The hypothetical “If a tree falls into the woods…” question explores how the experience of an event makes an event “real.” So what happens if an entire forested country burns and releases a toxic and deadly haze, and the media doesn’t cover it?
Indonesia is burning. More than 3,000 miles of burning forest and peat have already emitted more carbon dioxide in the past few months than the annual emissions of Germany. It’s the worst set of fires the country has seen since 1997, a year in which 15,000 children under the age of three died from air pollution. More than 500,000 respiratory tract infections have been reported since July 1, and Indonesia’s 43 million people have been inhaling toxic fumes for months. Some children have already died from complications, while others have been evacuated out of the country on emergency warships. Blame the Indonesia fire’s slow burn, or global short attention spans for a lack of coverage, but this story has been building for months without much of an audience — and it’s not just an Indonesian problem.