For October we present a two-in-one dispatch on Hurricane Ike in Galveston, Texas, by Jason Witmer and Johnny Hanson. In the second dispatch, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert returns to Papua New Guinea to cover the big business of rainforest logging.
Members of the Houston Chronicle's Galveston team, Witmer and Hanson set out with fellow staff to cover Ike as it approached Galveston. The storm was a Category 2 with winds of 110 mph and devastated the city, leveling houses and businesses. Houston subsequently sustained a lot of damage and had no power for days but Galveston bore the brunt of Ike. As of October the ruins are still being gone through with cadaver-seeking dogs. Thirty-five people are reported dead in the city at this point.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the nation on the eastern part of New Guinea; Indonesia is to the west. PNG is reported to have the largest remaining tropical rainforest in the Asia Pacific. Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert was sent to report on the logging business by Greenpeace, no friend of the logging business. He shot and narrated a video from this assignment that will be on the Greenpeace Web site soon.
For years there have been reports of illegal logging being tolerated or worse by a corrupt central government. A Feb. 28, 2006 CNN online article laid out the situation. Apparently a five-year-study of logging projects covering 3.17 million hectares reported that 100% were operating illegally and that the harvested timber was not being sustainably managed. As Sutton-Hibbert writes, Malaysian companies dominate the logging industry: in 2006 one of these groups, Rimbunan Hijau, accounted for 50% of the timber exports.
The CNN piece goes on to say that Greenpeace has "claimed that a leaked report by the PNG Department of Labor in 2004 for the company's treatment of employees at one forestry concession 'reflects labor exploitation and slavery and should be condemned at all levels.'" Sutton-Hibbert also found that the local laborers were at the mercy of the logging companies.