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Title: Sustainable Development
Authors: Redclift, Michael
Keywords: Contradictions
Issue Date: 1987
Publisher: Routledge
Description: For three months in early 1983 a massive forest fire destroyed over 3.5 million hectares on the island of Borneo (Indonesian Kalimantan). This charred area, nearly the size of Taiwan, included 800,000 hectares of primary, tropical forest and 1.4 million hectares of commercially logged woodland. An additional 750,000 hectares had been secondary-growth forest under shifting cultivation, and 550,000 hectares consisted of peat swamps. As E.C.Wolf (1985) argues, any area which gets five times as much rainfall as New York City or London should be difficult to ignite. However, human actions had paved the way for the biggest recorded ‘natural’ conflagration in history. The ranks of cultivators had risen in Kalimantan by many thousands, some of them settled as part of Indonesia’s massive transmigration programme. Loggers promoted the fire’s spread by leaving damaged trees standing after selective commercial logging. Researchers at the University of Hamburg suggested that changes in the turbidity of coastal waters, due to soil erosion in South-east Asia, may have altered regional atmospheric currents, contributing to the drought. As trees dropped their leaves in an effort to conserve moisture, the forest floor became a vast, tractless tinder-box. Like so many other ‘natural’ disasters the destruction on Kalimantan had human causes.
ISBN: 0-203-40888-8
Appears in Collections:Environmental and Development Studies

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