Bad Neighbors

Drone footage gives a dramatic glimpse into Indonesia’s devastating forest fires.

NASA says Indonesia's seasonal blazes are on track to be even worse than 1997’s record-breaking environmental disaster. Just how bad is that? Drifting smog is forcing school closures, grounding flights, and causing respiratory woes in Singapore and Malaysia. One Sumatran city even evacuated its babies. And the fires, mostly a consequence of companies using illegal slash-and-burn agriculture to clear land for palm oil plantations, are torching carbon-rich peatlands. The Global Fire Emissions Database estimates that about 600 million tons of carbon have already been spewed into the atmosphere this season—equivalent to Germany’s annual output.

The above video, shot by Greenpeace with a GoPro camera attached to a drone, gives an eerie aerial view of the hazy destruction. Much of the footage was recorded around the edge of Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, which is some of the most important wild orangutan habitat in the world.

Yesterday the Singapore Environment Council announced that it’s asking major retailers not to use or sell products made by companies linked to the fires. And Indonesia seems to be feeling the pressure—after repeatedly refusing offers of international help, earlier today President Joko Widodo began asking Singapore, Malaysia, and Russia for assistance in taming the flames.


onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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