The haze hangs low over Dogtown. Four weeks of burnt air and streaming eyes. They say the satellite spotted over 200 heat spots in Indonesia, all forests in flames. One country burns and turns its neighbour into a chimney. Step outside and you can taste the smoke, 15 years now since it first began.
The pall wraps Dogtown in dirt and brown. The air is burnt, acrid. Stay outside for the day and the coughing begins, a dry hack at the back of the throat that clears nothing and leaves you dry.
Every year it’s the same, the palm oil plantations are cleared, fires spring up across all of Indonesia and the smoke goes up an apocalyptic season unto itself. As heavy as the smoke lies the sense of resignation, it’s another country, the government is powerless, too much money in back pockets and brown envelops for anything to change.
“We stay indoors” say the people who can. Houses, air-conditioned cars, offices, all sealed tight and the shopping malls fit to burst. It’s a marker of status, a new culture emerging, who gets to stay indoors, who has to go out.
In the workshops and warehouses of Dogtown there is no indoors, just a roof for the rain. No one wears a mask, there doesn’t seem to be much point. This is the raw edge of environmental destruction, a hard reality and an everyday practicality, a dream of blue skies turned to brown.