Conservation news

Podcast: Sumatra’s deforestation demystified

Large-scale clearance of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Padang, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province. PT RAPP is a subsidiary of APRIL, the pulp & paper division of the RGE Group. Image © Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace Media Library.

  • Sumatra contains some of the largest tracts of intact rainforest left in the world, which are relied upon by Indigenous and local peoples plus a massive diversity of wildlife found nowhere else.
  • These vast forests are under threat from the rapid expansion of industrial-scale agribusinesses that market both palm oil and pulp and paper products to the global market.
  • To understand the causes of the threat better, this episode of the podcast interviews Nur Hidayati, director of top Indonesian environmental group Walhi, and Mongabay editor Philip Jacobson.
  • They share that while there are some signs of progress, corruption and a lack of corporate transparency must be dealt with, and alternatives to the production of commodities like palm oil should be pursued.

Sumatra contains some of the largest tracts of intact rainforest left in the world, and is also at the center of a complicated web of deforestation drivers, many of which began during the Dutch colonial era and are now spurred further by corruption and the global demand for cheap vegetable oil used in a wide range of consumer products.

To understand the rapid expansion of industrial-scale agribusinesses that market both palm oil and pulp and paper to the global market from this, the largest island in the Indonesian Archipelago, podcast host Mike DiGirolamo speaks with Nur “Yaya” Hidayati and Philip Jacobson.

Hidayati is the national executive director of Walhi, the largest and oldest environmental advocacy NGO in Indonesia. Jacobson is a contributing editor at Mongabay who has been covering Indonesia for nearly six years. They discuss what drives deforestation in Sumatra in particular and Indonesia in general, why it’s so difficult to control, what exacerbates efforts to stop it, and what can be done globally and locally to slow or stop the expansion of continued land exploitation.

Listen here:

While there are some signs of progress, they point out that corruption and a lack of corporate transparency must be dealt with, and alternatives to commodities should be pursued. But if the right measures are taken, such as new trade agreement measures, stricter local legislation, and a focus on eradicating corruption, Sumatra’s vast rainforests – and the incredibly diverse wildlife that depends on them – can be protected from escalating harm.

Smoke rising from smoldering peatland in PT Raja Garuda Mas Sejati. Image © Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace Media Library.

Mongabay Explores is a special podcast series that dives into the unique beauty, natural heritage, and key issues facing this one of a kind landscape by speaking with people working to study, understand, and protect it. Episode 1 features a Goldman Prize winner from Sumatra about what makes his home so special, listen here, and further programs have focused on efforts to save the Sumatran rhino, and the fate of a fascinating, recently discovered ape species, (Tapanuli orangutans), and the dam project that threatens their future.

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Listen to the previous Mongabay Explores series about a looming salamander pandemic in North America here, here, and here.

Trucks loaded with oil palm fruits drive through haze in Rokan Hilir Regency. Image © Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace Media Library.

Banner image: Large-scale clearance of peatland forest inside a PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Padang, Bengkalis Regency, Riau Province. PT RAPP is a subsidiary of APRIL, the pulp & paper division of the RGE Group. Image © Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace Media Library.