After nine days at sea, the Esperanza pulled into Manokwari harbour this morning. Crowds of people were already on the dock and despite the overcast skies, we received one of the colourful and exotic welcomes I’m becoming accustomed to on this trip, with traditional dancing and singing to greet us when we disembarked.
Manokwari isn’t what I expected. The image I had in my head was a quite an industrial place with lots of concrete, but although I haven’t left the port yet it looks very pleasant. It’s a small place, strung out along a bay and from the ship, most of the town is concealed by palms and trees. And just behind the town lies the forest, the tall tropical trees towering over the nearby buildings.
Maybe it’s the proximity to the forest that gives the people of Manokwari the commitment to protect it, at least that’s the impression I got from those gathered on the dockside. People spontaneously shook my hand (although maybe they were just being friendly rather than responding to the Greenpeace t-shirt I was wearing), and there were several rounds of applause for Dominggus Buinei, vice-regent of Manokwari regency, when he spoke during the ceremony.
Buinei stated that the forest and mankind can’t be separated, but our greed is destroying the forest and so by implication we are also destroying ourselves. He also warned of natural disaster if the plundering continued, and asked for support from other countries to protect Papua’s natural heritage. If the translation was accurate, it was fairly strong stuff.
As I write this, a press conference is in progress in the helicopter hanger where journalists are being shown aerial footage and images from the flyovers we’ve been conducting over the past ten days. The evidence is mounting that, if nothing is done, then the forests in this region will be torn down.
But now there’s something you can do. You can send an email now to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of Indonesia, asking him to declare an immediate moratorium on deforestation before it’s too late. You don’t have to live in Indonesia to send an email, because what happens to Indonesia’s forests affects us all.
posted by Jamie, on board the Esperanza