Uncle Bob in Bali

bali trash

*Uncle Bob is a (semi)fictional character that does not believe in Climate Change or environmental initiatives.

Dear Professor (who introduces MIIS IEP Students to Uncle Bob*),

Being that it’s the 4th of July (actually the 5th now in Indonesia), I thought you might be interested to know that I sat in my room quietly and listen to “Uncle Bob” sit and discuss global warming, climate change, and pollution to a European Australian, and a guy from Spain.  Now, usually I would have liked to join this conversation, but I’ve been suffering fairly badly from Bali Belly the last few days, and needless to say, I was listening while shivering, covered in my towels and sheets in 90 degree Indo weather.

This was an unusual uncle Bob, a guy about my age, who was actually in support of “environmentalism” (we do still need to change the word and the overall mindset of what that means).  As I was sitting there praying I wouldn’t die from typhoid or whatever, I wanted to take in all of Uncle Bob’s arguments, but mostly they wound up as complaints, and the arguments incorrect. (I would actually love read some of my peers’ Uncle Bob papers to teach me more about how to dissuade Uncle Bob)  “I have traveled all through Sumatra and climate change is real, I see people burning there garbage in their backyard, and white smog coming through the tailpipes of every truck.  In America, we do something about that.” I’m sure you get, some classic 4th of July belligerence, about how developing countries are at fault and global warming sucks for the surf (we have a 10 dayish period of 1-2 ft waves).
As I am lying in bed feeling horrible, about both my digestive system and the ridiculously erroneous words being thrown about at 1 in the morning when everyone else is asleep, I know that I have to say something, but I need to figure out how to make a point, and be on Uncle Bob’s side, with filling in some information, and somehow get past the complaining.  We are getting well aware that our earth is getting pretty rough-housed these days, and my ultimate goal is to stop the complaining about it, and do something about it.  But like you said, it’s hard, this field we’re in.

So my first objective was to help clarify some of the facts, that the Europeans weren’t quite agreeing with.  One, the earth is not in danger; humans are in danger.  The hole in the Ozone is not burning away at a rate where soon the earth will be a fiery ball, we’ve done fairly decent work with CFCs and HCFCs ect., but burning petroleum, whether it be petroleum or plastic bags, bottles, or debris, is really adding to global warming, or its euphemism, climate change.

Uncle Bob was startled for this response jumping out of a hostel room, and the European Austrailian asked, do you think global warming is human caused, and not just some government conspiracy?  YES.  IT IS CAUSED BY HUMANS.  Levels of CO2 are increasing at an alarming rate that have never been seen before, we are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction, and the levels of GHGs being emitted by humans are unparalleled to anything in the earth’s history.

Lastly, since silence was the ultimate goal, I said, “while I love a heated discussion about the environment, complaining and arguing over the problems is getting us nowhere, so if you’re going to argue about the environment at 1:30 in the morning, argue about how you’re going to fix it.  Don’t drive your scooter that sends soot in the air at ridiculous levels to the surf spot.  Walk.  Don’t use single-use plastics.  Teach.  Indonesian’s have a sense that burning everything is not right, nor the answer, but they don’t have the education or the means to do anything different.  It’s up to the educated to help teach and help provide solutions to these sorts of problems.

The biggest eye-opener of my project has been my attempt to explain to a coconut vendor, why I wouldn’t use a plastic straw, and was just drinking the water out of the coconut.  My Bahasa Indonesian is not very good, so I said, if I use this, it becomes trash.  She replied, “it’s not trash, it’s clean I just opened the container.” My attempt to explain that it would become trash after I used it, did not really ever hit home.  It’s pretty difficult to teach anyone, when the store owner’s 8-year old doesn’t go to school because she tends the store all day, while her mother takes care of the younger ones.  Her daughter’s math is quite good working with money all day, but the environment, what the hell is that?

Which is why the Center for the Blue Economy’s goal, has got to be the answer in places like Southeast Asia.  If Bali had a power plant that created energy from garbage, like Sweden and Norway, there would be incentive for stores and hostels to collect their trash, and get something in return for it.  Otherwise, there is no reason to collect your trash that you throw over the fence, other than to protect some surfers from floating garbage, that you probably don’t like that much anyway.

With a philosopher’s spirit, I am trying to brainstorm a way to convince people to change their behavior and ideas, but as you well know, it’s hard.


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