By CANDACE RUSSELL, age 11

Newly cleared rainforest land burns at a palm oil plantation in Indonesia. PHOTO: Rainforest Action Network
Newly cleared rainforest land burns at a palm oil plantation in Indonesia. PHOTO: Rainforest Action Network

Raging fires have been erupting in Indonesia since June 2015.

These fires are started by farmers and big corporations to clear land in order to plant crops for trade. This practice is called the slash-and-burn method. Smog floats up as the fires burn, making the air toxic for animals and humans. Because of this, animals such as the orangutan are forced to flee their homes, and schools are forced to close to protect children from the smog. More than 2000 schools in Indonesia and Malaysia have closed, impacting 1.5 million students and parents.

“The smoke is really quite thick, and people are dealing with it without protection,” Louis Verchot, director of environment research for the Center for International Forestry Research said to Scientific American. “Kids are running around without masks, and the masks out there are not good enough.”

Work is being done to solve this crisis: Australia, Singapore and Malaysia are helping by dropping water bombs on the fires. Indonesian President Joko Widodo is now preventing big businesses from getting licenses to use slash-and-burn.

But the haze has impacted the entire region of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. The fires have significantly worsened Indonesia’s contributions to global climate change. University of Queensland Professor Eric Meijaard told the Sydney Morning Herald that the fires are the biggest environmental crime of the 21st century.


Glossary of Terms:

Slash-and-burn: A method of clearing farmland by cutting down and burning away existing plants.

Correction: The original version of this article, printed on January 9, 2016, was misattributed to the wrong name. This article was written by Kid Reporter Candace Russell, age 11.