Indonesia should be taken to the International Criminal Court.
Half the country is on fire, and the resulting smoke is covering a good chunk of Southeast Asia. Tiny particles are being inhaled into the lungs of young and old, and will likely stay there permanently. The carbon emissions have been estimated to be equivalent to the annual output of the whole of the US, which will result in a dramatic increase in global warming.
And what is Indonesia doing about it? To quote the Scientific American website:
In one instance 30 military (personnel) showed up to a 7,400-acre fire with three water pumps and a couple of hoses.
And this isn’t a short term problem. The smoke will stay with us for many months. It has blanketted almost all of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia and has now spread into Southern Thailand. Which is why I’m grumbling about it. I thought, when I moved north from Malaysia, I would be getting away from it.
It isn’t an isolated problem. It happens almost every year, but is far worse in an El Niño year like this one – a meteorological phenomenon which seems to be happening more often.
The primary cause is large corporations, mostly involved in oil palm plantations, clearing their land by slash and burn techniques. Everytime this happens, the Indonesian Government seems to say “Oops. Sorry. Not much we can do about it.” The people of SE Asia seem to be equally passive. They grumble the same way the Brits grumble about their weather, as though it’s some event they can do nothing about.
It’s clear too that the regional national governments fudge the figures, telling their nations there’s nothing to worry about even when visibility falls below 1km, and the air smells like the inside of a charcoal factory. They stupidly call it “haze” as though it was caused by a little water vapor in the air, when in fact it is clearly smog.
But eventually they have to admit the air is dangerous to breathe and they close schools, disrupt flight schedules, and cancel sporting events. Everyone walks around wearing face masks, like a whole nation of surgeons. Which is a bit ironic since most of the cheap ones are not surgical masks and do little to block the really dangerous particles.
These things now seem to be a normal annual occurrence.
Aside from killing people, it’s killing the tourism industry, which in turn affects people’s income and livelihood.
Image you’d chosen to spend a couple of weeks in Singapore, and you had to don a mask before venturing outside. And when you did, you found you could see virtually nothing, and so you rushed back to your hotel with stinging eyes.
Imagine sitting on a beach anywhere near here or in Malaysia, being able to see the sun as a dark red almost invisible blob, and staring at a gray sea – what little you can see of it. You’d go home sorely disappointed. You’d never come back. And you’d tell friends to go nowhere near SE Asia. And rightly so.
And still no one does anything.
Today was supposed to be a nice day out with friends. Sit by the sea. Have a nice Italian lunch at Ciao Bella, and cruise around looking at the scenery. What scenery?
Okay, we went, and we had a good lunch; but my lungs wish we hadn’t.
All I can hope for now is a strong and sustained northeasterly wind to blow the smog right back where it came from. But pity the poor people of Indonesia – where the pollution readings are ten to twenty times higher than what is already considered dangerous.