Larry Fisher, a research professor at UA, has been working throughout his career to help solve the problems facing Indonesia in its efforts to manage forest areas and improve life quality efficiently. His most recent project aims to alleviate climate warming through reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
REDD+ pays countries that reduce carbon emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation. REDD+ promotes conservation and sustainable management of forests and carbon stocks.
Indonesia is the third largest producer of carbon emissions behind the United States and China. Fisher’s work is vital for climate change mitigation. When Fisher arrived in Indonesia in 1975 as a volunteer, he fell in love with the country and was drawn to continue to work and do research in the area.
Photo by Larry Fisher
“I have worked on everything from agriculture, forestry, and public health to rural development. My interests are on the interface between communities and forests and particularly forest management and poverty,” Fisher said.
A Cornell University alumnus, Fisher has worked extensively within the island nation throughout his career and has spent a total of 18 years living in Indonesia. Besides his research and environmental work, he serves as the senior diplomatic interpreter for the U.S. State Department and the White House.
“I feel like I can be more effective in a place where I have a long-term history. I can speak the language, I understand the culture, I understand the politics. And I love the place,” Fisher said.
Fisher’s work involves land use conflict mediation, and he has worked with and mentored Indonesian mediators to improve their arbitration skills.
“The work is interesting, it’s challenging, and there is a lot to do,” Fisher said.
Indonesia has seen heated disputes over land rights and, according to Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, it is not only large corporations who are the cause of conflict. Groups and organizations with potentially nefarious political or economic reasons are also disputing land rights. Many of these identities are overrepresented in courts and government and can confiscate land from marginalized communities. Locals often do not have the proper resources to defend their rights and interests.
“I’m continuing to do research particularly on conflict over forest management. That involves conflicts in local communities, conflicts over jurisdictional control, licensing agreements, and land management,” Fisher said.
His current research with REDD+ includes collaborating with Indonesian counterparts and colleagues in South Korea. In the future, Fisher hopes to see Indonesian culture and curriculum better represented within UA. Fisher encourages his students and other faculty members to get more interested in Indonesia, but he says it’s a hard sell due to lack of awareness about the country.
Fisher quoted Barack Obama.
“‘Indonesia is the most important country in the world that America knows nothing about,’ Obama famously said.”
Fisher hopes to see that transform into a better cultural understanding.
Photo by ResearchGate
Yeon-Su Kim is one of Fisher’s colleagues at Northern Arizona University. Her focus in REDD+ is how it affects local communities. She has worked with Larry on several projects over the last six years.
“Larry has been instrumental in understanding Indonesia and working with the communities. He helped us build focus group discussions, and I have learned a lot on how to talk and even more importantly listen,” Kim said.
Through his work overseas, his involvement with the Indonesian Student Association, and his ambassador skills Fisher is hopeful for an increased awareness and appreciation of Indonesia here at UA.
Cover Photo By Photoshot2010 Rain forest, Java, Indonesia.