In Danger of Being Snuffed Out by Imperialism, Sumatran Tigers, Lacking Class Consciousness, Strike Out Against Super-Exploited Neighbors
Like many of the world’s animals, the Sumatran tiger is facing extinction due to imperialism’s ravenous exploitation of the vast Third World. With less than four hundred remaining in the wild, the Sumatran tiger, like uncountable other species and sub-species, is recognized as being “critically endangered” while simultaneously being wiped through activities inherent to the current system. Unlike other animals however, the Sumatran tiger is not dying-off gracefully.
Like many other rainforest animals, a dwindling habitat and food supply caused by deforestation has the Sumatran tiger facing its end. Hungry, some of the tigers have begun attacking people, many of them employed by what have been called illegal logging operations. Attacks against humans first occurred in 1997. Between January 24th and March 3rd of this year, nine people have been killed by the rare tigers. Since the 1985, fifty percent of the islands remaining forests have been destroyed.
The primary culprits are Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) and other companies under the Indonesian holding company Sinar Mas Group (SMG). As recently as 2008 the companies were investigated for illegal practices. According to local NGOs, the companies’ operations are “legally questionable and environmentally unsound.” Since the 80’s APP alone has cleared an estimated 2.5 million acres of virgin forest on the island. Despite the clear habitat and environmental destruction their practices cause, APP plans on expanding its operation on both Sumatra and to the neighboring island of Papua New Guinea.
Asian Pulp and Paper has also been accused of various human rights abuses. Indigenous peoples’ claim that the logging companies have seized their land, intimidated them and denied them access to traditionally public areas. According to Amnesty International, in December of 2008 APP destroyed a village, leaving four hundred people without homes. Greenpeace claims security guards working for another SMG company assaulted peaceful protestors. Neither for human rights abuses nor environment destruction has APP or its partner companies faced legal action.
This unfortunate situation occurs within the context of imperialism: whereby the lives, labor and natural resources of the Third World are exploited for the benefit of the First World. The pattern in Sumatra is all to familiar: the land is sold off to investors and the newly uprooted indigenous populations employed at massively exploitative wages in occupations geared towards the exportation of their natural wealth. The stories change only in the details. Here, Sinar Mas Group does the exploiting and passes on the discount to First World consumer outlets such as Target and ultimately First World consumers themselves. It is as unfortunate as predictable that the Sumatran Tiger, and countless other unreported species, are caught in the middle of this vicious system.
It is in the interest of the Sumatran Tiger and bio-diversity as a whole that the capitalist imperialist system be overthrown. A system that seeks ever expanded markets, transactions and profits is simply not compatible with the natural world. Justifying its increasing ecological destruction, a representative for a SMG company recently said, “We are still a growing company. We (Indonesia) are still competing with Malaysia to become the world’s top producer of palm oil.”
Unfortunately, Sumatran tigers, as evidenced by this string of attacks on their Sumatran neighbors, are incapable of forming class consciousness against a common oppressor. Unlike an amorphized ‘Animal Kingdom’ or metaphysical concepts of a ‘Gaia,’ the only force capable of freeing the island of Sumatra from the exploitation of First World imperialism is the exploited Sumatran masses and their allies in the Third World. Only by uniting the masses against imperialist exploitation and building a new order based on rationally meeting basic needs can the people of the Third World, the Sumatran tiger and species like it live in a world, not of increasing exploitation and endangerment, but social and ecological harmony.