CONSUMPTION & DESTRUCTION - RAINFORESTS IN SARAWAK
Yu Tanaka, a renowned expert on international affairs, in particular environmental issues and John Barah, a leader in the struggle to protect the lands of indigenous people from timber and plantation interests, introduced themselves to Peace Boat passengers with a joint presentation entitled "Forests Destroyed for Shampoo."
Tanaka began by describing a conversation with a friend who had spent his life defending his tribe's rainforest lands from logging companies looking to harvest timber for Japan. "He thought Japan must be a desert," said Tanaka, or else they wouldn't need to destroy other people's forests.

Tanaka explained that 25% of the timber harvested from rainforests goes to Japan, and that a large portion of that is used during construction, as panels to keep concrete in place while it dries. The panels, often from trees which are hundreds and thousands of years old, are used for about a month and then thrown away, because it is much cheaper to purchase them new (around 800 yen for a plank the area of a single bed) than to recycle. He described how the rainforests in Malta, the Philippines, and Thailand have been completely destroyed, and mentioned that at current rates the rainforests of Papua New Guinea and Samoa will be destroyed within the next 20 years.

Both Tanaka and Barah explained that once a region's rainforests have been depleted by logging companies, palm oil plantations move in. These plantations, which produce oil used in many household items, including shampoo, soap, cooking grease, and shortening, have a disastrous affect on native communities. Barah described his experience working on a plantation, which entailed backbreaking labor from six in the morning at wages equivalent to 50 US cents per day. He described how such wages often require that an entire family, including children, must go to work to support itself, leaving no time for education. As these children grow up without the ability to read or write, they often have no way to break free from working at plantations, and so entire generations have become trapped as plantation workers. In areas where locals refuse to work under such conditions, plantation owners simply import workers who will, often from poverty-stricken areas in the Philippines.

Barah ended the lecture by describing recent efforts by native peoples to fight back, focusing on a blockade of logging roads in his native Sawarak. Eventually the military was sent in to break the blockade and 20 tribe members were arrested, including Barah himself. He explained his people had no choice but to continue to fight, as to them the land is "our life, our blood, and our culture. If the land is taken, we have no identity."
Shingapore-Mombasa / Peace Boat's 36th Voyage