LONDON – Our small plane had been flying low over Sumatra for three hours but all we had seen was an industrial landscape of palm and acacia trees stretching 50 km in every direction. A haze of blue smoke from newly cleared land drifted eastward over giant plantations. Long drainage canals dug through equatorial swamps dissected the land. The only sign of life was excavators loading trees onto barges to take to pulp mills.
The end is in sight for the great forests of Sumatra and Borneo and the animals and people who depend on them. Thirty years ago the world’s third- and sixth-largest islands were full of tigers, elephants, rhinos, orangutans and exotic birds and plants, but in a frenzy of development they have been trashed in a single generation by global agribusiness and pulp and paper industries.
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