The mass killings in 1965 live on in global emissions from forced forest fires – and through human rights abuses in the palm oil fields. ‘Some 130,000 forest fires in Indonesia darkened the skies over much of south-east Asia last summer and autumn, destroying more than 8,100 square miles of virgin rainforest.’
There has been tremendous concern over the ways climate change will affect human rights, but little attention to how human rights abuse affects our global climate.
Fifty years ago, Indonesia went through a genocide. The massacres may be relatively unknown, but in a terrible way the destruction continues, and threatens us all. In 1965, the Indonesian army organised paramilitary death squads and exterminated between 500,000 and 1 million people who had hastily been identified as enemies of General Suharto’s new military dictatorship. Today, the killers and their protégés are comfortable establishment figures whose impunity, political power and capacity for intimidation endure.
Over this past year the lawlessness that began with the genocide arrived in all our lives. Some 130,000 forest fires in Indonesia darkened the skies over much of south-east Asia last summer and autumn, destroying more than 8,100 square miles of virgin rainforest – an area larger than New Jersey or Wales. The fires released more than 1.75 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, equal to the total annual emissions of Japan. While last year’s fires were the worst on record, fires on a similar scale have burned annually for nearly 20 years, making a mockery of our efforts to curb global warming.