Sukarno once said “Give me ten young men, I will undoubtedly shake the world.” The phenomenal statement shows how influential young people are in changing the face of Indonesia. Papua, the second largest island on the planet, is known as the epicenter of the world’s biodiversity to researchers due to its high level of biodiversity.
West Papua is a province founded in 1999 in Papua Island. The province that looks like the head of a bird of paradise has important natural resources that need to be maintained to ensure a healthy blue earth. It has an abundance of wetlands consisting of estuaries, coral reefs, peats, swamps, mangroves, lagoons, bays, and coastal forests.
All these natural resources contribute to sustaining the source of life. However in reality, there are certain activities that lead to the deterioration of such resources, inevitably inciting local and global impacts. Within a few decades, climate change issues that affect a number sectors at once, such as the ever-expanding ozone hole, have become a hot topic worldwide.
Indonesia, as one of the countries having a part in creating the problem, has been making a lot of mitigation efforts to address it. West Papua, believed to be one of the last places in Indonesia that still maintain high biodiversity and is well-preserved, can be an alternative to support these efforts.
What is the Ozone Layer?
Ozone is a pale blue gas which is composed of three oxygen atoms (O3). Ozone is a colorless substance floating between 15 to 30 kilometers from the Earth’s surface—on the stratospheric clouds, to be exact. The main contributors that form the ozone layer are the sun, halogen, and low temperature. When the temperature drops below the threshold, clouds form in the stratosphere. Hologen, particularly pollutants such as chlorine and bromine, transforms into highly-reactive chemicals in the ozone. The ozone layer protects the Earth from ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
The Relationship between Ozone Layer and Global Warming
Global warming is a rise in the average temperature of the atmosphere, oceans, and Earth’s surface caused by increasing concentration of greenhouse gases. The biggest contributors to global warming are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and gases used for refrigerators and air conditioners (CFCs), also other gases known as greenhouse gases that envelop the earth and trap heat. Forest degradation, which impairs the forest’s capacity to store CO2, further aggravates this condition, as dying trees release more CO2 previously stored in their tissues into the atmosphere.
When we hear that the ozone hole on earth is getting wider, it means we are losing more ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, specifically in the stratosphere. Meanwhile, global warming produces heat that affects the lower atmosphere, specifically the troposphere, because of increasing concentration of heat-entrapping gases or what we know as greenhouse gases. The more heat trapped in the troposphere, the less heat escaping into space, which results in a colder stratosphere. The colder the stratosphere can cause the greater damage to the ozone layer. Therefore, we can conclude that global warming and the ozone layer are interconnected.
Saving the Peatlands, Fixing the Ozone Layer
In recent decades, human activities contribute to the further damage of ozone layer through the use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in household appliances, such as refrigerators, air conditioners, hair sprays, paint sprayers, and materials used in pesticides and insecticides. The CFC compound is known as Freon.
Today, environmental damage such as forest fires which generate Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is blamed to be one of the factors exacerbating the onset of the ozone hole. It is undeniable that the bleak years of dense smog from forest fires have become a scourge for Indonesia. Within the past five years, fires have become prevalent in the peatlands of Sumatra Island, and in 2015, forest fires have even spread to the island of Papua.
Reducing the use of gases that damage the ozone layer is a key to prevent the widespread damage to the ozone layer. One of the steps that can be taken is to save the forests. In West Papua, there are certain natural resources that can be used to save the ozone layer, one of which is peatlands.
The 8 million hectares of peatland in Papua serves as a natural carbon sink. On the other hand, if not administered properly, they can be a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon Dioxide in large number will be released into the atmosphere when these peatlands are converted. Of course, the impact of this conversion will not be as direct as damaging the ozone layer, but will happen gradually.
Conserving Peatlands are crucial to make sure carbon remains stored in them. Preserving peatlands in West Papua will contribute to reducing the damage to the ozone layer. It is important to note that wetlands, including peats, store 90% of the freshwater reserves, thus they can be regarded as a source of life.
The Ozone and Papuan Youths
Universities, as the center of knowledge and producer of the next generation in Papua, have a major role in generating scientific data through research, as well as being the basis for delivering balanced information to the public. Students, who are native Papuans, can act as “agents of change” if supported by knowledge they learn in universities, science seminars, as well as other informal activities.
In order to increase wider participation of young people to support the reduction of carbon emissions in West Papua, Conservation International came as a guest speaker at a Public Lecture on Wetlands held in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Papua in August 2016. On the occasion, Simon, a student in the Biology Department of University of Papua, asked the roles of students to support the sustainability of natural resources in West Papua.
The majority of West Papuans, especially those inhabiting wetlands, are unaware of the functions, benefits of and impacts on the ecosystems they are living in. It is important to note that some Papuans still depend their livelihoods on nature, so it suffices to say that nature is their source of life. Simon added that information disseminated through public lectures could provide more knowledge for the students about the link between natural resources and climate change, increasing carbon in the atmosphere, as well as local community’s participation in supporting the conservation of their environment.
In the context of natural resource sustainability, students as future leaders can be ambassadors for the environment, who will change the face of West Papua’s environment by contributing as a funnel to deliver information to the smallest units of society, which are families in villages and local communities at sub-districts and district levels.
In general, the younger generations are familiar with the function of wetlands in West Papua, but some key important information is not available. That should be disseminated to encourage natural resource sustainability and ensure Indonesia’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Through Public Lectures featuring guest speakers from different sectors, students can gain broader horizons to focus more on voicing the advantages and disadvantages of managing wetlands, as well as studying them through research and community service.
Peatlands in West Papua are still in good condition. They can be used as an alternative in the efforts to reduce carbon emissions in Indonesia, as long as managed properly. The better condition of a peatland will better contribute to preserving the ozone layer. Conservation International (CI) believes that people need nature to live and thrive. CI is aware that development is inevitable. However, preserving sustainable natural resources with proper management has now become a top priority in order to achieve a healthy blue earth.
Author : Nita Yohana, Published : http://www.conservation.org