It’s Getting Harder to Breathe Around Here…


By Anne Laing & Tim Bean –

Having recently moved to Singapore from the UK, we have been overwhelmed by the dense clouds of smoke pollution that roll over from the illegal burning of Palm Plantations and Rainforest in Indonesia.

You leave home with your mobile, keys, travel card – and pollution mask! It’s thick, choking, and interferes in every aspect of daily life.

Outdoor exercise is a hazard; parks, pools, schools and businesses are closed, and adults and children have horrible, hacking coughs and bloodshot eyes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that air pollution at these levels leads to respiratory infections, heart disease and lung cancer, as well as feelings of depression and anxiety.

This is no life for young children who have their school, play and sports activities disrupted, and who will have elderly smoker’s lungs by the time they are teenagers!

Although a great deal of rhetoric abounds, in Indonesia there is a strange apathy that exists over cleaning up this mess – or stopping it from occurring.  One imagines there has to be a deliberate intention and a great deal of accelerant to get ‘rain’ forest to burn, so this is far from accidental – and yet it continues to happen every year.

Burma deforestation

Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images

The scorched-earth method of clearing land employed by farmers and plantation-holders continues to hold sway.

Most irritating of all? Over there they call it “the haze”, a sweet euphumism for toxic pollution, yet there are over 1,000 hot spots still ablaze at the time of writing.

According to the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, the fire has destroyed 1.7 million hectares of land in the Indonesian parts of Borneo, Kalimantan, and Sumatra.

The fires have also affected the lives of over 28 million local residents, and economic damage is currently estimated at $47.5 billion, said a spokesman for the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB).


Orangutans in the haze shrouding the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation Camp (Photo: Antara Foto/Reuters).  Orang-utans could soon be extinct due to destruction of their Indonesian forest home. What on earth are we doing…?

On a side note, PepsiCo has recently committed to cutting ‘conflict’ palm oil from its supply chains everywhere – all except Indonesia. It seems that PepsiCo’s “commitment” does not extend to its operations in the world’s biggest palm oil producing country.

Such a meaningless gesture fails to break the link between PepsiCo’s products and the destruction of the rainforest, currently endangering orang-utans, elephants, tigers and rhinos, and abusing the rights of local communities and workers – all in the pursuit of palm oil production.

So what can we do?  Try not to buy products with palm oil on the label – often called vegetable oil – Palm oil is simply not good for your health either!

Vote with your wallets, and with your thumbs, Big Business has responded to pressure before – and may do so again.

Please sign the petition here: 

Many thanks,

Tim & Anne