How biofuels are destroying Indigenous communities in Malaysia

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Logging and then palm oil plantations have cost the Batek and the Penan much of their rainforest homelands. 

In the most common progression, logging companies obtain concessions from state governments with little or no resistance from indigenous peoples who have limited land rights and rarely read or write Malay, Malaysia’s official language.

In the past, many communities were unaware that a logging concession had been filed until heavy equipment turned up and began felling the forest on their ancestral land.

Loggers claim they log sustainably. This is rarely the case. Opening up logging roads and dragging out felled trees devastates the thin tropical topsoil.

After the second or even third pass to harvest all valuable tree species, the forest is ravaged. The soil erodes in tropical downpours; animals leave or starve to death; the silted rivers become devoid of fish.

After the loggers are gone, the oil palm plantations move in.

See the important photo essay by James Whitlow Delano in The Atlantic