Deforestation in Borneo – Impressions from a traveler

by Jakob Horvat, November 1st 2017, Samarinda, Borneo/Indonesia

I couldn’t leave Indonesia without sharing my impressions about the deforestation in Borneo

First, I judged Indonesians for their indifference in terms of treating nature. For throwing their plastic trash out of bus windows or burning it on every second corner. And for that insane destruction of rainforests for coal mining and in order to produce palmoil that had been going on for decades. It impacted my mood levels seriously while traveling Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. The situation is much worse than I expected. Here in Borneo, there’s only 50% rainforest left.

It’s easy to judge, but it’s not fair

First, I didn’t really care either whether or not there is palm oil in the products I bought. Often I looked for the cheaper products than for the better ones. Second, the subject is complex. Palm oil is the cheapest, the most efficient and the most versatile vegetable oil on the planet. Especially poor countries rely on it as a cheap and available cooking medium. Palm oil demands for food alone are expected to double in the next decade and Indonesia is by far the largest producer in the world. The Indonesian government has responded by setting a target to increase the production from 20 million tons in 2009 to 40 million tons in 2020. The brutal truth is: it doesn’t look good for the rainforests in South-East Asia, for its Orang Utans, Sumatran Tigers, Rhinos, you name them.

Palm oil plantation in East-Kalimantan, Borneo

Coal mining on Mahakam River, Samarinda, East Kalimantan

Hundreds of trucks on the road from Samarinda to Sangatta – bringing palm oil to Malaysia

I don’t have an answer

If I’d pretend to have one, I would say: stop buying palm oil products. It would help, indeed, but it wouldn’t solve the problem either. Too big is the role of palm oil in feeding a growing global population. Sustainable plantation of palm oil could be the solution – but it’s a damn long way to go. Honestly: I just felt like sharing these impressions with you. I had to. It kind of relieves the heavy feelings that have built up in the past weeks as I witnessed this disturbing cruelty against nature. Thanks for being interested!

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