Mentawai Island Logging

This morning’s news that Tasmanian timber company Gunns has found a preferred joint venture partner to fund its controversial $2 billion pulp mill in northern Tasmania caused me to reflect on another time and another place. Not far from Australia, just off the coast of West Sumatra lie the Mentawai Islands.  In the minds of surfers, the Mentawais have arguably, some of the best surf breaks in the world.  Of course, the Mentawai story doesn’t end here.  SurfAid International maintains as an essential poverty-focused program in the Mentawai islands. I’ve removed my article Siberut and the Simple LIfe. It will be published as part of my Book. The story provides a fictionalised account of a visit to Siberut with much on the background on the Mentawai Islands, the culture, the logging and people like this young mother from Ugai, on Siberut Island, as well as the people of nearby Matatonan.


Many years ago I was surprised at how effective logging companies had been in extracting logging concessions from people who’d not yet entered the monetary system.  Tobacco played a critical role in encouraging people to trade.  It was just a matter of finding a lever with sufficient demand inelasticity.

Mentawai update

Since these first thoughts on the Mentawai islands, I’ve written more about logging in Siberut. This was also the focus of a story in my book Seen and unseen: a century of stories from Asia and the Pacific.

For the most recent information read Mentawai Island #logging and cultural disruption in #Indonesia posted in 2015, and #Indigenous People in Siberut are facing deforestation and major cultural disruption posted in 2018.

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