On August 29, 2002, Professor Reijo E. Heinonen from the faculty of theology at the University of Joensuu in Finland presented guidelines for forest ethics at the Panel for Global Forest Ethics in Johannesburg, which was organized by Finland and Indonesia in connection with the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
“‘Interconnectedness’ is a catchphrase of our world today,” said Prof. Heinonen. “Economists, biologists and politicians employ this term in various guises. But do we see the true nature and scale of how significantly each action impacts on another? Do we perceive human life in its entirety in a holistic way? Can we understand how seemingly concrete areas, such as economics, can be greatly influenced by, for example spirituality?”
Now, eight years later, Finland is planning to produce renewable biomass energy from Indonesian forests next year, following Norway’s widely celebrated $1 billion agreement to deal with Indonesia’s high rate of deforestation.
Though the Finland deal is small in comparison at 4 million euros, it is ” a sign more countries may look to do bilateral deals if U.N. talks in Cancun fail to produce a global climate pact, asserts Chris White in a Reuters article.
On Thursday, Australia announced it would increase its climate change financing of Indonesia with an additional $45 million for projects to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).
“Protecting forests is seen by some as the easiest and cheapest option in the fight against climate change,” White writes. “The Finnish project aims to support the forestry industry turn toward renewable energy production. “
“The focus will be on the utilization of forest biomass and the residues of the wood processing industry as renewable energy sources,” Päivi Alatalo, the deputy head of the Finnish embassy in Indonesia, told Reuters.
In the 1990s, Brazil and Indonesia had the highest net loss forest in the world. And while the rate of global deforestation has been showing signs of decreasing, the 2010 United Nations report Global Forest Resources Assessment asserts that it is “still alarmingly high.”
Last year’s United Nations report State of the World’s Forests notes the “potential negative impacts on forest resources could include reduced investment in sustainable forest management and a rise in illegal logging…Land dependence, which had been easing, could increase, raising the risk of agricultural expansion into forests, deforestation and reversal of previous forest gains.”
According to White, “I ndonesia has promised to slash its emissions by at least 26 percent from business as usual levels by 2020 but President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has also vowed to boost economic growth to 7 percent or more by 2014, with development of resources from palm oil to coal helping drive the economy. “
The palm oil part of the discussion is likely to inflame conservationists and indigenous peoples’ rights activists. In Indonesia, habitat loss due to palm oil deforestation has destroyed the habitats of orangutans, Sumatran tigers and elephants, and has also put some 20 million of the nation’s indigenous and forest-dependent people at risk. It is estimated that a rainforest area the size of 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour in the country. At the current rate of habitat loss, both species of orangutans are on target to become extinct in the wild within 20 years.
Reducing deforestation rates is not just about combating climate change — it’s also about keeping ecosystems and natural habitats healthy, and preventing species from becoming extinct due to human activity.
When that piece of the puzzle is brought fully into the climate change debate and its various solutions, then Prof. Heinonen’s idea of interconnectedness will be put to the test. Chances are, we will find that economics can indeed be influenced by spirituality. The denizens of Indonesia’s Sacred Monkey Forest would likely agree.