Indonesia has become a land of tragedy. Just after the flood tragedy in Wasior, West Papua, an earthquake-triggered tsunami hit Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra. While we were still shocked by those disasters, Mount Merapi erupted. Hundreds of people have been killed in the recent calamities. Natural disasters have become a great challenge for Indonesians.
There are two impacts of disasters: Economically and psychologically. In terms of Indonesia’s economy, natural catastrophes damage property and stop economic activity, which consequently result in significant financial loss for the people. Furthermore, the series of natural disasters create more burden on the national budget to finance post-disaster rehabilitation. On a macro scale, the increase of natural disasters in this country directly multiplies the number of people living in poverty.
The 10th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was held in Nagoya, Japan, from Oct. 18 to 29. Since the CBD was introduced in 1993, this convention is aimed at mainstreaming biodiversity conservation initiatives and sustainable use of biodiversity on a global scale. The CBD also intends to promote fair and equitable benefit-sharing of biological utilization, including genetic resources.
As a “mega-biodiversity” nation, Indonesia could become a key player in efforts to save global species. Indonesia could play a leading role in developing international policies that support conservation of tropical biological resources. Indonesia could also capitalize on expansion of international research collaborations to study biology and utilize natural products.
There are two opposite directions characterizing urban development in this country. In one direction, the main feature of city development is the increase in number of buildings and shopping centers symbolizing economic improvement. Meanwhile, we are losing interest in creating more green areas. City parks and urban forests are not perceived as essentials. What are forest areas for in the middle of the city? That may be a question for many.
As the expansion of new malls, skyscrapers and other business-oriented constructions promise many more financial benefits, the authority, such as city councils, are easily issuing building permits. New shopping centers in fact create more traffic congestion, as well as conflicts with traditional markets. Those thriving new constructions have also increased the pressure on the land carrying capacity.
Indonesia and Malaysia recently held a bilateral meeting in Kinabalu with no significant results. However, at least there is a clear message from the meeting — that these two neighboring countries have a great deal of work to do. Like a pebble in a shoe, border disputes will continue to be a main obstacle in maintaining a good relationship between the two nations.
The relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia is like a roller coaster, up and down and full of surprises. The shared cultural roots between both nations often become a problem rather than a blessing. The recent dispute in regard to the arrest of Malaysian fishermen by the Indonesian authorities and the detention of officials from the Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry by Malaysian Police has just added fuel to the fire. This latest conflict adds to a series of disputes between the two nations, after the Sipadan and Ligitan case, the Ambalat Bloc clash and conflicts on cultural claims.
Indonesia seems to be at the crossroads of the climate change issue. On the one hand, we have to stand together with the international community to push the mitigation agenda on decreasing carbon emission levels. This nation, on the other hand, is already facing real problems with regard to climate alteration, especially in the agricultural sector, and it needs prompt adaptation action (see Teddy Lesmana, The Jakarta Post, July 26). Which one has to be prioritized?
Extreme weather for the last couple of months has adversely affected agriculture. The prolonged rainy season devastated many agricultural commodities, such as vegetables and rice, in many regions. The price of those commodities, such as chili, has increased (The Post, July 18). The weather anomaly that has been happening is hypothesized to be linked with the very real and growing threat of climate change. However, adaptation strategies to deal with the problem are still unclear (Kompas, July 19).
The reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) initiative finds its real battlefield. After the announcement of the Indonesian-Norway partnership on the forestry sector, aimed to reduce carbon emissions from this sector, there have been intense debates on the issue. The question is will this scheme significantly contribute to solve forest degradation problems, with minimum harm to other sectors?
The main focus of the debate is the application of a two-year suspension on natural forest and peat land conversions. Even though forest companies also voice their concerns on the plan, the main opposition comes from oil palm plantation operators. This sector is believed to suffer most from the scheme (see Editorial The Jakarta Post, July 5). As Alan Oxley (the Post, July 12) argued, palm oil industries play an important role in poverty reduction.
After a decline in his popularity, Kevin Rudd was sacked as the leader of Australian Labor Party by his own party parliament members, on June 24. Fears that the party could lose to the opposition in the upcoming elections were reason enough for the party members to appoint another figure as leader. Julia Gillard, who was a deputy prime minister, was thus appointed to replace Rudd. Since the Australian constitution states that the leader of the winning political party is automatically the country’s prime minister, she was directly appointed to be the new prime minister. This was also a historic moment for Australia, because Gillard is Australia’s first female prime minister.
Rudd’s performance in fact can not be rated as unsuccessful. His popularity had remained high until his last couple of months. Rudd was regarded as successful in maintaining Australia’s high economic growth during the recent global financial crisis. His foreign policy, which showed his willingness to embrace the Asian community, was also well received in the region. The apology to the stolen generation of Aborigines was also accepted, even though it is not a finished agenda.