Indonesian President promotes “sustainable growth with equity”

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono gave an impressive speech at the Centre for International Forestry Research last week. How his words translate into the political life of his country I don’t know, but it is hard to fault them as an analysis of the world’s current challenges and a pointer to the direction in which we must move.   Not many political leaders take the time to stand back and present such a coherent and complete understanding of what is happening to human societies and the natural environment on which they depend. The speech is worth reading in full, but I’ll extract some of the salient points here.

His theme was sustainable growth with equity.

“What are our choices ?

“We can choose to continue to exhaust the present course, the same course that has been in place for decades and centuries. A world where we obsessively chase after economic growth without regard for ethics or the environment.  A world of excessive exploitation of resources, and insatiable consumerism.  A world driven by “greed” rather than “need”.

“If we go down this path, we will only find more of the same.  It will lead us to more environmental degradation.  More deforestation.  More pollution.  More global warming.  More endangered species.  More conflict between man and nature.  And ultimately, more desperation for the human race.”

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Merapi, volcanoes and cooling

Back in April, when Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland was erupting and causing much disruption to air travel in Europe and the North Atlantic, there was some concern that the volcano’s ash and aerosols could cause global cooling. As I said at the time, there was little chance of that happening because volcanoes need to be near the equator to cause global cooling events. However, we now we have an eruption in Indonesia that has the potential to cause a noticeable global cooling. Merapi is Indonesia’s most active volcano, and the eruptive sequence which began at the end of October has already killed at least 153 people and emitted a considerable amount of sulfate aerosols as this NASA Earth Observatory image shows:


At the time of writing the eruption was showing signs of easing off, and the amounts of sulfur emitted to date haven’t been sufficient (or reached high enough altitudes) to cause a significant cooling. However, as Jeff Masters notes, Merapi’s volcanic history indicates that it is capable of very powerful eruptions which could mimic or exceed the Pinatubo eruption in 19941991 which caused a 0.5ºC cooling over the following 18 months. As ever, the best place to follow events is at vulcanologist Erik Klemetti’s Eruptions blog (note: new web address). Definitely one to watch.