and leave the dead logs lying on the ground. In the drought that is being caused by El Nino these logs are just becoming fuels for the fires. They are quickly set ablaze when the fires get near and spread to the surrounding Rain Forest. This is a large problem because again greenhouse gasses are being produced and habitats are being lost for several species or animal. The orangutans have been effected the most. Since they live in the Rain forest and not out in the grasslands they are loosing their homes faster and since there is not as much forest as there is grass land they are being forced to go deeper into the jungle.
The underlying problem with these fires is that there isn?t any awareness to the current situation. People just simply do not know how their actions are adversely effecting the environment. Just like all problems people need to be informed because ignorance is a far greater problem than even the fires of Indonesia. If the citizens actually knew how what this was doing to their homeland and to the Earth maybe they would stop. Maybe they would quit raping the land. Or perhaps the lust for money is too great and they will do anything to achieve it. If that is the case then there might not be anything that can be done to stop the destruction of the Earth. People need to start thinking more as a global community and not as themselves.