Photo by Rhett A. Butler from Mongabay

In 2015 and 2019 massive forest fires in Indonesia shrouded its neighbours in smoke. The haze caused respiratory and other heath problems for residents of Singapore and Malaysia, and the carbon and heat emitted from these fires pushed the achievement of Indonesia’s international greenhouse gas emissions targets further out of reach. 80% of Indonesia’s total emissions come from forest degradation and misuse.

The fires and the haze they caused are the consequence of decades long industrial-scale destruction of the forests and carbon-rich peatlands of the world’s third largest tropical forests, which constitute a vital carbon sink in the race to reduce global emissions.

In September last year Indonesia signed a new deal with Norway committing it to a significant reduction in emissions from forest degradation by 2030. This will be no easy task, because while a moratorium on deforestation covers most of the 90 million hectares of natural forest, millions of hectares remain under threat due to plantation expansion and new developments, including the national Food Estate Project and the new Capital City.

With these competing interests at play, reducing the threat of fires and their high carbon emissions, has become more critical than ever. So, as we look towards an El Niño and a very dry season ahead, what is being done to reduce the risk of fires? Why do they happen in the first place? Why have they become so large in recent times? And what needs to be done to protect not only the forests, but the lives and livelihoods of the indigenous people who live in them?

In this week’s episode of Talking Indonesia, Dr Jemma Purdey chats to Sofyan Ansori, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University in the US whose ethnographic research is focused on the Indigenous Dayak in Central Kalimantan and their relationships with fire in a changing environment. He has written for The Conversation Indonesia and Indonesia.

In 2023, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, Tito Ambyo from RMIT and Dr Jacqui Baker from Murdoch University.

Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight. Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via Apple Podcasts or listen via your favourite podcasting app.


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