Monday, March 26, 2012

A topic close to my heart...

A good 15 years ago I had a geography secondary school teacher called Mr. Neumann - who had traveled/lived in Papua New Guinea for some time. He taught us a lot about the effects of deforestation: global warming, flooding or expropriation of indigenous people. Based on that he taught us to be conscious how we use paper and wood. Back in those days, that was all good in theory but being 15 years old I guess I couldn't really relate... nor could I relate over the past 15 years until I came here. 

Traveling over the past 8 months through South-America I have seen a vast and lush continent mainly covered by jungle with stunning sights, amazing wildlife and eaten fruits in a variety I couldn't imagine before. Coming to Cambodia, I was expecting a similar environment, based on the similar climate. Living here in Banlung now since 2 months, talking to people who grew up here and having taken trips out in the deep country have shocked me properly. 

According to locals, Ratanakiri (approx. the same size like the German state "Schleswig Holstein") has been a province completely covered by jungle, but within the last 5 years the logging in this area has been so massive that all jungle is gone by now, completely clear-cutted by big corporations. There is not even anything anymore to rescue as you seem to not be able to find any jungle anymore. Ratanakiri has only one big national park left which supposingly is protected and a home to endangered animal species - but the Cambodian government just recently has sold 1/3 of the national park to a Chinese Investor Group to "invest". Even though logging is officially banned by the Cambodian government, in foresight of this event the Chinese corporation has already invested in heavy duty logging machinery and infrastructure (bridges and streets) so it will be easier to get to and from the new area.

It is just sad and I guess I am not telling anybody any news, but it is shocking to personally experiencing it. Experiences like the following: 

- Wherever in Ratanakiri you drive, it really does not matter if you stay on the main road or travel 3 hours into the complete wilderness, all you see is Rubber-Tree-Plantations or Cashew-Nut-Plantations. If you drive through this armada of 2 types of trees it is completely silent - which feels weird being in a "forest". There are no birds anymore around nor any other animals - therefore no noises - all gone. 

- At every corner you see land burning. Logging is only going after the valuable trees in the jungle (for example Mahagoni - one tree of decent size is worth several hundred dollars) - all mid-sized trees are not interesting and left behind... but then building the plantations people are burning down the left-overs of the jungle as it is the easiest and most cost efficient way to get rid of the remainders of the jungle, as well as the ashes are actually a good fertilizer. 

- If you talk to indigenous people, they actually are facing a difficult time as they are mainly illiterate and all they learned growing up is handcraft as well as living in a forest. Means hunting, farming on a small scale and fishing. Now with the forest gone - there is no hunting anymore and farming only on big scale. There are actually indigenous people around 30 years old which were still hunting Tigers in their young years. 
- Young children here in the school I am teaching are choosing to talk about "deforestation" in public speaking contests as they realize that it is changing their environment and they want to stop it. 

I don't write this blog-entry trying to change anything, cause I certainly know it won't. But having this matter "in your face" makes you think about the effects of Globalization - driving through the country side here feels a bit like "earth is bleeding" and we are causing it. I know this sounds very melodramatic and naive. And I don't claim that I am not part of the cause for this by traveling around the world and having grown up in a industrialized nation. 

A friend of mine told me 6 months ago "Earth is Paradise, we people are just not realizing it". Since then this sentence comes to my mind every-time I see a magnificent natural sight - but unfortunately also when I witness how we carelessly destroy it.

1 comment:

  1. Wangari maathai's Green Belt Movement can be a start for hope...