Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are no rarity here in Indonesia. The Indonesian archipelago is a series of thousands of volcanic islands which emerged from the ocean millions of years ago. These islands are the product of the convergence of the Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is our home.
The trade-off for the fertile lands, natural resources and wonderful seas around the area is the ever-present risk of disaster. The price of these disasters, when they occur, is usually paid in the lives of the poor.
Since the tsunami of 2004 an early-warning system has been developed and implemented in many locations in the Indian Ocean. In 2006, it appears that early-warning messages were not relayed appropriately, costing more lives in Pangandaran. No early warning existed for the recent Mentawais tsunami, as it was not considered cost-effective to install the system for such a small population. At least 430 people were killed.
The Mentawais are an internationally-renowned spot for high-class surf, and SurfAid International are leading fund-raising and relief operations in the area. Through the Surf-Aid schools project, you can access free resources and teaching materials to help students learn about global issues, the oceans and citizenship.To make a donation to the Mentawais relief efforts, please visit their site. Here is a video report on the affected area from their website:
Another ongoing story is the eruption of Gunung Merapi in central Java. This is a little closer to home for us here in Bandung, though our city is not directly affected. However, thousands have been displaced and many lives lost, with a high demand still for aid and support. For a gallery of hard-hitting images from the Guardian, click on the photo below:
Among those affected are SOS Children’s Villages in the region. These are orphanages and community projects which provide homes and education for hundreds of children. They are in real need of basics – clothes, nappies, baby needs and more. If you wish to donate directly to SOS in Indonesia, please follow the link here. If you wish to make a donation to the international organisation, please visit their international website here. Tax advantages are applicable in some countries and you get some say over where your money goes.
BIS students are aiming to help the Merapi SOS Children’s Villages that were affected by raising money through the annual Talent Show and collecting materials and resources needed . Good luck!
Here’s some AP video footage of Merapi in action:
Indonesia celebrates its 65th year of independence today, so it’s a good time to point out a section of this site dedicated to where we live!
Aside from its colourful history, Indonesia is a science hotspot, rich in marine and rainforest biodiversity, geological resources and events, pioneering conservation efforts, fossils and really awesome people. It has been of interest to the outside world since (probably before) the days of the spice islands, and around 150 years ago, Alfred Russell Wallace was out here studying the amazing diversity of life here.
Wallace’s famous work, The Malay Archipelago, was dedicated to Charles Darwin. Wallace also hit upon ideas of natural selection and descent with modification while travelling around these islands, parts of which were to become Indonesia.
Wallace noted that although neighbouring islands shared many characteristics and species, there was a marked division between those of Bali and the west and those of Lombok and the east, even though the divide between Bali and Lombok was small. This division was to become known as the Wallace Line: western islands are characteristic of south-east Asia, whereas eastern islands are biogeographically more closely related to Australasia. With two distinct geological origins, species had separate genetic lines and paths of evolution. Through natural selection, Wallace wrote that barriers to interbreeding would evolve, leading to reproductive isolation and speciation – the Wallace Effect.
That’s cool, and that’s where we live.
You can read the whole book online, via Google: The Malay Archipelago.
Here is a clip of Sir David Attenborough reading from Wallace’s book as he follows in his footsteps for a BBC documentary:
And here is giving a full lecture on Wallace at Bristol University:
If you’re a Bio undergrad or graduate and have time and money to spare, you could do a lot worse than checking out Operation Wallacea, where you can boldly go where Wallace went before and take part in biodiversity and conservation research.
My Grade 12 class have looked at this story before, and now we can hear about it from Willie Smitts, a primatologist and conservationist who has led a huge project to replant and revive a section on rainforest in Borneo. They have taken over 8,000 hectares of scorched and cleared land and are returning it to a habitat worthy of orang-utans and many more endangered species.
Smits was featured in TED2009 and here he is with his story of how they regrew the rainforest.