Journeys and Ponderings about being Green
Taoism: The sense that you are in front of something greater than yourself.
“Have you heard of Green School?” my friend Stephanie peers at me from over her iced green tea.
Shisha pungency mixes with whiffs of charred meat and rose petals. We’re nestled in low velvet lined chairs underneath a fabric canopy, where moroccan lamps hang from an apex and the AC allows us to escape the afternoon Indonesian scorch.I raise an eyebrow over a somewhat large mouthful of hummus and baba-ganoush. We are sporadically unable to allow conversation to flow, instead pitta-puffed cheeks ensue.
She goes on to explain it’s a school up in Ubud, where the children have their usual lessons with a side of environmental awareness, and also yoga. Love it!
“Jane Goodall, you know the one who lived with monkeys, she’s speaking there soon.”
I’m becoming more conscious of my carbon footprint here. The duty to really think about this escaped me back in England; I think we are more accepting of how things run when we are home as it’s what we’re used to. But there is so much development for tourism here and then inevitably waste. I’ve been talking to Steph of my quandary. What happens to the surplus debris at hotel building sites? Where do all the noodle packets and the endless stream of plastic bags go?
Plastic wrapping is abundant in Bali. It clogs up the rivers, rots in the streets of Kuta and during rainy season it washes up on the shores and works it’s way around your ankles while you try to catch a wave. Everyone who dives experiences the heart sinking moment of watching plastic bags roll in the tide. I think of it like this: I don’t have gills, so I am an alien down there. Fish have gills, this is their home. Wouldn’t you be annoyed if someone came in to your home, dropped their rubbish, even in
seemingly invisible ways, and just left? The detritus for which we are responsible should then be removed by us.
The other day, for example, I bought a hygienically sealed donut from a street cart. The hawker, a small leathery woman with a toothy grin, helped my inept handling of change and reverse wrapped my pre-sealed sugary lump in another plastic bag for extra hygienic care. You buy a McDonalds in a paper bag, you get given an extra plastic one and the supermarkets are ready to hand them out in vast quantities. My Bahasa is kecil and I am an orang asing (foreigner) but you don’t need to be local or an expert, to see that this is a totally, superfluous use of packaging. Nobody needs a coconut that comes in cling-film.
Recently I bought a packet of coffee from a road side shop, full of additives and sugars, perhaps even a little msg. It was only when I got it home that I saw the sugar was palm sugar. Do you drink the coffee you’ve paid for, even though it’s from an industry widely known to be destructive and unregulated, as the ghosts of many a Bornean orangutan can tell you? Or do you take it back to the lady on the side of the street who’s trying to earn a living, and demand your money back? No I didn’t think so either.
My petrol consumption is also hard to monitor on an automatic bike. Most people speed every where, zooming off as soon as the light turns green or before, so fumes chug out of engines in to the air. You drive along, passing through big black puffs of it. The worst was in Tabanan. The guidebooks had all told me this was somewhere to wonder. It wasn’t. I tried to find a Warung but they were all on the side of the road, and the road was a busy highway. No trees, just concrete buildings. I like my food sans a side of carbon monoxide thanks.
Most roads are fairly smooth so there is infrastructure to provide platforms for modern developed life, and a non bumpy road underneath your posterior. Yet I have been struggling for a long time with the notion that whatever we humans do, has to be done by making money. Upon returning to England over a year ago, I looked at my surroundings and at people on the Underground, rushing about their daily lives, literally rats in a race. It made no sense to me, and the only way I could reconcile it in my mind was to put it in terms of modern humans’ version of survival of the fittest. But as MP Clare Short once said, in BBC’s Planet Earth additional ‘Future’ series: “it’s not any longer going to be economic growth for economic growth’s sake, but a more equitable world...and we cease to find the meaning of life out of more and more economic growth and more and more consumption, because…it’s not only plundering the world and unsustainable, it’s making people miserable.”
There’s no denying that tourism despite the waste, brings in money needed to support it’s own demands. To me this means that eco-friendly tourism needs to be investigated and then, implemented. Think about it. Bali gets about the same amount of visitors as Thailand, around 6 million people per year. Thailand is around three times the size of Bali (I’m guessing) so if you think in terms of land ratio and consumer numbers, it’s no wonder that much of the island has been ravaged. So I have to ask what is the actual (because potential can’t be relevant) impact?