Sunday, July 24, 2011

Climate justice in Timor, Indonesia

Siti Maimunah in Inside Indonesia writes a long, detailed piece about Timor and the complex interaction of government policies, unjust land arrangements, and the struggle of indigenous people to adapt: Marginalised communities across Indonesia have long faced threats of environmental destruction, and struggled against corporate resource exploitation and the state policies that support it. Now they also increasingly confront threats from climate change and the unpredictable extreme weather patterns it spawns. From farmers in remote parts of Timor to fishing communities in southern Sumatra, an increasingly erratic climate is affecting how millions of people make their livelihoods.

One way that local peoples have responded to these interlinked challenges is by calling for ‘climate justice’. Around Indonesia, local people are demanding policies that protect communities from impacts of both corporate greed and natural hazards, and that prioritise programs to cope with impacts of climate change.

One place to start unravelling the threads that tie climate justice to broader issues of environmental injustice is in the foothills of Timor, in eastern Indonesia. Protests against quarrying and timber plantations in central south Timor also incorporate demands for climate justice. ...

The Molo people’s vow to resist mining in their mountains has a philosophical basis. Quarrying Mt Maususu’s marble runs against Molo beliefs, which equate the earth to the human body. The Molo see rocks as the earth’s bones, soil as the earth’s flesh, water as its blood, and forest as the its skin, lungs, and hair. If rocks – the bones of a place – are shattered, this disrupts other functions too. Ten years ago, a marble quarry caused landslides that polluted water sources and aggravated social conflict. Uniting to save Mt Naususu, the Molo have prevented new quarrying and mining until now.

...Indonesian policies have been two-faced about climate mitigation. On the one hand, it claims to be playing a leading role in the global effort to reduce climate change. On the other hand, the government grants permits to exploit natural resources, licenses to destroy forests and for projects that raise carbon emissions. Despite the recent moratorium on new concessions, existing logging, oil palm, and mining concessions will continue to destroy or degrade hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest per year. In East Kalimantan alone, 303 large scale oil palm plantation concessions covered 3.65 million hectares in 2009. Last year, 1212 coal mining permits covered 4.4 million hectares....

From NASA, a shot of Timor Island, one of the larger islands of the Lesser Sunda Islands, located between the Savu Sea to the northwest and the Timor Sea to the southeast. The western half of the island, under Dutch control until 1949, and the eastern half, a Portuguese province until 1975, are now united as a province of Indonesia.

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