Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Indonesia Goes Green to the Dismay of Palm Oil Producers

Jakarta Globe, Bruce Einhorn, Yoga Rusmana & Eko Listiyorini, May 31, 2013 
An aerial picture taken on May 4, 2013, shows palm oil plantation in Indragiri
Hulu, Riau. (EPA Photo)

To environmentalists, Indonesia is the home of developers who clear virgin rain forests, destroy the habitat of orangutans, and contribute to global climate change.

But on May 13, Indonesia extended a policy of keeping virgin rain forest off-limits to the palm oil industry, a main driver of deforestation.

The first moratorium, imposed in 2011, had some enforcement problems.

This time the government seems to be taking a new approach to green issues, and activists such as Glenn Hurowitz are unlikely fans.

“There are now people at the highest levels of government who really believe the country can develop and protect its natural resources at the same time,” says Hurowitz, managing director of consultant Climate Advisers and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, a think tank.

The change, he says, is “quite extraordinary.”

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono renewed the moratorium in part because of multinationals that don’t want to be linked to deforestation in Indonesia, the top producer of palm oil, which is used in cooking around the world.

Companies such as Nestlé, Unilever, and Cargill have pledged to stop using palm oil from trees planted on land that had been virgin rain forest. By 2015, even Girl Scout Cookies will use only palm oil certified as sustainable.

The moratorium, says Indonesian Palm Oil Board Chairman Derom Bangun, “is good for improving our image.”

In Indonesia, government departments often disagree about what constitutes virgin forest and what areas stay open for developers.

“They each have their own definitions, each have their maps, which don’t specifically correlate to each other,” says Satya Tripathi, director of the UN’s Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia, an agency focused on deforestation, conservation, and sustainable forest management.

The government is creating a single map of forest areas to eliminate conflicting accounts.

Indonesian industry isn’t happy with the government’s ban. “We will lose the momentum,” says Joko Supriyono, secretary general of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association.

Already, plantation owners such as Malaysia’s Sime Darby are looking to less regulated countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Some environmentalists aren’t totally satisfied either.

According to Yuyun Indradi of Greenpeace Indonesia, banning new plantations on primary rain forest isn’t enough, because planters can still clear secondary-growth forest. A more comprehensive ban “is what’s really needed,” he says. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Central Kalimantan Forests Prepare for Ecotourism

Jakarta Globe, Ari Rikin, May 28, 2013

This photograph taken on June 5, 2012 shows villagers travelling on a small
 boat to tend farms in a forest clearing in Central Kalimantan, home to the world’s
third-largest area of tropical forests. (AFP Photo/Romeo Gacad)

The Central Kalimantan government is preparing the Tanjung Puting and Sabangau National Park as an ecotourism destination with support from sustainability group Rimbawan Bangun Lestari.

Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang said the province is home to a vast natural resources, specifically forests.

He added that 30 years ago, Central Kalimantan was among the most resourceful provinces in terms of its forestry industry. But government policies in the years that followed led to logging being conducted across its forests.

“Logging was conducted under government policies. In the process, reforestation efforts also occurred but failed to match the logging. Today, natural resources remain abundant. This, to us, is valuable,” he said during the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Central Kalimantan government and Rimbawan Bangun Lestari on Monday.

Agustin said that 82 percent of Central Kalimantan consists of forests, with a total area of 15.4 million hectares. He said he hoped that plans to develop the forests as a tourism destination would include conservation efforts.

“Activities that support the development phase of ecotourism were conducted prior to the signing of this agreement, including the protection of endemic flora and fauna, such as the orangutan,” he said.

Central Kalimantan’s forest area comprise 1.6 million hectares of nature sanctuary areas and nature preservation areas, and 11.1 million hectares of protected forest, limited production forest and convertible production forest.

David Makes, chairman of the Sustainable Management Group, a private-sector conservation organization, said forest resources, especially those outside the nature sanctuary and preservation areas, were prone to disruptions, both natural and man-made.

“Without careful and clever development and utilization, the result may end up damaging and thus threatening the existing natural sanctuary and preservation areas,” he said.

Monday, May 27, 2013

'The Sumatran rainforest will mostly disappear within 20 years'

In only a few years, logging and agribusiness have cut Indonesia's vast rainforest by half. The government has renewed a moratorium on deforestation but it may already be too late for the endangered animals –and for the people whose lives lie in ruin

The Guardian, John Vidal, The Observer, Sunday 26 May 2013

Our small plane had been flying low over Sumatra for three hours but all we had seen was an industrial landscape of palm and acacia trees stretching 30 miles in every direction. A haze of blue smoke from newly cleared land drifted eastward over giant plantations. Long drainage canals dug through equatorial swamps dissected the land. The only sign of life was excavators loading trees onto barges to take to pulp mills.

The end is in sight for the great forests of Sumatra and Borneo and the animals and people who depend on them. Thirty years ago the world's third- and sixth-largest islands were full of tigers, elephants, rhinos, orangutan and exotic birds and plants but in a frenzy of development they have been trashed in a single generation by global agribusiness and pulp and paper industries.

Their plantations supply Britain and the world with toilet paper, biofuels and vegetable oil to make everyday foods such as margarine, cream cheese and chocolate, but distraught scientists and environmental groups this week warn that one of the 21st century's greatest ecological disasters is rapidly unfolding.

Official figures show more than half of Indonesia's rainforest, the third-largest swath in the world, has been felled in a few years and permission has been granted to convert up to 70% of what remains into palm or acacia plantations. The government last week renewed a moratorium on the felling of rainforest, but nearly a million hectares are still being cut each year and the last pristine areas, in provinces such as Ache and Papua, are now prime targets for giant logging, palm and mining companies.

The toll on wildlife across an area nearly the size of Europe is vast, say scientists who warn that many of Indonesia's species could be extinct in the wild within 20-30 years. Orangutan numbers are in precipitous decline, only 250-400 tigers remain and fewer than 100 rhino are left in the forests, said the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Millions of hectares are nominally protected, but the forest is fragmented, national parks are surrounded by plantations, illegal loggers work with impunity and corruption is rife in government. "This is the fastest, most comprehensive transformation of an entire landscape that has ever taken place anywhere in the world including the Amazon. If it continues at this rate all that will be left in 20 years is a few fragmented areas of natural forest surrounded by huge manmade plantations. There will be increased floods, fires and droughts but no animals," said Yuyun Indradi, political forest campaigner with Greenpeace southeast Asia in Jakarta.

Last night the WWF's chief Asian tiger expert pleaded with the Indonesian government and the world to stop the growth of palm oil plantations. "Forest conversion is massive. We urgently need stronger commitment from the government and massive support from the people. We cannot tolerate any further conversion of natural forests," said Sunarto Sunarto in Jakarta.

Indonesia's deforestation has been accompanied by rising violence, say watchdog groups. Last year, more than 600 major land conflicts were recorded in the palm plantations. Many turned violent as communities that had lost their traditional forest fought multinational companies and security forces. More than 5,000 human rights abuses were recorded, with 22 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

"The legacy of deforestation has been conflict, increased poverty, migration to the cities and the erosion of habitat for animals. As the forests come down, social conflicts are exploding everywhere," said Abetnego Tarigan, director of Walhi, Indonesia's largest environment group.

Scientists fear that the end of the forest could come quickly. Conflict-wracked Aceh, which bore the brunt of the tsunami in 2004, will lose more than half its trees if a new government plan to change the land use is pushed through. A single Canadian mining company is seeking to exploit 1.77m hectares for mining, logging and palm plantations.

Large areas of central Sumatra and Kalimantan are being felled as coal, copper and gold mining companies move in. Millions of hectares of forest in west Papua are expected to be converted to palm plantations.

"Papuans, some of the poorest citizens in Indonesia, are being utterly exploited in legally questionable oil palm land deals that provide huge financial opportunities for international investors at the expense of the people and forests of West Papua," said Jago Wadley, a forest campaigner with the Environment Investigation Agency.

Despite a commitment last week from the government to extend a moratorium on deforestation for two years, Indonesia is still cutting down its forests faster than any other country. Loopholes in the law mean the moratorium only covers new licences and primary forests, and excludes key peatland areas and existing concessions which are tiger and elephant habitats. "No one seems able to stop the destruction," said Greenpeace International's forest spokesman, Phil Aikman.

The conflicts often arise when companies are granted dubious logging or plantation permissions that overlap with community-managed traditional forests and protected areas such as national parks.

Nine villages have been in conflict with the giant paper company April, which has permission to convert, with others, 450,000 hectares of deep peat forests on the Kampar Peninsula in central Sumatra. Because the area contains as much as 1.5bn tonnes of carbon, it has global importance in the fight against climate change.

"We would die for this [forest] if necessary. This is a matter of life and death. The forest is our life. We depend on it when we want to build our houses or boats. We protect it. The permits were handed out illegally, but now we have no option but to work for the companies or hire ourselves out for pitiful wages," said one village leader from Teluk Meranti who feared to give his name.

They accuse corrupt local officials of illegally grabbing their land. April, which strongly denies involvement in corruption, last week announced plans to work with London-based Flora and Fauna international to restore 20,000 hectares of degraded forest land.

Fifty miles away, near the town of Rengit, villagers watched in horror last year when their community forest was burned down – they suspect by people in the pay of a large palm oil company. "Life is terrible now. We are ruined. We used to get resin, wood, timber, fuel from the forest. Now we have no option but to work for the palm oil company. The company beat us. The fire was deliberate. This forest was everything for us. We used it as our supermarket, building store, chemist shop and fuel supplier for generations of people. Now we must put plastic on our roofs," said one man from the village of Bayesjaya who also asked not to be named.

Mursyi Ali from the village of Kuala Cenaku in the province of Riau, has spent 10 years fighting oil plantation companies which were awarded a giant concession. "Maybe 35,000 people have been impacted by their plantations. Everyone is very upset. People have died in protests. I have not accepted defeat yet. These conflicts are going on everywhere. Before the companies came we had a lot of natural resources, like honey, rattan, fish, shrimps and wood," he said.

"We had all we wanted. That all went when the companies came. Everything that we depended on went. Deforestaion has led to pollution and health problems. We are all poorer now. I blame the companies and the government, but most of all the government," he continued. He pleaded with the company: "Please resolve this problem and give us back the 4,100 hectares of land. We would die for this if necessary. This is a life or death," he says.

Greenpeace and other groups accuse the giant pulp and palm companies of trashing tens of thousands of hectares of rainforest a year but the companies respond that they are the forest defenders and without them the ecological devastation would be worse. "There has been a rampant escalation of the denuding of the landscape but it is mostly by migrant labour and palm oil growers. Poverty and illegal logging along with migrant labour have caused the deforestation," said April's spokesman, David Goodwin.

"What April does is not deforestation. In establishing acacia plantations in already-disturbed forest areas, it is contributing strongly to reforestation. Last year April planted more than 100 million trees. Deforestation happens because of highly organised illegal logging, slash-and-burn practices by migrant labour, unregulated timber operations. There has been a explosion of palm oil concessions."

The company would not reveal how much rainforest it and its suppliers fell each year but internal papers seen by the Observer show that it planned to deforest 60,000 hectares of rainforest in 2012 but postponed this pending the moratorium. It admits that it has a concession of 20,000 hectares of forest that it has permission to fell and that it takes up to one third of its timber from "mixed tropical hardwood" for its giant pulp and paper mill near Penabaru in Riau.

There are some signs of hope. The heat is now on other large palm oil and paper companies after Asia Pacific Resources International (APP), one of the world's largest pulp and paper companies, was persuaded this year by international and local Indonesian groups to end all rainforest deforestation and to rely solely on its plantations for its wood.

The company, which admits to having felled hundreds of thousands of acres of Sumatran forest in the last 20 years, had been embarrassed and financially hurt when other global firms including Adidas, Kraft, Mattel, Hasbro, Nestlé, Carrefour, Staples and Unilever dropped products made by APP that had been made with rainforest timber.

"We thought that if we adopted national laws to protect the forest that this would be enough. But it clearly was not. We realised something was not right and that we needed a much higher standard. So now we will stop the deforestation, whatever the cost. We are now convinced that the long term benefits will be greater," said Aida Greenbury, APP's sustainability director. "Yes. We got it wrong. We could not have done worse."

This file aerial photograph taken on June 7, 2012 shows lush
tropical forest in Central Kalimantan (AFP Photo/Romeo Gacad)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Seeds Of Death - Full Movie

Published on May 24, 2013

In preparation of the global March Against Monsanto, you are invited to watch our award-winning documentary Seeds of Death free.

The leaders of Big Agriculture--Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta--are determined that world's populations remain ignorant about the serious health and environmental risks of genetically modified crops and industrial agriculture. Deep layers of deception and corruption underlie both the science favoring GMOs and the corporations and governments supporting them.

This award-winning documentary, Seeds of Death, exposes the lies about GMOs and pulls back the curtains to witness our planet's future if Big Agriculture's new green revolution becomes our dominant food supply.

A Question and Answer fact sheet deconstructing Monsanto's GM claims and Big Agriculture's propaganda to accompany the film is available online.

Protesters make their point to Monsanto in Los Angeles, California,
May 25, 2013. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Related Articles:

Millions march against GM crops - New

Washington County Bans Growing of GMOs

Friday, May 24, 2013

White tiger's coat down to one change in a gene

BBC News, 23 May 2013

Related Stories

Records of sightings in the wild on the Indian
sub-continent date back to the 1500s
Chinese scientists have acquired new insights into how white tigers get their colouration.

The researchers have traced the cause to a single change in a gene known to drive pigmentation in a host of animals, including humans.

White tigers are a rare variant of the customary orange Bengal sub-species.

Today, they are found exclusively in captive programmes where the limited numbers are interbred to maintain the distinctive fur colour.

Shu-Jin Luo of Peking University and colleagues report in the journal Cell Biology how they investigated the genetics of a family of tigers living in Chimelong Safari Park in Panyu, Guangzhou Province.

This ambush of tigers included both white and orange individuals.

The study zeroed in on the pigment gene called SLC45A2, which has long been associated with the light colouration seen in some human populations, and in a range of other animals including horses, chickens, and fish.

The team identified a small alteration in the white-tiger version of SLC45A2 that appears to inhibit the production of red and yellow pigments. This change has no effect on the generation of black pigment - explaining why the whites still have their characteristic dark stripes.

A number of the white tigers found in zoos have health issues, such as eyesight problems and some deformities.

However, Luo and colleagues say these deficiencies are a consequence of inbreeding by humans and that the white coats are in no way indicative of a more general weakness in the Bengal variant.

Establishing this fact means that re-introducing them to the wild under a carefully managed conservation programme might be worth considering.

"The last known free-ranging white tiger was shot in 1958, before which sporadic sightings were made in India," the researchers write.

"Reasons for the extinction of wild white tigers were likely the same as those accounting for the dramatic decline in wild tigers in general: uncontrolled trophy hunting, habitat loss, and habitat fragmentation.

"However, the fact that many white tigers captured or shot in the wild were mature adults suggests that a white tiger in the wild is able to survive without its tness being substantially compromised."

Related Articles:

“..  Animals in the wild will instinctively know not to overpopulate and those that are   carnivorous will turn to the plant kingdom for sustenance.  The albinos being born in several animal species have both spiritual and transitional significance.  You associate white with peace, and these rarities that are appearing are symbolic of the coming changes in animal nature that will end the predator-prey food chain and restore the peaceable relationship that once existed among all species, including humankind.  The instances of unlikely cross-species friendships and even nurturing of the young from one species by mothers of another are more indications of Earth’s return to her original paradise self.  Still, an extremely important factor in this is the inspiration in many souls to be advocates for the animal kingdom and alleviate their manmade plight. …”

Rare encounter: Whale watchers off the Australian east coast were lucky
enough to see Migaloo, the famous albino humpback whale

Thursday, May 23, 2013

3-Meter Croc Catches Rays With Shocked Beachgoers

Jakarta Globe, Tunggadewa Mattangkilang, May 22, 2013

An Estuarine Crocodile opens its jaws wide at the National Zoological Gardens
at Dehiwala outside the city limits of Colombo, Sri Lanka. (EPA Photo)

Balikpapan. Authorities in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, are investigating whether a large crocodile that spooked visitors at the popular Manggar Beach over the weekend was a wild animal or had escaped from a nearby breeding center.

Arif, the head of the municipal management body for the beach, confirmed on Monday that the three-meter-long saltwater crocodile was spotted in the area on Saturday morning, sending hundreds of beachgoers scattering.

“The crocodile even went up and sunbathed next to the lifeguard post. Most of the visitors were scared, but some of them hung around to look,” he said.

The animal disappeared into a nearby estuary soon after, and efforts by Ari’s office and local wildlife conservation officials to track it down were fruitless.

Arif added that officials from the local search and rescue agency, working with local fishermen, were still scouring the coast for any signs of the animal so that they could determine where it came from before capturing and releasing it away from areas of human activity.

He added that it is highly likely that the crocodile came from the nearby Teritip crocodile breeding center. However, Bayu, an official at the breeding center, denied the possibility.

“None of our crocodiles have gone loose. They’re all securely in their cages,” he said, adding that there were around 1,500 crocodiles at the facility.

He suggested that the one that appeared at the beach was a wild crocodile that had strayed far downstream because of damage to its habitat in the upstream forest area.

Crocodile sighting are increasingly becoming common in East Kalimantan, with conservation officials attributing this to the loss of the animals’ natural habitat.

In April, a 16-year-old girl was killed by a crocodile in the Perdau Dalam River in West Kutai district. This was the fifth incident in the area in the past two years.

Erli Sukrismanto, the head of the Kutai National Park, said at the time that forest clearing within the park was compelling animals to travel further downstream.

“Crocodiles are considered quite adaptable to high levels of water pollution, so if they’re forced to seek cleaner waters, that paints a very worrying picture,” he said.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Indonesia Court Ruling Boosts Indigenous Land Rights

Jakarta Globe – AFP, May 17, 2013

This file aerial photograph taken on June 7, 2012 shows lush tropical forest
in Central Kalimantan (AFP Photo/Romeo Gacad)

An Indonesian court has ruled indigenous people have the right to manage forests where they live, a move which supporters said prevents the government from handing over community-run land to businesses.

Disputes between indigenous groups and companies have become increasingly tense in recent years, as soaring global demand for commodities like palm oil has seen plantations encroach on forests.

In Thursday’s ruling, Constitutional Court judges said that a 1999 law should be changed so it no longer defines forest that has been inhabited by indigenous groups for generations as “state forest,” according to court documents.

“Indigenous Indonesians have the right to log their forests and cultivate the land for their personal needs, and the needs of their families,” judge Muhammad Alim said as he handed down the ruling, state news agency Antara reported.

While environmentalists welcomed the ruling, they warned it could unintentionally lead to an upsurge in disputes between authorities and communities over the classification of indigenous land.

In March, seven villagers were shot and at least 15 police officers were injured in North Sumatra, where a dispute over a forest claimed by both the community and government has been simmering since 1998.

The National People’s Indigenous Organization filed the challenge to the 1999 law, which they say has let officials sell permits allowing palm oil, paper, mining and timber companies to exploit their land.

The group said Friday’s ruling affected 40 million hectare of forest — slightly larger than Japan, and 30 percent of Indonesia’s forest coverage.

They said this area was legally classified as “customary forest,” the term that describes forests that have been inhabited by indigenous people for a long time.

“About 40 million indigenous people are now the rightful owners of our customary forests,” said the group’s chief Abdon Nababan.

However, a senior forestry minister official said he believed the total amount of “customary forest” was far lower, and stressed it could take time to implement the changes as local governments would all need to issue a decree.

Stepi Hakim, Indonesia director of the Clinton Climate Initiative, said the ruling would give legal grounds for indigenous communities to challenge businesses operating in their forests, but this could lead to a string of new disputes.

“As soon as this policy is delivered, local governments have to be ready to mitigate conflicts,” he said.

Indigenous groups are commonly defined as those that retain economic, social and cultural characteristics that are different from those of the wider societies in which they live.

Agence France-Presse
Related Article:

More Than a Million Support Petition to Stop Aceh Deforestation

Jakarta Globe, May 18, 2013

An aerial view of burning peatland in Rawa Tripa in Aceh is seen in this
handout photo taken March 27, 2012. (Reuters Photo)

More than a million people across the globe have signed an online petition demanding the Indonesian government to cancel the plan to open the protected virgin rainforest in Aceh to commercial exploitation.

Arief Aziz, the communications director for the online petition website, said in a statement on Saturday that the “#SaveAceh” campaign has been signed by more than 20,000 Indonesians since its launch in March.

Following the massive reaction, Rudi Putra, an environmental activist, started another petition for the same cause on, which has garnered more than 1.2 million signatures in its first 11 days.

“Aceh rainforests, home to endangered animals like orangutan and Sumatran rhino, have been destroyed by illegal hunters and loggers, but this new exploration will be an ultimate disaster,” he said.

Rights groups say the plan will allow around 1.2 million hectares that were previously protected to be cleared.

Approval of the plan would open up the forest on the northern tip of Sumatra to mining, paper and palm oil plantations.

The Aceh government banned the granting of new logging permits six years ago to protect the forest, but a new administration that came in last year is in favor of allowing logging again.

“Yudhoyono has the options: to leave an important legacy to protect the rich natural resources or to trash his own track record by allowing this disaster,” Avaaz’ campaign director Ian Baasin said.

Jakarta has signaled it will sign off on Aceh’s plan in the coming weeks, even as it is expected to extend the moratorium on new logging permits which expires on Monday and has been in force for two years.

There is also strong support in the Aceh parliament which has the final say, and officials say they hope it will pass soon.

Although it seems to fly in the face of the national moratorium, the project is possible because it hinges on Aceh’s decision to overturn its own deforestation ban which was introduced at the local level six years ago.

The ban, stronger than the national measure, was brought in by the previous local administration — but it will be scrapped under the plan.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Rubber Boom Fueling Land Grabs in SE Asia: Report

Jakarta Globe, Agence France-Presse, May 13, 2013

A picture made available on May 10, 2013 shows an Indonesian farmer
 planting rubber seeds on a cleared forest near Teluk Meranti, Riau province,
Indonesia. (EPA Photo/Bagus Indahono)

Vietnamese rubber firms bankrolled by an arm of the World Bank and Germany’s Deutsche Bank are driving a land-grabbing crisis in Southeast Asia, activists said Monday.

Indigenous ethnic minorities are bearing the brunt of the seizures, which have affected tens of thousands of villagers and led to the clearance of swathes of protected forests, according to campaign group Global Witness.

Vietnam, the world’s third-largest rubber producer, is keen to tap surging demand for the commodity in particular from China, which is hungry for car tyres and other rubber goods as its economy booms.

Global Witness accused two firm, Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) and Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG), of driving forced evictions via subsidiaries linked to government cronies in impoverished — and notoriously corrupt — Cambodia and Laos.

According to the report, Deutsche Bank has multi-million dollar holdings in both companies, while the International Finance Corp. (IFC) — the World Bank’s private lending arm — invests in HAGL through financial intermediaries.

More than 1.2 million hectares (2.96 million acres) of land in Cambodia alone have been leased for rubber plantations, Global Witness said, with some 400,000 people affected by land grabs for rubber and other uses since 2003.

“The governments in Cambodia and Laos are allocating large areas of land and ignoring laws designed to protect human rights and the environment,” according to the report.

“Often the first people know about either company being given their land is when the bulldozers arrive,” it said.

Global Witness urged Cambodia and Laos to suspend all dealings with the two firms and their subsidiaries.

It called on Deutsche Bank and the IFC to withdraw their multi-million dollar funding if the two companies fail to take steps to comply with human rights and environmental standards within the next six months.

In response, Deutsche Bank said an “intensive due diligence process” was conducted before the shares were bought on behalf of its investors.

The IFC declined to comment ahead of the report’s release, saying Global Witness had not shared its full findings in advance.

The two Vietnamese companies denied any illegal activities.

“We contribute to the development of the local economy by paying necessary taxes… creating jobs for tens of thousands of local residents, and contributing to local communities,” HAGL said in a statement.

Agence France-Presse
Related Article:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Teens on a Mission to SAVE the Animals

Jakarta Globe, Bishka Zareen Chand, May 12, 2013

Animal rights group Students for Animal Voices and Ethics volunteers with
 the Jakarta Animal Aid Network to help socialize rescued dogs. (Photo
courtesy of SAVE)

Many people think that kids and teens are not able to make a difference to the world. But our group, Students for Animal Voices and Ethics, proves them wrong.

SAVE is a group of middle-school and high-school students who are serious about animal rights. It was started in 2009 and has since continued to grow, gaining momentum and new members each year.

SAVE was the very first service project at Sinarmas World Academy in Tangerang focused on spreading awareness on animal rights issues.

Our goal is to help people understand animal rights and how animals deserve to be treated. We believe that you can make a difference at any age, as long as you have the passion and dedication to do so.

“SAVE was started as a response to the horrors of animal cruelty I’ve witnessed in Indonesia,” says SAVE president and group founder Adellea Greenbury.

“I hated the idea of all of this going on while I couldn’t do anything about it. Abandoned pets, enslaved monkeys, tortured animals. All these pushed down on my conscience until I simply had to do something.

“As I am still young, I decided to start small with an in-school community. My hope is that SAVE can continue to grow and develop, and that one day we will make a real difference in the larger community of Indonesia.”

Each month, SAVE joins the Jakarta Animal Aid Network to help maintain a garden we co-created, while volunteering to take care of the rescued dogs under their care.

We are currently also organizing a cat sterilization drive at Sinarmas World Academy, to help control the number of stray cats strolling around campus.

Starting and maintaining our different projects requires a lot of time and effort, but SAVE is an enjoyable group to be in is because working with the animals at JAAN and organizing events with the other SAVE members is just so much fun!

Our partnership with JAAN is really growing and we continue to be involved with their projects and work collaboratively as much as we can.

At JAAN, the people are very easy to work with and are serious about working together on different projects with us, even though we are just a bunch of teenagers.

“JAAN welcomes volunteers at our new center in Cijantung, East Jakarta, to help with yard work, poop scooping, dog socialization [finding new homes], cage cleaning, fund-raising, event organization, campaigning and promoting awareness,” says JAAN cofounder Natalie Stewart.

“The dogs at our center aren’t confined and they’re allowed to roam around freely to interact with each other and with the staff and volunteers. Volunteers are advised to wear old clothes as the dogs sometimes jump up and can be muddy.”

JAAN headquarters in Kemang, South Jakarta, is also filled with a lot of friendly rescued dogs running around the yard.

If you are serious about getting a new pet, JAAN is definitely the right place to go.

This year, SAVE is planning to create more projects, and make a bigger difference for animal rights in Jakarta.

However, the students cannot do this alone. SAVE welcomes volunteers of all ages in Jakarta who are dedicated and also interested in working with animals.

Together, we can create a network of people who are passionate about animal rights, striving to make a change.

Bishka Zareen Chand, a ninth-grader in Sinarmas World Academy, is the public relations officer for SAVE. She joined SAVE in 2012 and plans to attend Columbia University and major in psychology. This is her first published article.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Going Green Empowers ‘Shining Mothers’

A new program is encouraging women to care for nature

Jakarta Globe, Sylviana Hamdani, May 7, 2013

Participants at a recent meeting. (Photo courtesy of Unilever)

Large companies are often seen as enemies of the environment. With their large production capacities, many generate lots of pollution and waste.

But not all corporations are the same. Some have business plans focusing on continuity through the sustainable use of natural resources and the wellbeing of their customers. Unilever Indonesia is one example.

This large consumer goods producer, which has been in Indonesia since 1933, aims to grow its businesses while preserving the natural environment at the same time.

“We intend to keep growing our business in this country,” said Unilever Indonesia corporate communications head Maria Dewantini Dwianto. “And the only way to do so, is to ensure people and resources touched by our business are sustained.”

Unilever plans to double the size of its businesses globally, while at the same time decreasing its environmental impact and improving local communities.

“Our sustainability plan is to help 1 billion people [globally] to lead better and healthier lives,” Maria said.

In Indonesia, Unilever recently established the Komunitas Ibu Bercahaya (Community of Shining Mothers).

“Bercahaya” is also an acronym of bersih (clean), cermat (carefully considered, smart), ramah lingkungan (environmentally friendly) and diberdayakan (empowered).

Through this group, Unilever hopes to inspire Indonesian women, their families and local communities to lead cleaner, smarter and more eco-friendly lifestyles.

Recently, 60 Indonesian women from various backgrounds were welcomed as its first members in Jakarta.

“Women are our main customers,” Maria said. “The life and death of our businesses depend a lot on them.”

Women also have a central role in their families.

“By educating the women, we’ll also [indirectly] educate their husbands and children,” Maria said.

Unilever, in collaboration with educational institutes and universities, will provide regular training and workshops to teach the women easy and practical ways to conserve the environment.

Minister Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar.
(Photo courtesy of Unilever)
The first members of the community were selected from a list of active participants in the environmental programs of Yayasan Unilever Indonesia (Unilever Indonesia Foundation).

“Most of them are homemakers,” Maria said. “But they’re also leaders in their neighborhoods. By participating in our previous activities [with Yayasan Unilever Indonesia], we know they have a strong passion to create a change.”

In this new community, these agents of change will learn new ways to manage garbage and water, as well as cultivate more trees in their surroundings.

They will then introduce these new methods to their neighborhoods. Each member is also be expected to bring in 10 new members from their local communities.

“As a person and educator, I’m touched,” said Firdaus Ali, the chairman of the Indonesian Water Institute. “This is what we’ve been waiting for for a long time: a large corporation that collaborates with local communities to share its knowledge and expertise in natural conservation.”

According to Firdaus, such a movement is necessary as Indonesia, especially Jakarta, is facing a huge water crisis.

“There are 13 rivers and 76 sub-rivers in Jakarta,” he said. “Yet, we always lack water during the dry season. While on the other hand, the city always floods during the rainy season.”

In the first training session, Firdaus taught the women how to create biopore infiltration holes and save water.

Biopores are created by making holes 50-100 centimeter deep in the soil. We can put organic waste into these holes.

The waste will attract worms, which create more bioporic tunnels into these holes.

When it rains, these biopores will also absorb rainwater and thus help to prevent floods in the city. The organic waste inside the holes will turn into compost that fertilize plants.

During this training session, Unilever also promoted one of its products — Molto Ultra Sekali Bilas (One-Rinse Molto Ultra).

According to the company’s research, people usually rinse their laundry three times and thus consume around 40 liters of water. With Molto Ultra Sekali Bilas, one can save around 20 liters of water.

The community plans to create 1 million biopores and conserve 1 billion liters of water within a year.

“Just imagine,” Firdaus said, “if we have saved 1 billion liters of water within one year, approximately 30,000 other families will be able to get clean water.”

According to him, there are presently about 29,000 families without access to clean water in North Jakarta alone.

During the training, Firdaus also encouraged community members to grow more trees in their neighborhoods.

“I’m so inspired,” said Ratih, a woman from East Jakarta. “We don’t have a large yard at home, but I can plant in pots. With more plants, the earth will be greener and cooler.”

The 60-year-old housewife also plans to introduce these eco-living techniques to her five children, who all have families of their own.

“I think we should start within our own families,” she said. “The change should come from within. And then the people will see and do as we do.”

Sri Endang, a kindergarten teacher and mother of two from West Jakarta, was also inspired by the training.

“Water is so crucial to our lives, yet we rarely respect it,” she said. “We only realize how precious it is during the dry season, when we lack it. But we never do anything to save it.”

Sri plans to replace her traditional bak mandi (bathtub) and gayung (water dipper), which use lots of water, with a modern shower kit.

“Change doesn’t have to be expensive,” the 42-year-old said. “I can buy a second-hand shower kit at the market, clean it and install it at home. It’ll save a lot of water.”

Sri also plans to ask her local community heads to mobilize people in her neighborhood to create biopores in their yards.

“To be effective, men and women should work together in these programs,” Sri said.

M0inister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar, who attended the inauguration of the community’s first members, was impressed with the corporation’s initiative.

“I truly appreciate what Unilever Indonesia is doing,” she said. “With this program, they show that they care about people and support the government’s efforts to develop the country.”

According to the minister, the community programs will not only preserve Indonesia’s natural environment, but also empower women.

“Women and children suffer most in natural disasters,” she said. “But women have large potential. They should be empowered to become the solution, instead of victims of their circumstances.”

According to the Central Statistics Bureau (BPS), women made up 49.6 percent of Indonesia’s 240 million total population in 2011.

The activities of Komunitas Ibu Bercahaya will be evaluated by an independent jury and a winner will be selected every three months. The winner will appear in a special program on national television.

All women in Indonesia can join this community free of charge by registering online, or by calling directly.