105° E, Borneo, Indonesia

Longitudinal Installation by Xavier Cortada

“There’s been no rain, it’s horrible. The governor’s office has instructed schools and offices to close until further notice.”

— Hidayat, government official

During the 2006 drought period in Indonesia, many crops and livestock died and food shortages quickly ensued. Even longtail monkeys went into local towns to attack the residential areas in search of food. It was reported that the primates snatched food and herbs from homes, sometimes breaking through the roofs of houses in their pursuit.

Today, droughts are still very common. When the east part of the Indian Ocean cools, less thermal transfer results in less rain for the area, especially in the summer and fall. These droughts, exacerbated by warm El Niño weather patterns, stretch until November, increasing the risk of fires as well with the regions that experience the driest conditions being Bali, Java, South Papau, and South Maluku. However, education and preparation allow people to become aware of the risk and to store more food and water for future impacts.

Nonetheless, the risk remains strong and starts earlier each year with a warming climate. In 2015, Indonesia’s spokesperson, Sutopo Purwo Nugroh, warned people that the Sumatra islands were having bad droughts and would soon lead to forest fires. “Based on the pattern of hotpots from 2006 to 2014 in Sumatra and Kalimantan [island], the number of hotspots will continue to rise until October, and the areas of intense heat would peak in September,” he said. The Ministry of Agriculture also estimated that 200,000 hectares of land could be impacted by a heatwave, potentially causing crop failure in 10-20 percent of farmland. These conditions, back in 2006, were very telling about global impacts on smaller, poorer island nations and still, today, have shown how climate extremes completely disrupt the ways of life for many.