Posts tagged forests for climate

It takes only one person to stop a giant palm oil tanker

The hoses are turned on our climber attached to the anchor chain of the Gran Couva © Greenpeace/Novis

The hoses are turned on our climber attached to the anchor chain of the Gran Couva © Greenpeace/Novis

We’ve stepped up our game here in Dumai and have returned to the scene of our first paint job this morning: the Gran Couva. After returning to the Esperanza for a break, some boat cleaning and a spot of lunch (who says direct action can’t be civilised?), a team returned to the palm oil tanker but this time the action hinges on just one man, and he’s currently attached to the Gran Couva’s anchor chain.

On the chain © Greenpeace/Novis

On the chain © Greenpeace/Novis

A Greenpeace climber has made his way up the chain and positioned himself so they can’t lift the anchor. This means the ship can’t leave the port and this will cause considerable inconvenience to Wilmar, the company that owns the cargo of palm oil.

It’s exactly what we want because, although Wilmar is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, there’s nothing sustainable about the company’s practice of tearing up forests and peatlands to grow its oil palms.

Given how enthusiastic the Gran Couva’s crew were with the hosepipes earlier on, it was no surprise that he got a good drenching but the sustained barrage went on for 30 minutes.

Never the less, he’s still hanging on and that’s in no small part thanks to the incredible negotiation skills of our electrician Paul. He’d gone along to assist in the boats but it was his ability to speak Hindi which persuaded the Indian crew members manning the hoses to turn them off.

Meanwhile, we’ve heard from the harbour master who has us to stop our activities and the police have just arrived at the tanker to see what’s going on. We’ll see what comes of that, but for now our climber is still on the anchor chain and the Gran Couva isn’t going anywhere.

posted by Jamie on the Esperanza


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A new coat of paint for the palm oil ships

Painting the Gran Couva, loaded with palm oil from Wilmar © Greenpeace/Novis

Painting the Gran Couva, loaded with palm oil from Wilmar © Greenpeace/Novis

Another dawn start today and even though it’s barely mid-morning as I type this, we’ve already been out into Dumai harbour and tagged three ships with environmental slogans. They’re loaded with palm oil from the plantations of Riau, just like the ones we’ve seen from the air and from the ground over the past few days, so being daubed with ‘Forest Crime’ and ‘Climate Crime’ in bright yellow paint is only appropriate.

The first stop on our tour of the port was the Gran Couva, a large tanker carrying 27,000 metric tonnes for palm oil giant Wilmar (the same company that owns the plantations John flew over on Saturday) and bound for Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The two painting teams got off to a great start, marking out the positions of the letters and getting stuck into ‘Crime’. Angry shouts from the Gran Couva’s crew did nothing to dissuade the painters, and neither did the hoses which were turned on them. Unfortunately, the water-based paint didn’t last so well and some of the letters began to run.

Defying the water hoses © Greenpeace/Rante

Defying the water hoses © Greenpeace/Rante

The team in the small inflatable headed to the stern to try their luck there, but were met by more hoses. The second team in Susie Q fared better and were able to complete the words ‘Forest Crime’ on the other side of the bow. Watching from a short distance in the media boat, I was impressed how easy the painters were making it look, despite the water hoses and the awkward task of writing with paint rollers fixed onto broom handles.

Mission completed, it was off to the next ship, the Smooth Sea operated by Musim Mas, another major palm oil producer. The crew of this Thai cargo vessel (destination: Yangon in China) were less quick to respond and the painters had no problem repeating the message in double-quick time. The Victory Prima (carrying palm oil for Sarana Tempa Perkasa) was just next door, and for variety the guys went for ‘Climate Crime’ instead. The crew on deck were even more relaxed, smiling and waving as we left, even thanking us for using water-based paint.

Putting the finishing touches to the Victory Prima © Greenpeace/Novis

Putting the finishing touches to the Victory Prima © Greenpeace/Novis

A message came through on the radio to go for a bonus ship, a barge loaded with meranti logs. It was a shift from the palm oil theme, but timber is an inevitable by-product of the deforestation happening here so it’s fair game. The crew of the attached tug were still waking up, but seemed happy to receive some of the campaign information leaflets we handed over.

There was no sign of any response from the authorities, and fired up by their success, the paint crews were eager to have another go at the Gran Couva. Well, it was on the way back to the Esperanza, but again they were too quick with the hosepipes and the paint didn’t have time to dry.

Even so, it was a very successful activity. Four ships in the harbour are now marked for the products of environmental destruction they’re carrying, and I can still see the slogans from the bridge of the Esperanza.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Sumatra’s dark, satanic mills

A small town for workers in the heart of a Wilmar palm oil plantation © Greenpeace/Novis

A small town for workers in the heart of a Wilmar palm oil plantation © Greenpeace/Novis

As a Greenpeace photographer, I find myself creating pictures in many interesting places. In any part of the world where there is a critical environmental problem, the Greenpeace photographers are there making the best visuals possible to share with everybody. Yesterday was no exception.

It was the last of the twice-daily, three-hour helicopter surveys of Riau province in Sumatra, carried out over the last four days. Every flight survey has been fascinating but this one – documenting the palm oil plantations belonging to Wilmar, one of the biggest palm oil companies in Indonesia – was breathtaking on a scale I have never seen before.

After flying a short while over intact and beautiful peatland forest, in the distance there appeared what looks like a sea or enormous lake. As we approached, we started to make out a green plain stretching to the horizon. Closer still and we knew we had found what we were looking for – the Wilmar plantations.

A very short commute to the plantation from these houses © Greenpeace/Novis

A very short commute to the work from these houses © Greenpeace/Novis

The forest ends like a clean-cut cliff and acres upon acres of oil palms take over the view point passing endlessly by, with straight dust roads intersecting each other over small man-made canals. Occasionally, a small group of workers’ houses with a little mosque punctuated the monotonous monoculture spanning all around us, as if we were not moving or going anywhere.

Around this panorama we started to see smoke drifting from different points in the 360-degree, flat palm tree plain. The smoke revealed a small factory, houses build up and a small town emerged within the plantation. As we circled the factory and I was photographing with interest, it became clear to me that the world’s demand for palm oil, found in countless cosmetics and consumables, has created an industrial revolution here in Riau.

Processing plants sit within the plantations as well &copy Greenpeace/Novis

Processing plants sit within the plantations as well © Greenpeace/Novis

It reminds me of the mill towns in the north of England where the boom times in cotton became a magnet for workers and the large towns grew rapidly. From the air, it’s so easy to see this rapid industrial progress, but also the sudden loss of huge areas of peatland forest, rich in biodiversity and carbon, simply trashed overnight for a quick buck.

While capturing everything on camera that I can, I was dismayed by the palm oil rush driven by this economic short-term thinking, funded and promoted heavily by the multinational’s greed for cheap oil at the expense of the forest’s treasures and threatened species, such as the Sumatran tiger and orang-utan.

Oil palm fruit being processed © Greenpeace/Novis

Oil palm fruit being processed © Greenpeace/Novis

Yet there is a further sting in the tail of this environmental catastrophe. The peatlands hold tonnes and tonnes of carbon and, when drained to make the plantations, it’s released in the atmosphere, contributing further to climate change.

Once back on the Esperanza, I edit my pictures and send them out to the world. Along with my colleagues who campaign tirelessly on creating a moratorium to save the peatland forests of Riau, I wish sense will rain down to stop this wanton destruction of something that is desperately fragile and so close to disappearing forever.

posted by John on board the Esperanza

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Welcome to Dumai

Surveying the ships anchored in Dumai port © Greenpeace/Woolley

Surveying the ships anchored in Dumai port © Greenpeace/Woolley

Early this morning, we heaved anchor and left Sungai Pakning to travel a short distance up the coast of Sumatra to Dumai. The journey only took a few hours and the scenery hasn’t changed that much: we’re anchored in another murky channel between the mainland and a clutch of islands, slightly wider this time, and the port itself is bigger. Much bigger, in fact, because Dumai is the second largest port in terms of palm oil export in the country; Belawan port in the city of Medan is the largest, and that’s also in Sumatra.

Our task here is to monitor palm oil exports, checking which ships are loading up with it and where they’re bound. This is a busy port with several large container ships waiting to dock and load their cargoes. Many of them will be taking consignments of palm oil to locations in Europe, China and elsewhere, so Dumai is a critical link in the chain, connecting the ongoing devastation of Indonesia’s rainforests with the supermarkets and petrol stations elsewhere in the world.

Keep reading and I’ll let you know what we uncover.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Revealing the facts about palm oil to the Chinese public

Shangwen gets ready to fly © Greenpeace/Maitar

Shangwen gets ready to fly © Greenpeace/Maitar

The Forest Defenders Camp we set up last year has gone, and so too has the ancient forest.

I saw the disastrous landscape through the lens of John our photographer and the pictures he has taken. I can feel the pain of our earth and I feel pain in my heart that I couldn’t catch the last cry of the forest which once stood in the same spot where we held the banner. There is an echo in my ears: the Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth. What will be the future?

The Earth needs a voice. The forests need a voice. I believe that’s why we, Greenpeace volunteers from around the world, stood in the middle of the devastation yesterday, even though many times we’ve felt hopelessness in the depth of our hearts. We must face the truth instead of turning our back and walking away. We must make decisions and take action instead of just talking while the forests are being chopped down. We must understand this: if we can not stop deforestation immediately, we will lose the struggle against climate change.

With the disappearance of forest will go the future of our children and grandchildren. It’s not just the business of politicians, industry leaders or even environmentalists and scientists, it’s all of our business.

As a forest campaigner from Greenpeace China, I am here with three Chinese journalists, because not only do we know we’re now citizens of the global village, but also because we understand we’re part of the crime of forest destruction here in Indonesia and around the world. We know we share the responsibility for stopping the crime. China is one of the largest consumers of palm oil in the world, and most of that is imported from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Journalist Hau Feng © Greenpeace/Maitar

Journalist Hua Feng © Greenpeace/Maitar

By standing in front of this forest wall, and by witnessing these destructive crimes, we hope to bring back the urgency to the public in China. We also want to send a message to all Chinese companies using palm oil – you’re part of the problem here since your suppliers are neglecting most, if not all, environmental principles, destroying the peatland forests and setting the timer on the climate bomb. It’s time for you to take action to stop it!

I know it won’t be an easy mission. I understand most Chinese consumers even don’t know what palm oil is or what palm oil is used for. I understand the deforestation is far away from China and the carbon dioxide emitted from the land can not be seen or touched by Chinese citizens. But I won’t lose my confidence since I truly believe what Greenpeace does: taking action to make positive changes.

And I know I’m not alone. I have the whole team in Greenpeace China and people from other Greenpeace offices to fight alongside me. And more importantly, I begin to hear the voices of Chinese citizens: the live broadcasting blog on the Tian Ya website, which two of the journalists are posting to, has received over 100,000 clicks within a week and we’ve got hundreds of positive feedbacks and comments. I know they’re the people we can rely on to fight for the earth and to fight for our own future.

posted by Shangwen on board the Esperanza

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Alongside the forest, up against the wall

holding out the banner in the Kampar peninsula © Greenpeace/Novis

Backs against the wall: holding out the banner in the Kampar peninsula © Greenpeace/Novis

I’ve scrubbed and showered but there are still traces of mud sticking to me. It’s my own fault – I guess I shouldn’t have gone tramping around the peatlands here in Riau. But the picture above, that’s us: some of the Esperanza’s crew and several Indonesian volunteers pulling our banner tight against the forest wall, the straight line that separates the thriving ecosystem from the barren areas which have been cleared of trees. In case you’re wondering, I’m at the top of the P in ‘STOP’.

It was an early start and a long drive to get to the site on the Kampar peninsula, chosen because PT Arara Abadi-Siak has permits to set up plantations for acacia trees, used for making pulpwood and paper. The company is a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which is in turn owned by our old friends Sinar Mas – as well as having fingers in pulpwood, Sinar Mas is also one of the largest palm oil producers in Indonesia (not to mention a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), and many of the nearby palm oil plantations have their name above the gate.

Holding on to the banner

Holding on to the banner © Greenpeace/Sharomov

Driving along the road from Sungai Pakning was deceptively pleasant – elegant wooden houses were nestled amongst lush green foliage, and kids were cycling to school. But after crossing the Siak river on the ferry, we were deep into plantation country. Rows of oil palms lined the way with their shaggy coats of ferns, and bunches of palm fruit lay by the roadside. Along one stretch, intact forest sprawled to the right while regiments of young oil palms were springing up on the left, the forest wall a thick blue line on the horizon, and a pipeline followed us all the way from ferry.

The chosen spot was a few hundred metres from the dusty, potholed road so we had to clamber over some rough terrain to get there. Dead tree stumps and rutted ground lay in our path, not to mention the swampy bogs I fell into more than once. By the time we’d finished, most of us were covered up to our knees and beyond in thick black mud. Amongst all this, acacia saplings were growing in place of the forest that once stood there.

Manoeuvring a banner of that size (40m by 20m) is no mean feat, and it took 20 of us to unroll it and pull it into shape. While we were waiting for the photos to be taken, I had a proper look around. The forest wall was just 20 metres behind me, a dense jungle of bark and foliage. I really hoped I’d get the chance to wander in, even just for a few minutes – sadly, it wasn’t to be but the whooping cries of birds and the endless insect thrum carried across the wasteland. The peatlands are a fantastic place for wildlife with one of the highest rates of biodiversity in Indonesia, and some of it came to visit us by the banner. Long, slender dragonflies and giant butterflies swoop over canvas, and a swarm of lazy green beetles seemed particularly attracted to me. It must have been the sweat dripping from me (no really, they probably drink the stuff).

A graveyard of roots

A graveyard of roots © Greenpeace/Sharomov

In front of me, it was a different story. A wasteland of greys and browns, with root systems upturned and exposed to the air, and buttress roots abandoned by the trunks they used to support. In the distance, another forest wall rose up, a small island of green hedged in between the road and the wasteland, but who knows how long it will survive. Both that tiny wedge and the forest you see in the image above also fall within PT Arara Abadi-Siak’s concession; they just haven’t been destroyed yet.

The name Jikalahari which appears on the banner alongside Greenpeace belongs to an umbrella network of various organisations dedicated to sustainable forest management in Riau, interwoven with the rights of local and indigenous people. Greenpeace campaigners in Indonesia have worked closely with Jikalahari and yesterday we held a joint press conference on the ship. The purpose of this was to reiterate our demand for a nationwide moratorium on deforestation, and support someone who’s already trying to put on in place.

Wan Abubakar, the governor of Riau, has made a decree for just such a moratorium in his province. It needs the national government to formalise it before it can be enforced, and both Greenpeace and Jikalahari are trying to make it a reality by mapping out the forests and plantations of the Kampar peninsula, which is what many of our recent helicopter flights have been in aid of. With these maps, we can establish which areas need protecting and which could potentially be restored, and of course a moratorium in Riau would lend extra pressure to a similar one across the country.

Carrying the banner alongside a canal draining water from the peatlands

Carrying the banner alongside a canal draining water from the peatlands © Greenpeace/Sharomov

But back in the field, we had the banner rolled up and halfway back to the road before the company security guards caught up with us. They weren’t keen on having their photos taken, but of course had their camera phones trained on us the whole time. After some skilful negotiation on the part of our campaigners, we were escorted out of the plantation and headed back to the ship, grubby, tried and happy.

But I still can’t help thinking about the wall of forest which towered behind me, and how long it has left.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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National Geographic features Papua forest threats

National Geographic has published a video called Deforestation Fear In Indonesia on their website. In it, Greenpeace campaigner Bustar (who is currently on the Esperanza) tells how Papua’s forests are under threat. He explains how companies are destroying Papua’s forest, including palm oil producers. If the government can’t stop deforestation, it could all be gone in 10 years.

What’s very interesting is the appearance of director of the Indonesian forestry ministry, Tony Suhartono. He said: “If all the stakeholders agreed to a moratorium, with minimum impact for economic and regional development, than let’s find the way for that. If the only solution is just a moratorium without having any options, that will be difficult.”

For me, it’s important for the government to make a decision for the nation and their people who live in the forest. That’s why we’re asking Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to declare a moratorium on all deforestation. Write to him now and tell him to make the right decision.

posted by Arie in Jakarta

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