Technology And The Environment Freshman Seminar Fall 1997

The World Bank President, Mr. James D. Wolfensohn (2nd from left), was flanked by USC Freshman students, (left to right), Cameron Ericksen, Jeffrey Levine, Jessica Schaeffer, and their professor Najm Meshkati, Associate Professor of Civil/Environmental Engineering. They attended Mr. Wolfensohn's talk at the dinner meeting of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on Tuesday November 4, 1997. In Meshkati's Freshman Seminar entitled Technology and the Environment, Freshman students discuss global environmental issues including the global warming, Indonesian forest fires, and the World Bank's Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development initiative.




USC Freshmen Students' Analyses and Comments on the 1997 Indonesian Fires

Dr. Najmedin Meshkati's fall 1997 freshmen seminar on Technology And The Environment
Cameron Ericksen, Neil Opdahl, Don Truong, Christina Randopoulos, Jeffrey Miyasaka, Jessica Schaeffer, Mimy Mac, Victor Lee, Shakira L. Gagnier, Alyson Adler, Mahlet Getachew, Shannon Corrigan, and Jeff Levine.



The Indonesian Clouds of Destruction
Cameron Ericksen
ericksen@scf.usc.edu

Day after dreadful day people are burned alive in Indonesia. For the past few months hundreds have been killed, thousands have been forced to abandon homes, and nature has been devastated. Smoldering beneath the earth’s surface are fires that are destroying the lives of families, animals, and the economy of Southeast Asia. These fires could quite possibly burn for years. The long term effects are to sketchy to say at this point but it has definitely affected the U.S. already. The 500 point drop in the stock market on October 27th was due to the decline in the Asian Economy which was caused by the Indonesian fires. These fires are a result of farmers burning fields and forests to create more pasture and agricultural land. It was believed that these fires would be extinguished by the monsoon season. El Nino has caused unusually dry weather conditions though. The rain may not return to Indonesia for several years. High winds have only escalated the problem. Smog has polluted the air to unheard of levels. It has forced people to flee their homes and wildlife is forced from its habitat. All efforts to stop the problem have been put to rest by the overwhelming and mass destruction caused by the intense fires.

The Indonesian government refuses to accept responsibility for these fires. When in fact they could have stopped these fires before they started. They were too content with accepting bribery money from wealthy farmers and now they have a national state of emergency. The Indonesian governments actions to fight the problem could be summed up with three words: “little to none.” We as a world can not afford to think about their government at this time. We have to think about the other countries affected by the disaster and the Indonesian people. So far, hundreds have died from starvation, influenza, and dysentery and thousands more are in danger.

The destruction and impact on families and nature , caused by these fires, is evident. We don’t have time to discuss options, it is a time to act. We must help Indonesia and then get to work on a solution to prevent such a disaster from reoccurring. Finding this solution is no easy task. The first part to a solution for a problem of this magnitude is awareness. In Oregon they place signs that indicate the chance of Forrest fires, which also indicates how easily they are spread. In Oregon they also have seasons when burning is legal, creating less chance of destructive fires in fire hazardous seasons. The next step is to create prevention’s for such wide spread destruction. In New Zealand they have areas that can not burn which contains the spread of fires. These preventative methods are effective and should be employed with in Indonesia immediately. The United Nations should also talk about setting up a task force to help prevent and fix such problems.



Neil Opdahl
opdahl@usc.edu

The concern for deforestation has worried and concerned environmentalists all over the world. As fears and tensions have grown, so have the number of acres being burned down. The reason many forests are burned down is to provide farm land for farmers and supply an industry of logging. Environmentalists have long warned people, governments, and industry of the severity of the consequences, these warnings have obviously been overlooked. In Indonesia, for the past few weeks, there has been a forest fire burning out of control. The fog, smog, and haze is so thick that people are passing out, and birds are falling dead out of the sky. The fires are driving tigers and elephants out of the forests. The fires have produced a smog that has blanketed much of Pacific Asia. Pleas have been made by neighboring countries and environmentalists all over the world. The problem is that, not only is the fire very out of control, but the fire is burning deep within the soil. The roots of the plants and trees are catching fire and causing and spreading the smoke. The fire has also caused many businesses schools, and other institutions to close. It seems that not many efforts are being made, the fire burns out of control presently. As it seems, greed is the main factor that has caused this fire. The president of Indonesia, Suharto, gives leeway to his friend and golf partner Bob Hasan, who is the billionaire owner of the vast log industry overseas. Since they are friends and obvious culprits, not much effort by either one of them has taken place to stop the madness. So if government and industry will not listen to the pleas of the people. Then it is up to us to pressure them to. One suggestion has been made to persuade the Japanese (the main purchaser of the wood) to stop buying wood from Indonesian companies. There has also been a suggestion to label the origin of all the wood available in the U.S. In order to boycott it and stop funding such companies. This will pressure these greedy politicians and billionaire industry owners to listen.



Smoke in Your Eyes
Don Truong

Let the world take warning. Recent wildfires in parts of Indonesia have created a huge environmental disaster. Smoke from these fire, the pollution index in some cities have risen above 830, much higher than a second stage smog alert index of 200. These fires did not arise from some unforeseen source. Rather they were caused purposely by rich farmers wanting to clear land for next year's crops. Normally, the monsoon rains usually drenches the fire, but this year, because of El Nino, the rains have not come. So far, the immediate effects are the death of 238 passengers of an airplane, crashing due to poor visibility. Yet the smoke from these fires will no doubt have lasting health effects for the inhabitants of the region; humans, plants and animals. Recently, it has been determined that the fire has spread to underground coal mines which could take years to extinguish even after fires have been put out on the ground. To think that all these tragedies could have been prevented had the government officials of Indonesia been men of integrity and not accept bribes.

The problem is clear. The solution however isn't as straight forward. What could be done is to change the corruption occurring there and not allowing people with money do what they wish with the environment. There needs to be a crackdown on corrupt officials to prevent any future occurrences. We could do our part by not consuming and wasting so much in terms of food. That is why land had to be cleared in the first place. The immediate solution is how to put out the fires. Since the monsoons are coming, countries must pledge their resources to fight the fires. This is not just the problem of Southeast Asian countries. The pollution there is non-discriminatory. In time, it will go to the air the we breath as well. What is disturbing may well be that this could be our future. If the fight to cut down pollution to curb air pollution, heavy smoke in our atmosphere may not be the exception, but the norm.



FOREST FIRES CAUSE MASS DESTRUCTION
Christina Randopoulos
randopou@usc.edu

One of the worlds worst ecological disasters in South-East Asia has lead to unfathomable problems due to political, legal, and diplomatic failures that are now effecting us globally. Poisonous air pollution in Asia and Indonesia has a two fold origin: The first being the slash and burn policy of commercial logging companies and plantations on Borneo and Sumatra, and the second being industrial missions. Indonesia claims that it was the fault of their farmers but in actuality, "Indigenous farmers use the same environmentally sound farming methods they have for centuries, rotating between plots of family land. The problem is the logging companies, which often show up anannounced, cut the trees, butn the stumps and set up plantations of oil palms or eucalyptus and acacia trees for paper and pulp--usually all without commpensating the farmers" (NYT 9-27-97). commercial logging and plantations are made sspwcific for plywood. The fires are being worsened by unfavorable winds, drought, and the delay of the monsoon rains due to the El Nino. The fires have now burnt into vast peat bogs and seams of coal, which could smolder for years. The pollution has spread from Indonesia into Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, and Papua New Guinea. The pollution has lead to "hundreds of thousands of people to have fallen ill with respiratory ailments" (NYT 10-26-97). Many steps need to be taken to help fix this disaster as well as prevent others from occurring. One of the main solutions would be a change in the Indonesian government. Right now authoritative hierarchies are ignorant to the demand of the general population for clearer air. If it was a democracy, the government would have to listen to its people. The government of Indonesia (President Suharto) needs to persecute responsible parties, but this is very unlikely because he gets his power from big companies like them and doesn't want to jeopardize his own power. "As with the economic crisis, the Government response to the ecological disaster has been ineffectual and hampered by corruption" (NYT 10-26-97). They should at least charge the guilty companies and international investors to foot the bill for cleanup. The Indonesian government should also think about ending subsidized migrations to Borneo and Sumatra from Java because the people from Java bring their old techniques of farming which don't work outside Java's rich volcanic soil. If they don't they need to invest in ways to re-educate the people on agricultural techniques. They also need an efficient regional environmental organization of the ASEAN Nations because right now they do little good. A possible way to settle this case would be to take it through an ASEAN court of international disputes (like the United Nations Court of Settlement). I think the least we could do is enforce a tropicla wood embargo and continue to provide help in extinguishing the fires.

This all happened because "warnings were ignored because the money was just too good" (NYT 10-26-97). The fact that our greed and power has put ourselves and our planet in a devastating situation is absurd. We have now seen the destruction caused by our own hands. Plain common sense should make the human race stop and look inward a little.



Forest Fire Equals Ecological Disaster and More
Jeffrey Miyasaka
miyasaka@usc.edu

One of the world's worst ecological disasters is now occurring in South East Asia. This ecological disaster is the burning of valuable forestland in Borneo and Sumatra Indonesia. The huge fires, which were caused by loggers burning the stumps of freshly cut trees, is causing a massive pollution problem in the area as well. There are blankets of smoke and ash covering the towns of Malaysia and Taiwan.

One of the many reasons why this has gotten so out of hand is that the Indonesian government has refused to pass laws making the logging illegal. The main reason why is that the government officials are accepting bribes by the loggers to ignore the problems. Often times the money was too good so the government officials ended up serving the loggers more than the citizens. There is only one solution in which Indonesia can and must do. The citizens must stand up and fight the corruption in the government. The problems with the fires are so bad that it is almost a lost cause to control them. The governmentís response to this ecological disaster is crisis in itself. The corruption of the government is so thick that it is unable to do anything is stopping the ecological disaster. The citizens must step up and be looking to the future to prevent this from happening again as well as solving the current problem.

The problem extends beyond the corruption in the government and fires. Because of the tremendous amounts of smoke in the atmosphere, the industries of Malaysia are being hurt. The tourism industry is being hurt since the smoke and haze is deterring tourists. And even on a more serious note, the lack of sun is reducing plant growth and the smoke is killing birds and bees that in turn prevent pollination. The burn has now deteriorated the food and water supplies of Malaysia and Indonesia. With all these problems still lingering, the corruption in the government will still continue unless something is done. This must be done by citizens and other countries.

Other countries around the area can help by using their resources to help control the effects of the fire at any way possible. Right now the air pollution index is extremely high and steps must be taken to preserve the human life within the countries affected. Other countries not affected by the problem must do steps to help prevent this from happening again. In an article in the New York Times titled, Its mood Dark as the Haze, Southeast Asia Aches, on October 26, 1997, it describes how the only benefactor of the fire is by those who set it. Those who mass-produce palm oil and the tropical hard woods. The fire has created new areas for planting as well as it has driven up the prices for palm oil and hard woods. It is not right that the culprits of the fire should benefit from it. Other countries should choose to refuse to buy the tropical hard wood and palm oil from Indonesia and other countries. Also these countries such as the US and Japan have extreme pull in the economy of the world. They must use this power to help curb the pollution problems and forestry practices of the South East Asia region through almost black mail. In the end, the problem of the fires effects everyone, so everyone must be willing to help prevent it in the future.



Indonesian Forest Fires
Jessica Schaeffer
jschaeff@usc.edu

A wide spread environmental catastrophe has over taken the lives of many in South East Asia. Illegal forest fires have run wild, causing a blanket of smoke to cover areas of Indonesia including Borneo, Sumatra, Malaysia, Sulawesi, Java, Thailand, and the Philippines. The fires, on the Indonesian part of Borneo and the island of Sumatra, were set to clear land for farmers' crops and commercial logging. They were spread and worsened by strong winds and prolonged drought, creating this thick smog with potentially dangerous air-pollutant levels. Not to mention, the depths of possibly permanent ecological damage done to the wildlife and destroyed forests.

Due to the severity of these effects, immediate action must be taken to help the affected area. All countries need to pitch in to stop the fires before more people get sick and die. This is an international catastrophe that started on a national level. The Indonesian government must take responsibility for it's actions, and realize that deforestation cannot continue. The government needs to strengthen and enforce the laws against "slash-and-burn" to heighten the prevention of it. Also ethically speaking, the government officials should stop accepting political influence and bribery. Hopefully, stronger enforcement will catch the culprits before any damage is done. Along with emphasizing the prevention of "slash-and-burn", the government should intensify the consequences. Harsher punitive actions against it will deter the farmers from using this method. To reinforce these laws internationally, other countries should boycott the products that originated in areas of deforestation. Thus making the products useless and non-profitable, unless an environmentally conscious solution is activated. As always, a widespread general awareness of the problem is helpful. If people realize the extent to which these effects reach, they will be more likely to join the fight against it and help those in need.



Mimy Mac
mmac@usc.edu

An international environmental catastrophe is now occurring in Indonesia as a result of farmers' attempt to clear land by burning the crops from the previous season, thus making room for the next planting season. Accompanied by a drought and violent winds, the fire got out of hand and has spread to other nearby Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Combodia. Smog and smoke veiled the air of the victimed countries causing serious health problems to the people who live there. Many cities has been evacuated because the smoke is too penetrating for the lungs. Millions of people are fleeing hte country to escape the smoke but those who can't flee are forced to wear gas masks to tolerate the smog.

Just about everything is affected by the forest fire in Asia. Other than undergoing major environmental problems such as the pollution of the atmosphere and deforestion and damaging of natural wildlife habitats, Asia would also have to face economic problems. Agriculture would be at rick, causing food shortages in the nations. In Indonesia, reports show that people are dying of starvation, dysentery and influenza. The haze in Asia also reduced tourism which affected the economy also.

The government should enforce stricter laws upon farmers who clear lands by setting fires. It is unfair that the whole country suffers due to a few farmer's folly. Farmers should use different methouds to clear land so that future forest fires will not occur. Other countries can help stop the slash and burn policy used by farmers in Indonesia by banning products produced by the farmers such as the tropical hardwood that is usually grown in the land. By refusing to buy plywood from Indonesia, people are protesting against careless fire burnings that can lead to a great forest fire.

The government of Indonesia should also take responsibility for what they have caused and issue a national apology and ask for help. Foreign countries should play a bid role in aiding Indonesia recover especially in supplying food and medical supplies because it is unfair to allow the innocent children and citizens to suffer when theyr are not at fault. Overall, the event is a major environmental problem and it appears that the solutons is out of the man's hands. All that can be hoped for if for the Monsoon rain to come soon.



The Ecological Disaster
Victor Lee
victor@scf.usc.edu

In Indonesia and East Asia, the thick smog is causing many problems for the people. In places near Borneo and Sumatra, the source of this smoke is the forest fires that are burning out of control in Indonesia. This place, it is estimated, is equivalent to, or larger than that of the Malaysian Peninsula. The worst part is that the smog contains more than mere wood smoke. It contains other harmful chemicals such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, and other harmful particulates from industrializing countries. These industries carelessly and relentlessly pump this harmful smoke into the air. Also, these fires were caused by people who lit fires to clear land for plantations to produce palm oil or paper and pulp. In some respects, the fires were caused by farmers clearing their land for crops. The strong winds and dryness caused by the drought have kept the fires lit, spreading it to other places outside of its realm. These strong winds are caused primary by the El Nino effect. The cause of the fires are drought, and in return this drought was set upon by man.

If this practice continues, there could be a danger of heart ailments, lung failure, and other potential human diseases. Another direct effect on this ecological disaster is the large amount of money that will need to be garnered to pay for the damages and health support of victims. Already, this thick smog has spread throughout Southeast Asia and has been the cause of many accidents that normally would not occur. It caused an Indonesia airliner to crash due to the excessive has and smoke. The smoke came from the forest fires mainly from Indonesia. It claimed more than 234 lives due to the plane crash. The thickness of the smoke was experienced as rescue helicopters had trouble locating and landing on the crash site to search for potential survivors. In Southeast Asia, the El Nino effect, in which a warming of temperatures in the South Pacific results, has taken its toll. It prevents the pouring of monsoon rains that will put out the fires. The wildlife in the area are also threatened, as they are not accustomed the excessive pollution unnaturally caused.

I believe that the least America and other countries could do who are not experiencing this dilemma, is to help pitch in money to help these countries. The main problem is getting the leaders of the Southeastern countries to take this problem seriously. Obviously money is the root of all evil, and in this situation, the cause of the forest fires are no different. Countries should temporarily ban the sale and use of cars and encourage others means of transportation, such as bikes. If automobiles are used, they should restrict their numbers significantly. An example would be to restrict all families to just one vehicle at least until this fires subsides..



GLOBAL CATASTROPHE
Shakira L. Gagnier
QDanielle@aol.com

Environmental dilemmas are not only under the scrutiny of domestic politics and regulations but rather international politics. Many environmental issues that used to be regarded as local concerns are now being viewed on a global scale. Several factors have contributed to this transition including modern technology. The world, in essence, has been reduced in size via the internet, world-wide media and transportation, thus creating a more intricate and complicated world. As a result, this globalization has left environmental responsibility and concern for several ecological disasters to an ambiguous minority. Therefore, action taken to counteract pollution and environmental disasters is either slowly implemented or non existent.

The Indonesian Fires, one of the worst environmental disasters of this century, was not counteracted until weeks into the fire. The government officials and local farmers simply turned their faces the other way. However, more than 750,000 acres of Indonesian bush land was destroyed. Many "[s]chool childeren [were] fainting at their desk" (Meshkati). Factories and mines were even shut down because "hundreds of thousands of people ha[d] fallen ill with respiratory ailments" (Meshkati). Although 1,200 Malaysian firefighters tried to soothe the blazing fires, the"... ecological destruction and economic hardship are growing" (Meshkati). Southeast Asia region is in a desperate state of emergency. Yet, the problem did not develop overnight, instead, the disaster stemmed from much business corruption and economic greed. Local farmers and big corporations refused warnings of problems "because the money was just too good" (Meshkati). Local politicians would often take bribe money to keep quiet.

However, the greed and corruption of a few individuals has led to the destruction of the Southeast Asia region's atmosphere and land. Several cities within Singapore, Indonesia nad Malaysia have decalared states of emergincy due to the thick haze that blankets the sky. Women and children complain of burning sensations in their eyes. Many are without food and water. The entire region is suffering from the results of the "slash and burn" technique. Furthermore, neighboring countries are experiencing the aftermath. Although, officials are trying to make certain timber companies responsible for their own actions, the dilemma lies in the solution. Since pollution has no boundaries, it does not stop at a countries' borders. In essence, the "Indonesia Fire Dilemma" has manifested itself into a global catastrophe.



Indonesian Fires
Alyson Adler

The situation within the Indonesian islands is disastrous and is continually getting worse as time progresses. Currently fires are burning on both Sumatra and Borneo, however the fatal smoke rising from them is spreading to other areas such as Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Previously affecting 22 cities, the smoke now covers 41 cities. This smoke is not only creating a haze but has much more severe consequences to the population of these areas.

Already, the air-pollutants index has reached such high levels as 839, 500 being a level extremely dangerous to ones health. This smog is very obviously a health hazard, and already has caused many deaths, 234 just recently from an airplane crash caused by the thick smoke. A total of 493 people have died of famine, attributed to the inability to transport rations due to the heavy smog. Not only is the smoke a main attributer to these deaths and health risks, but lead, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide are all being trapped within the environment, enhancing the smokeís dangerous effects.

The effects of this situation have been predicted, by many doctors, to be extremely dangerous to peoples health, especially those of a young age now. Other effects this thick smoke may have are the slowing of crop productions, as the smoke blocks the sun, and the obvious slowing of the tourist industry in the area. This $26 billion industry has quite a strong influence over Southeast Asia. These effects are all detrimental, and the fires are predicted to smolder in some bogs for years to come, the end of this disaster not in sight.

These hazardous fires began as a result of man made fires. Plantation owners illegally used the fires to clear the land, with slash-and-burn techniques. Unfortunately cash cropping is now taking fatal tolls on the environment as the burning is now completely out of control. El Nino has created strong warm winds and drought, the worst in 50 years, for this area and the monsoons are not predicted to come for a while, which are the only thing which can stop this burning at this point.

A solution to this problem is not one that will come easily, but must be acted upon now. This subject has become internationally discussed and many groups have offered help, such as the World Bank, and other important powers. However, they are somewhat helpless in this matter. The only thing that can be done now is to prevent this from ever happening again. It has happened before, in 1994, on a smaller scale, and now it is time to enforce laws which will prevent this disaster from ever occurring again.

To ensure the stopping of the slash-and-burning used in plantations, the environmental group WALHI has begun to sue plantation owners and will continue to hold them responsible for their actions. This is certainly a good first step to take. Another option to stop this is for the United States and other nations to stop purchasing wood products and palm oil from Indonesia, in order to cripple plantations until proper planting techniques are used. Something, whatever it may be, must be done to stop this environmental disaster from occurring again.



A Recommendation on the Future Prevention of: Asia's International Catastrophe
Mahlet Getachew
getachew@usc.edu

Let me breathe... A simple plea, yet it resounds in our ears. Let me breathe. It is a low wail etched on the face masks of millions trapped in Asia's international catastrophe. Slash-and-burn farmers, in efforts to clear land for crops, have lost control of forest fires in Indonesia. These fires now cover an area, astoundingly, as big as the Malaysian peninsula. Some call this an ecological disaster. It is. Others scream, economic crisis or pollution or smog or haze. It is all of these. So call it what you wish, but as the fires smolder a deadly roof of smoke continues to cover South-East Asia. To make matters worse, smog from industrializing and motorizing countries of the region is pumped unendingly into the atmosphere. And it hangs in the air, because the roof of smoke traps it, acting as a lid. This blanket of poison has darkened the skies as well as the spirits. As governments remain inactive the smog that already stings the eyes and sears the lungs is destroying the very environment which gives life. Birds are falling from the sky, airplanes are crashing due to poor visibility, animals are fleeing the burning jungles, people are fallimg ill with respiratory ailments, cities with millions of citizens are being evacuated. The haze has spread from Indonesia to Malaysia, the Philipines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, and Papua New Guinea. And it is still growing. With conditions as bad as they are now, governments of South-East Asia have decided to respond. But it is late. Almost too late. This disaster could have been forseen, but warnings were ignored. Prevention would have been quite simple, but improbable in terms of the way governments work. Asia's international catastrophe is a microcosm of the collective consciousness of the world and a foreshadowing of what may be true very soon for all of the Earth. It does not have to be this way. Asia's situation is a warning. So let us learn from our mistakes... Stop, or strictly regulate, slash-and-burn farmers, for burning is not the only way. It is simply cost effective, but shouldn't every thing affected be taken into account? There is a higher choice which works for the protection of the environment, the safety of people, and the prosperity of ALL. Choose it. As for governments: reevaluate the effectiveness of its actions. It certainly doesn't work for a government if all its people are dying... if the economy is collapsed... if there is nothing to govern! There is a greater place to be than where Asia is now. Imagine a world where instead of destroying our lifeblood we celebrate the power and fertility of nature with the urgency of all life. If this concept can be understood then the future of critical environmental catastrophes may be dim-- a dream come true for the terrestrial paradise.



Indonesian Forest Fires
Shannon Corrigan
scorriga@usc.edu

There has been a major environmental disaster in Indonesia, a case where it has not only affected wildlife and destroyed the earth but has claimed the lives of hundreds of people. Some have died in plane crashes which may have resulted from the smog while hundreds of others have died from starvation, influenza, and dysentery. Thousands of others have fallen ill from respiratory problems while others are in desperate need of food and water. The smog serves as a atmospheric lid containing all the lead, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide pumped into the air by industrializing countries. It is not only affecting Indonesia but six other Southeast Asian nations as well; Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, and Papua New Guinea. This horrible cloud of smoke was said to start from farmers who lit their land to clear the plantations and produce palm oil and paper. The sad part about this is that it could of been prevented but with the Government and private businesses growing wealthy together, the money was just too good. Do to the drought and the El Nino winds the fires spread making it almost impossible to leave the house without a gas mask. Schools and businesses have been shut down, and many people with the means to move are leaving by the hoard. Nobody knows whether it will take weeks or months before the monsoon rains will come to douse the fires. Even then, experts say that the fire may have burrowed so deep into vast peat bogs and seams of coal, that they may continue to burn for years. This disaster is not only life and environmentally threatening but also economically threatening. Because Southeast Asian countries are already having a currency crisis the smog is only making the problem worse. The smog is also slowing the growth of fruits and vegetables and reducing yields of rice and corn. On Sept. 26, 1997 a plane crashed carrying over 200 people. While some question whether it was the fault of the smoke it did however prevent the rescue helicopters from flying to the crash site. Some raise questions about the training and performance of Garuda airlines personnel, for they have had six major crashes since 1982. This environmental disaster as a whole has affected the land, the animals, the people, the economy, the entire country of Indonesia and the counties surrounding it. In order to prevent something as horrible as this from ever happening again the government, the people and the international community all need to come together and take action. Southeast Asia needs to take their forest protection laws seriously and if the case need be make up harsher punishment for breaking the laws. Other countries can come together and help prevent another disaster like this by banning the importing of plywood made from tropical hard wood. The people of Indonesia and surrounding countries need to come together and from strong environmental groups that have a say in the law and the community. The people can form a farmers union that creates new ways for clearing the land so that they could never be held responsible for such a disaster again.



An Essay in Response to the Forest Fires in Southeast Asia
Jeff Levine
jlevine@scf.usc.edu

"It is an ecological disaster of huge dimensions and one that has left environmentalists gasping at the political, legal, and diplomatic failures that allowed it to happen" (Economist, 40). Smoke from forest fires raging in Borneo and Sumatra has formed a dense cloud over much of southeast Asia, including Singapore, Java, Borneo, Malaysia, and much of the Philippines. The fires are a result of myriad factors, mainly Indonesia's current slash-and-burn policies. Combined with a long period of drought and high winds, these practices, employed to clear land for plantations for the production of paper pulp with Palm Oil, Eucalyptus, and Acacia trees. The thick smoke, forming a barrier about much of southeast Asia, is causing numerous problems. In the Malaysian Sarawak state, the air-pollutants index, a scale used to measure pollutants present in the local air, reached up to 839 at one point. To give a clear picture of just how high such an API actually is, international governments recommend the wearing of surgical masks when an area reaches an API of 250. There are some places in southeast Asia, namely Sumatra and Borneo, that are suffering conditions worse than those in Sarawak. There, where the fires actually burn, the cloud of smoke serves as an atmospheric cap, holding in all of the other toxins produced by the raging fires and also the day-to-day machinations of these industrializing areas, including lead (Pb), carbon monoxide (CO), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). As a result of these fires, some governments are urging citizens to abide by various rules, ranging from small-time changes like carpooling to work to larger-scale suggestions, including evacuating and/or shutting people in. It is obvious that the Malay government needs to look into their policies and initiate some revisions therein. A first step would be to eliminate any slash-and-burn support in the laws. By banning these harsh practices, not only are they preserving one of our greatest natural resources - nature, but also they will avoid risking further devastation if things should go awry again. If the government will not directly ban slash-and-burn, then they should go to great lengths to limit and regulate it. It is important to understand that the consequences of such situations that "get out of hand" go beyond those who may be guilty, affecting millions upon millions of innocent people. The effects of the ongoing fires will continue long after the fires are extinguished and the smoke stops flowing. It is here when the true problems will arise and haunt southeast Asia - contaminated soil and produce, a weakened economy because of those factors, disease, and a general unpleasantness in the air. It has been said that hindsight is 20/20, and now is as good a time as any to take advantage of that ideal vision, correcting the problems that have surfaced and preventing them from repeating themselves or in similar forms.



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