Thursday, March 17, 2016

Indonesia: The Environmental Disaster


The west's insatiable appetite for palm oil has caused one of the 21st Century's worst environmental disasters. Palm oil is used in approximately 40-50% of household products, including: baked goods, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning agents, washing detergents and toothpaste.

The world's largest producer of palm oil is Indonesia. To grow oil palms vast areas of tropical forest in Malaysia and Indonesia have been destroyed. The fastest way to clear land for new plantations is slash and burn. Last year in Indonesia slash and burn caused forest fires to rage out of control causing the loss of natural rainforests and in turn causing respiratory health problems in half a million people.

Greenpeace has responded to this environmental disaster by creating an interactive map to provide information on company concession information and how these concessions relate to peatlands, fire hotspots and deforestation alerts.

The Protecting Forests & Peatlands in Indonesia map includes a number of data layers which allow you to view where palm oil, wood fibre, logging and coal mining concessions have been awarded in Indonesia. You can click on the concession areas on the map to learn more about the company that holds the concession and the size of the concession.

The map also includes layers which allow you to view orangutan & tiger habitats, forestry land cover and peat lands. It also includes layers which show active fires in the country and fires since 2013.


If you want to learn more about the reasons behind Indonesia's environmental disaster you should take a look at the Guardian's From Rainforest to Your Cupboard: The Real Story of Palm Oil. This interactive study explores the environmental impact of the increasing production and use of palm oil around the world.

One of the biggest disasters caused by the increase in palm oil consumption is the destruction of the rainforests in order to create palm oil plantations. The Guardian illustrates the effect of this deforestation in Indonesia with a before and after interactive map using satellite imagery showing primary forest loss in the Riau province of Indonesia between 2000 and 2012.

The Guardian has also created a timeline map to visualize the global increase in palm oil production. This map illustrates the growth in global palm oil production over the last 50 years. A similar timeline map is used to show the growth in palm oil consumption in countries across the world over the same 50 year time span.


In October of last year Burd GIS created a story map which looked at the forest fires that had been burning in Indonesia for the previous two months. In those two months wide-spread fires had been burning out of control in many areas of Indonsia. The haze from the fires resulted in half a million people in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia suffering respiratory health problems

Borneo is Burning displays a heat map of fire incidence throughout the region. The heat map layer is actually a static layer, so it only shows the situation when the map was created. You can use the new Greenpeace map to view the latest active fires in Indonesia.
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