Indonesia to Use Rain-Making Technology to Stop Forest Fires. Seems Legit.

19 Jun

Credit: Coalition to save Tripa Forest / Handout / 3/05/2012

by Rabb!t / Earth First! Newswire

The Indonesian rainforest is in an unbalanced tug-o-war between corporations and the wild, and the government’s problem-solution/problem-solution/problem dance of reactionary politics is spiraling out of control.

In Indonesia, you have one of the most biologically diverse forests on the planet (ranking third in the world for number of species) being sold to giant conglomerates. Generally, these conglomerates decide to do one of two things with the rainforest: shred it into pulp and paper; or burn it down, in football field-size chunks, and replant the ashen land with palm trees.

Why palm trees? Though I’m sure the smoldering burial grounds of the once-tropical forest will be as good a tourist destination as any once the sea levels and super-storms catch up with atmospheric CO2 levels, these imported palm trees are not being planted for ambiance, but rather being squeezed for their palm oil.

If you haven’t heard of palm oil: go to the grocery store, pick a processed snack off the shelf, check the label. There’s a good chance it’s a key ingredient. It’s not healthy, but it’s lucrative. Palm oil produces more oil per acre than any major oilseed crop, and Indonesia is the world’s largest supplier.

So, these conglomerates solved their problem of how to compete in a global market by setting a rainforest on fire, selling it off, and replanting it with soil-sucking palm trees for Nabisco snacks and animal-tested cosmetics (oh, and don’t forget the animals inside the forests when they set the fires—there are more than 20 species of endangered mammals alone in the Indonesian rainforest, including orangutans, pygmy elephants, tree kangaroos, and Sumatran tigers), but this solution has brought on another problem. I’m not talking about climate change, deforestation, or genocide—I mean something that corporations and governments consider a problem. Basically, forest fires aren’t the easiest things to manage.

Residents of Sampit, Indonesia, bike through smog in Sept. 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Residents of Sampit, Indonesia, bike through smog in Sept. 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

In Indonesia’s Riau province alone there were recently 555 reported fires, with 1,600 acres ablaze in the Benkalis district. The smoke and smog is so pervasive that in neighboring Singapore smog levels have reached a 16-year high. The problem is that the palm oil plantations, where most of the fires originate, are on peat lands. Peat has a high carbon content and can burn under low moisture conditions, and it smolders once ignited. These smoldering fires can burn undetected for long periods of time, sometimes spreading underground for years. Some estimate that the peat bogs in Indonesia contain more than 50 billion tons of carbon, carbon that gets released during these fires.
Okay, so that’s a lot of problems.

The solution? Stop burning down the world’s last remaining forests? Leave the animals and indigenous tribes, who have built a relationship with the land and with one another for centuries, alone? No, the Indonesian government (corrupt as most other governments) is much more creative than that. As The Raw Story reported today, Indonesia plans to use rain-making technology to put out the fires.

The weather-changing technique that makes rain is called “cloud-seeding.” It involves helicopters injecting (I’m assuming this is a fancy word for “spraying”) chemicals into clouds above the fires. The chemicals force the clouds to form ice crystals, which then speeds up the production of rain.

Problem: Want more money. Solution: Burn down the forests and sell them off. Problem: Fire everywhere; seems that when you mess with nature it gets out of control. Solution: Inject chemicals into the clouds to change the weather.

Well, that should be the end of that.

2 Responses to “Indonesia to Use Rain-Making Technology to Stop Forest Fires. Seems Legit.”

  1. Victor Corgo June 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    This is most likely a scam by somebody trying to market cloudseeding services. Around 20 years ago, Indonesia hired an American cloudseeding company, Atmospherics Inc., from Fresno, California, to seed clouds out at sea to make them drop their rain over water instead of it reaching land. The motive then was to dry out the rain forest to facilitate logging. It was not successful.

    Cloudseeding is a marginal technology at best, with even the people trying to market it claiming only about 12% increase in a rainfall in a season. Since normal variation from year to year is more than that, it is impossible to tell if the seeding is working or not. In the US, the Bureau of Reclamation was spending over $20,000,000 a year on it until Congress cancelled the program for lack of evidence of effectiveness. Claims that seeding works are based on theory, not evidence.

    A. I. and other cloudseeding companies bribe the notoriously corrupt officials of countries like Indonesia to get them to hire them, making great claims, but there is no way they can prove it is really working. And most probably, it is not.

  2. OrangAware June 23, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    As if cutting down the forest for timber and palm oil plantationsand the annihilation of countless species of plants and animals wasn’t bad enough, these fires are a crime of arson against our Earth!! The contribution to climate change and spewing of carbon created by this criminal, malicious burning is staggering! It’s practically chemical warfare! Where is the global outrage?? Where is the international pressure on the Indonesian government to curb, control and take legal action against these criminal corporations who act with total impunity?? Check the World Resource Institute fire maps where you can see fires and concession maps superimposed. There is NO EXCUSE for the Indonesian government not to take action against these criminals!! They can easily see who they are.
    Obama is set to present his vision for reducing carbon pollution and express his plan to lead other nations in the global effort. Where is the pressure from the U.S. and other nations against these criminals NOW?? These fires occur every year, year after year.
    This will continue and only get worse if palm oil as biofuel is approved. Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry and its U.S. lobbyists are pressing the EPA to reverse the finding that palm oil does not meet climate requirements of the federal Renewable Fuel Standards.
    We will see if the big money from these corporations buys out our EPA and further contributes to the demise of the earth from deforestation.

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