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It’s not just Australia — Indonesia is facing its own climate disaster

It’s not just Australia that’s having a rough start to the new year. Indonesia’s sinking capital of Jakarta and the surrounding areas have been inundated with rain, triggering landslides and floods that have killed dozens of people.

As of Tuesday, the torrential downpours have left at least 67 people dead as rising waters deluged more than 180 neighborhoods and landslides buried at least a dozen Indonesians. Search missions for survivors are still ongoing, and officials say the death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are found.

Indonesia’s national meteorological agency said the rainfall on New Year’s Day was the heaviest downpour in a 24-hour period since Dutch colonists began record-keeping in the 1860s. Although floodwaters are starting to subside, the Indonesian Red Cross Society warned people to expect more severe rainfall in the coming days.

Dasril Roszandi / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The communities most vulnerable to flooding are those in poor neighborhoods — especially slums located near wastewater, which can spread pathogens when combined with flooding. More than 1,000 soldiers and health workers were dispatched to use disinfectant sprays in these areas on Sunday to prevent the spread of disease.

Jakarta, which is home to about 10 million people, is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and extreme weather. It also has dangerous levels of air pollution and the largest uncovered landfill in Southeast Asia. On top of that, the city’s rapidly growing population has faced major water shortages in recent years due to a dearth of groundwater. Meanwhile, rivers are polluted with garbage, and researchers say that at least 20 tons of trash are dumped in the Jakarta Bay each day.

Donal Husni / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The city is sinking as quickly as 9 inches a year in some neighborhoods, and about half of it is already below sea level. The country is also the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, mostly due to the country’s deforestation habit. And if Indonesia and the rest of the world don’t take measures to slash emissions drastically, researchers say that 95 percent of northern Jakarta will be submerged by 2050.

The country has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 29 percent by 2030 as part of the Paris Agreement, but the government is still set to rely on coal to generate electricity for the next decade. And a recent survey from YouGov and the University of Cambridge revealed that a whopping 18 percent of Indonesians believe there’s zero link between human activity and the climate crisis.

Ed Wray / Getty Images

Last summer, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced that the capital city will be relocated to the island of Borneo, hundreds of miles northeast of Jakarta, by 2023. But don’t assume that amounts to an acknowledgement of the climate crisis.

“I don’t think the climate is necessarily the reason for the Indonesian government to move the capital,” Rukka Sombolinggi, an indigenous leader from the Toraja ethnic group, said during a press conference at the United Nations General Assembly last year. “It’s simply because the capital is just so overwhelmed and crowded with people, making the traffic and the quality of air and water terribly alarming.”

The irony is that Indonesia also holds one of the most effective tools to fight against climate change: mangroves. These tall trees growing in coastal waters can remove and store carbon humans have emitted into the atmosphere. But instead of protecting and expanding mangrove ecosystems, the government has continued to allow corporations to slash and burn mangroves for palm oil production, thus producing more carbon emissions.

And even in the wake of devastating floods, the Indonesian government plans to stay the course. Two government ministers told Reuters this week that they have no plans to change their climate policy after the New Year’s flooding. But the head of the country’s meteorological agency minced no words about the impact of climate change on the floods’ severity. “The impact of a 1-degree increase can be severe,” Dwikorita Karnawati told reporters on Friday. “Among that is these floods.”

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It’s not just Australia — Indonesia is facing its own climate disaster

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Indonesia might need a new capital because of climate change

Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, has its fair share of problems: terrible traffic that can turn a 25 mile drive into a two hour endeavor, dangerous air pollution, and the largest uncovered landfill in Southeast Asia. And now, with climate change in the mix, 10 million people live in one of the fastest sinking cities in the world.

Jakarta, built next to the Java Sea with 13 rivers criss-crossing the city, is sinking as fast as 9 inches a year in some neighborhoods. The problem is compounded by unlicensed groundwater extraction, which empties aquifers and causes the ground to cave. Right now, about half the city is below sea level. By 2050, if emissions aren’t drastically cut, 95 percent of Northern Jakarta is expected to be submerged.

Indonesia’s likely re-elected President Joko Widodo’s solution? Change the capital. In a closed cabinet meeting on Monday, Widodo made the decision to move the executive branch and associated ministries and parliament to a new city. Which city? He opened the discussion on Twitter:

“Jakarta now bears two burdens at once: as a center of government and public services as well as a business center,” Widodo tweeted. “Where do you think Indonesia’s capital should be?”’

Widodo isn’t the first to suggest relocating Indonesia’s capital. In 1957, Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, suggested that very thing. Every so often, presidents have brought up the issue to no avail, to the point where Indonesian residents are skeptical that the move will ever occur. And many are not sure they want it to, either.

“You don’t solve a problem by just moving it away,” Elisa Sutanudjaja, director of the Rujak Center for Urban Studies, told The Guardian. “Jakarta is quite similar to Tokyo in the 1960s, with its land subsidence, flooding, natural disasters and overcrowding. If you really want to solve the problem then they should tackle it, not just move it.”

That being said, this might be the time it finally happens. Things are approaching a tipping point, with natural disasters like last week’s floods increasing in regularity and severity. As Jakarta’s population continues to grow, and unsanctioned water extraction and climate change pull Jakarta below sea level, it’s about time that something happens.

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Toxic masculinity is probably destroying the planet.

It started with the cinematic, widely serenaded death of spunky little spacebot Cassini, closing out a 13-year mission to Saturn with a headlong dive into the planet’s gaseous atmosphere.

Meanwhile, back on a more familiar planet, an orbiting satellite named DMSP F19 quietly blinked out. The DMSP weather-tracking satellites have meticulously recorded Arctic sea ice coverage since 1978, which makes them one of our longest-running climate observations. But in 2015, Congress voted to mothball the last satellite in the series. Now, on the cusp of the biggest planetary shift humans have ever seen, we stand to lose one of our best means for understanding it.

Also this year, I started following LandsatBot, a project by Welsh glaciologist Martin O’Leary that tweets out random satellite views of Earth’s surface hourly. Like a geographic Chat Roulette, LandsatBot scratches the same imaginative itch that high-def images of Saturn’s rings do, but its alien views are all terrestrial. From satellite height, every landscape looks like an abstract painting, all fractal rivers and impressionist daubs of cloud.

These days, amidst an unending torrent of Game of Thrones gifs, signs of the end of democracy, and variations on that distracted boyfriend meme, I sometimes come across a Landsat image dropped without comment into the clutter. I stop and stare. Whether it’s an astroturf-green wedge of land somewhere in the Indonesian archipelago or the Crest-colored swirl of icy Antarctic seas, I try to imagine the world down there: A place I will probably never go, without landmarks or footprints, but irrevocably changed by us. Whether you recognize it or not, it’s home.

Amelia Urry is an associate editor at Grist.

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Toxic masculinity is probably destroying the planet.

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American Carrier Still Not Headed For North Korea

Mother Jones

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From the Washington Post:

As tensions mounted on the Korean Peninsula, Adm. Harry Harris made a dramatic announcement: An aircraft carrier had been ordered to sail north from Singapore on April 8 toward the Western Pacific. A spokesman for the Pacific Command linked the deployment directly to the “number one threat in the region,” North Korea, and its “reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters on April 11 that the Carl Vinson was “on her way up there.” Asked about the deployment in an interview with Fox Business Network that aired April 12, President Trump said: “We are sending an armada, very powerful.” The U.S. media went into overdrive and Fox reported on April 14 that the armada was “steaming” toward North Korea.

Sending a carrier somewhere is a standard way of huffing and puffing without really doing anything of substance. Every president has done it. Trump, however, has brought it to new levels of irrelevant theater. Defense News tells us where the carrier and its strike group were really headed:

Rather, the ships were actually operating several hundred miles south of Singapore, taking part in scheduled exercises with Australian forces in the Indian Ocean. On Saturday — according to photographs released by the U.S. Navy — the carrier passed north through the Sunda Strait, the passage between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. It’s about 3,500 miles from Korea.

For the geographically challenged among us, here is the Sunda Strait:

As you can see, the Sunda Strait is south of Singapore. North Korea is north of Singapore. In fairness, neither Trump nor the Navy said when the Carl Vinson was going to head north, so technically no one lied here. Our “very powerful” armada will make its way to the Korean Peninsula eventually, but apparently no one’s in any rush.

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American Carrier Still Not Headed For North Korea

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When the Food in Silicon Valley Isn’t Spicy Enough

Mother Jones

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Listen to this story on Bite, Mother Jones’ new food politics podcast. You can access all our episodes here, or subscribe in iTunes, Stitcher, or via RSS.

In the back of an industrial park in Silicon Valley, Dewi Sutanto stands over a simmering pot of red and bright orange sauce. It’s over 80 degrees in the kitchen, and stacked food containers line the counter. Sutanto has filled about half of the day’s orders, mostly with beef rendang, a clove and cardamom-infused slow-cooked meat. She wipes her hands on her apron before lifting the lid off a steaming pot of white rice.

Sutanto, originally from an island near Sumatra, Indonesia, lives in Milpitas, California. When she moved to the United States 40 years ago, she brought her family’s recipes cooked for friends. Word of her food spread quickly among the Indonesian community, and Sutanto started a small catering business. But now, instead of relying on word-of-mouth to connect with customers, she’s using an app.

Nasi padang is a staple of Sumatra, a dish of steamed rice and miniature bites of fish, vegetables, and spicy meat. Photo courtesy TaroBites.com

Taro, named after the root vegetable commonly used in African and South Asian food, allows users to order straight from cooks who specialize in cuisine from regions around the world. About 50 chefs offer menus that range from Moroccan and West Indian, to Sumatran and Chinese fusion. Silicon Valley is in many ways the perfect place for these chefs to find loyal customers: Busy tech workers, often immigrants, don’t have time to cook but often yearn for the authentic tastes of home. Out of Sutanto’s estimated 300 customers, 250 are from Indonesia.

Krisha Mehra co-founded Taro earlier this year. He said after watching his aunt try to juggle orders for her Indian food via text message, he wanted to make the process easier—for her and her customers. She never wanted to open her own eatery, Mehra said; she just enjoyed making home-cooked Indian food.

“If somebody really cooks well, opening a restaurant is one of the worst things they can do for themselves,” Mehra said, citing high start-up costs and long hours. “A lot of the chefs are stay-at-home moms or people who have a family…they’re adventurous enough to try a business out once a week.”

Now that more people are finding Sutanto through the app, she admits there have been a few changes to her traditional menu, especially when she cooks for non-Indonesians: “Everyone says that my food is too spicy,” she says with a laugh.

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The NSA Said Edward Snowden Had No Access to Surveillance Intercepts. They Lied.

Mother Jones

For more than a year, NSA officials have insisted that although Edward Snowden had access to reports about NSA surveillance, he didn’t have access to the actual surveillance intercepts themselves. It turns out they were lying.1 In fact, he provided the Washington Post with a cache of 22,000 intercept reports containing 160,000 individual intercepts. The Post has spend months reviewing these files and estimates that 11 percent of the intercepted accounts belonged to NSA targets and the remaining 89 percent were “incidental” collections from bystanders.

So was all of this worth it? The Post’s review illustrates just how hard it is to make that judgment:

Among the most valuable contents — which The Post will not describe in detail, to avoid interfering with ongoing operations — are fresh revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.

Months of tracking communications across more than 50 alias accounts, the files show, led directly to the 2011 capture in Abbottabad of Muhammad Tahir Shahzad, a Pakistan-based bomb builder, and Umar Patek, a suspect in a 2002 terrorist bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali. At the request of CIA officials, The Post is withholding other examples that officials said would compromise ongoing operations.

Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.

….If Snowden’s sample is representative, the population under scrutiny in the PRISM and Upstream programs is far larger than the government has suggested. In a June 26 “transparency report,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that 89,138 people were targets of last year’s collection under FISA Section 702. At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.

The whole story is worth a read in order to get a more detailed description of what these intercepts looked like and who they ended up targeting. In some ways, the Snowden intercepts show that the NSA is fairly fastidious about minimizing data on US persons. In other ways, however, they stretch to the limit—and probably beyond—the rules for defining who is and isn’t a US person. Click the link for more.

1Naturally the NSA has an explanation:

Robert S. Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a prepared statement that Alexander and other officials were speaking only about “raw” intelligence, the term for intercepted content that has not yet been evaluated, stamped with classification markings or minimized to mask U.S. identities.

“We have talked about the very strict controls on raw traffic…” Litt said. “Nothing that you have given us indicates that Snowden was able to circumvent that in any way.”

Silly intelligence committee members. They should have specifically asked about access to processed content.

Jesus. If someone in Congress isn’t seriously pissed off about this obvious evasion, they might as well just hang up their oversight spurs and disband.

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The NSA Said Edward Snowden Had No Access to Surveillance Intercepts. They Lied.

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U.N. to world: “Eat your insects.”

U.N. to world: “Eat your insects.”


“Something’s different about my Hoppy Meal … “

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”

“Terribly sorry, sir. It seems that the kitchen was running a little low on maggots.”

If we want to satiate the world population’s ever-growing appetite, insect farming should be the next global foodie fad. Or at least that’s the gist of a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The thorough 187-page report [PDF], published Monday, covers everything from different cultures’ attitudes towards eating insects to farming methods to tips for using insects as emergency food during disasters.

Benefits of bug munching are manifold: The report points out that farmers can raise insects on human and animal waste, they emit fewer greenhouse gases and produce less pollution than cattle or pigs, and they use substantially less land and water than other livestock.

From the report’s foreword:

Land is scarce and expanding the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option. Oceans are overfished and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for food production. To meet the food and nutrition challenges of today – there are nearly 1 billion chronically hungry people worldwide – and tomorrow, what we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated. Inefficiencies need to be rectified and food waste reduced. We need to find new ways of growing food.

Edible insects have always been a part of human diets, but in some societies there is a degree of distaste for their consumption. Although the majority of edible insects are gathered from forest habitats, innovation in mass-rearing systems has begun in many countries.

More than 1,900 insect varieties have been identified as sources of human food around the world, the report notes. The most frequently consumed insects are (deep breath) beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, cicadas, leafhoppers, planthoppers, scale insects, termites, dragonflies, and even regular old flies.

If your mouth isn’t watering yet, read this passage from The Guardian’s report:

“In the past there has been a tendency to say insects are for primitive, stupid people. This is nonsense, a misconception that must be corrected,” says lead author Arnold van Huis, who has helped write a Dutch insect recipe book that includes mealworm pizza and locust ravioli.

Westerners barely know what they are missing, he suggests. Dragonflies boiled in coconut milk with ginger are an Indonesian delicacy; beekeepers in parts of China are considered virile because they eat larvae from their hives, and tarantulas are popular in Cambodia. Europe gave up eating them centuries ago, but Pliny the elder, the Roman scholar, wrote that aristocrats “loved to eat beetle larvae reared on flour and wine” while Aristotle described the best time to harvest cicadas: “The larva on attaining full size becomes a nymph; then it tastes best, before the husk is broken. At first the males are better to eat, but after copulation the females, which are then full of white eggs,” he wrote.

Mealworm pizza and locust ravioli are all fine and good, but beetle larvae infused with flour and wine? That’s haute cuisine.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who


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Huge paper company promises to stop being deforesting jerks

Huge paper company promises to stop being deforesting jerks

Over the last 20 years, a third of the forest cover on the Indonesian island of Sumatra — home to endangered tigers and orangutans — was destroyed. The clear-cutting of the rainforest helped make Indonesia the world’s fourth-biggest carbon emitter. And much of it was done in the name of paper — Asia Pulp & Paper, to be exact. But not anymore. From The Washington Post:

Asia Pulp & Paper, the third-largest pulp and paper company in the world, announced Tuesday that it is halting operations in Indonesia’s natural rain forests, a victory for advocates who have been negotiating with the company for the past year.

The Singapore-based company, which controls logging concessions spanning nearly 6.4 million acres in Indonesia, said it also has agreed to protect forested peatland, which stores massive amounts of carbon, and to work with indigenous communities to protect their native land. …

Aida Greenbury, the firm’s managing director for sustainability, said that a coalition of environmentalists, customers and some of the firm’s own employees had pushed for an end to native forest logging.

“We heard very loud and clear what they want us to do,” she said. “It is an investment for the sustainability of our business, not only an investment in the environment and the social impact we’re creating.”

Here’s more from the righteous rabble-rousers at Greenpeace, who worked with the World Wildlife Fund and the Rainforest Action Network to shove APP’s clear-cutters out of the forests:

Today’s victory was an amazing milestone in a 40-country, ten-year campaign. In the U.S., Greenpeace and WWF cut over 75% of APP’s market, largely through persuading Mattel, Hasbro, Lego, K-Mart, Staples, Kroger, and other companies to cancel their contracts with APP or refuse to enter into business with the company. RAN topped it up, persuading Disney to dump APP as well. In total, over 100 companies pulled away from APP. APP struck back, forming front groups to attack Greenpeace and WWF for our work together.

So a deal is great news, right? Well, maybe. As The Washington Post notes, it all depends on APP’s ongoing level of commitment.

Christopher Barr, executive director of the U.S-based forestry research firm Woods and Wayside International, said people should approach “what APP does with a healthy dose of skepticism. They have a history of setting sustainability targets that either get pushed back or don’t get met.”

Barr noted the firm is seeking to build a third pulp mill in Sumatra.

When asked whether she believed the new policy would boost the firm’s chances of getting the permit, Greenbury replied, “We hope so,” but she added that the company was doing it for broader reasons.

“It is our intention to set a new benchmark for the pulp and paper mill industry globally,” she said

By not destroying pristine rainforest and habitat for endangered animals? That would be a new benchmark indeed, APP.

Susie Cagle writes and draws news for Grist. She also writes and draws tweets for



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