Environment Forum

In dengue-infested Indonesian village: clinic or trees?

It was as I lay in a Singapore hospital bed — ablaze with dengue fever but shivering in a sweat that chilled my aching bones — that I began to understand why villagers in a remote part of Indonesia would trade their forest for decent health services.

Teluk Meranti is a tiny, 800-family fishing hamlet in Riau province of Sumatra island in Indonesia, where dengue is common but health services are poor and infrastructure is very basic.

With a monthly income of around $200, the average Teluk Meranti dweller doesn’t have much — but they do have customary rights to an enormous tract of rainforest in the lush Kampar Peninsula, home to rare flora and fauna.

It’s this forest that Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), one of the biggest logging firms in Asia, wants to log and replant with fast-growing acacia trees. The firm has a government concession to operate in Kampar but needs cooperation from local villagers before work can begin.

In a campaign, the company is offering to build a road, repair a mosque, organise clinics — even traditional Islamic circumcisions for boys — in exchange for rights to their forest.

On Antarctic safaris, remember to bring a microscope

Many people hope to come back from a wildlife safari with close-up pictures of lions or elephants – this picture below is my best attempt from a search for the largest land animals in Antarctica.

If you look hard you can see a reddish blob at the tip of the thumb — it’s Antarctica’s most aggressive land predator, an eight-legged mite known as Rhagidia.

Pete Convey, a biologist at the British Antarctic Survey (that’s his thumb), says that such tiny creatures evolved in Antarctica over tens of millions of years — they can freeze their bodies in winter in an extreme form of hibernation.

U.N. climate talks leave youth out in the cold

There’s plenty of hot air filling the sprawling conference centre that houses the U.N. climate change talks this week and next in Poznan, Poland. But many of the 500 or so youth participants in the conference – who hail from more than 50 countries – feel left out in the political cold.

On Friday morning, six of them created a human installation in the lobby to draw attention to their demand for fair use of the world’s natural resources.

A banner emblazoned with “Equity now: Our future is in the balance” (see photo below) was flanked by two inflatable globes – one crushing an Indian delegate (photo left), representing today’s imbalance in consumption, and the other representing a more just world supported on either side by two young women from India and Sweden.