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Earth Dr Reese Halter's Blog


story ran on Malibu Times Blog October 26, 2013

Almost three decades ago I began my formal training in forestry. I had a burning desire to know how trees and forests grew. I have fed that passion every single day since 1986.

I am awed that for every one metric ton of old growth wood, trees have removed 1.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and concurrently released one metric ton of oxygen. Quite simply: Trees are the most perfect carbon dioxide warehouses to have ever evolved on Earth.

‘The War Against Nature,’ and in particular the unscrupulous palm oil industry has been on a frenzied and unimaginable destructive rampage throughout the remaining Indonesian rain forests.

The few remaining Asian rhinos, elephants, orangutans and tigers are doomed, but does anyone really feel their pain?

A new report from Greenpeace details the swift clear-cutting of Earth’s remaining Southeast Asian rain forests, mostly from Indonesia. The pictures are enough to make a grown man cry.

As few as 400 majestic Sumatran tigers are left in the wild, and their days are quickly coming to an abrupt end. As every one of my students knows: In nature when you lose your home, you die.

In my short lifetime I have seen some awful ancient forest destruction—the most brutal and flagrant examples of ‘timber mining’ are now taking place on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo at an astounding rate. In fact within Indonesia alone, the prolonged, corrupt looting spree has reached almost 1.4 million acres of killing ancient rain forests annually since 2009.

The Sumatran tiger is a vital marker of health within Indonesian jungles. When the tigers die, the forests die. And without forests the 69 million humans inhabiting Sumatra and Borneo will not survive.

So what is happening?

The Greenpeace report, “A License to Kill” found that “Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd, a palm oil behemoth, is engaging in irresponsible or illegal activities.”

Unregulated palm oil production not only wipes out exquisite rain forests and crucial peatland bogs that are the life-blood for Sumatran tigers, orangutans, rhinos and elephants, it razes Earth’s only insurance policy (giant intact rain forests) from absorbing carbon dioxide from human-induced burning of 85 million metric tons daily of fossil fuels. These fuels are irrefutably forcing climate change, which has led to the creation of the tinder-dry conditions that have fueled hellacious fires in Indonesia, Australia and elsewhere around the globe.

Earthlings are knowingly destroying the few remaining masterpieces of nature i.e. Asian tigers, rhinos, elephants, orangutans and others in the name of unsustainable palm oil plantations.

The lowest forms of earthlings, poachers, are illegally obliterating rain forests in the protected Tesso Nilo National Park in Indonesia to create these loathsome palm oil plantations. Worse, bribery and corruption runs rife amongst Indonesian government officials, who regularly turn a blind eye and shirk any responsibility for protecting a national park whilst palm oil operators gleefully clear the forest, grab mature timber and sentence tigers to extinction, quickly.

The Greenpeace report found that “the following corporations including: Colgate Palmolive, Mondelez International (formerly Kraft), Neste Oil, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser and others are linked to Wilmar International and its international trade in dirty palm oil.”

Wilmar is the world’s largest palm oil processor, accounting for over one third of global palm oil processing and distribution—a network covering 50 countries worth in excess of $13 billion, annually. And by the way, the U.S. commodity company Archer Daniels Midland owns 16 percent of the publicly traded shares of Wilmar. According to Greenpeace “Wilmar has entered into a 50-50 joint venture with Kellogg’s China, which means Kellogg’s is also profiting from the killing of Earth’s remaining SE Asian ancient rain forests.”

Amidst all this destruction, enter Dutch-born earth-warrior and forest ecologist extraordinaire Dr. Willie Smits. Smits is a beacon of hope and force to be reckoned with for his actions to rescue, rehabilitate and release orangutans in Borneo’s jungles.

Smits and his fearless students replant the denuded forestlands with a wide array of nitrogen-fixing native plants and trees, including inoculating the soils with mycorrhizal fungus. This ensured that plants and trees quickly and successfully recolonize the cutover lands.

Smits has enlisted the services of school children around the globe in Deforest Action, enabling children to monitor the Indonesian jungles with satellites and detect illegal logging, offering hope and fostering passion in our youth, globally.

Smits is also the star of a brilliant soon-to-be released documentary “The Rise of the Eco-Warriors.” He takes a group of passionate and adventurous young people into Borneo’s jungles for 100 days as they courageously protect orangutans from rapacious palm oil companies.

I give two thumbs up to this thrilling, well-produced documentary.

Here’s what you can do to make a difference: Scrutinize all products you purchase: Read their ingredients. Refuse to purchase products with palm oil.

Support Deforest Action.

Support Orangutan Project.

Support The International Elephant Project.

Go and see “The Rise of the Eco-Warriors.”

If we all act together to say “No” to the slaughtering of the remaining Southeast Asian rain forests, our voices will be heard—loud and clear!

Australia, Radio 1, National: Ockham’s Razor

Earth Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster and distinguished conservation biologist. His latest book with Chris Maser is Life, The Wonder of it All

Contact Earth Dr Reese Halter

Text © by Dr Reese Halter 2014. All rights reserved.


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