Autor: Nijae

Plastic Planet: Minimising plastic pollution

Indonesia’s garbage problem, community solutions to reduce plastic waste, legislation and initiatives on production and use of plastic, behavioural changes and campaign pressure supported by NGOs and all of us who take action.

On our way back to Wakatobi last Monday we read about the problem of plastic waste in Indonesia in general (The Jakarta Post) and new initiatives to deal with the problem (The Jakarta Post and International Bali Post). It is very encouraging that, firstly, the topic of plastic pollution is not only present online, discussed among divers and other ocean lovers or within NGO campaigns, but prominently featured in the (English) Indonesian press; and secondly, that there is a clear demand to get politicians into motion on the issue. Rules and regulation are needed to minimise use and production of plastic as well as to oblige producers to design products in a way that the materials can be recycled after the product is used. Apart from supporting initiatives and campaigns we can also avoid buying and using plastic products wherever possible because what’s here today, unfortunately will be there tomorrow too.

Indonesia’s garbage problem

According to a study led by Jenna Jambeck (University of Georgia) in 2016 83% of Indonesia’s waste is mismanaged. This ends up in 3.22 million tons of mismanaged plastic garbage every year of which in return 1.29 million tons end up as marine debris, killing marine organisms and entering the marine food chain. Since this study, nothing really happened to tackle the plastic flood.

Living on a very remote island we note the change in the amount of plastic in the ocean throughout the year. The plastic wave hits a lot of small islands with westerly winds, when rainy season seasons starts. Actually a lot of the garbage, also in Indonesia, is collected in the first place and then brought to open landfills. However, when the rains come – and rainy season in this part means monsoon-like downpours – a lot of this rubbish is washed into the sea. The rain very conveniently “cleans” other parts of the cities and countryside as well. Currents and wind bring part of this plastic pollution also in sparsely populated areas like Wakatobi. Of course, on top there are still people (households, boats, corporations …) that see the sea as the private disposal area: Out of sight, out of mind.

Every day of the year, in rainy season (December to February) even multiple times a day, gardeners clean the beaches here. As divers we pick up trash every dive every day, but there are designated trash picking dives needed now to collect what is accumulating on the house reef and elsewhere. But end-of-pipe solutions, like cleaning up the plastic that’s washed onto our reefs, are not going to be enough. We need real change, tackling plastic before it actually turns into (marine) waste.

Community solutions combined with legislation to reduce plastic waste

Showing the announcement of Bali Buda in their newspaper/menu to not give any plastic bags anymore and to take back packaging for recycling

In the beginning of the year Bali has implemented a ban on plastic bags. Unfortunately so far this legislation only applies to super- and hypermarkets, though some eco-minded small shops are following the legislation already and offer even more to their customers (see picture). But it’s a first step. Also the pattern of waste transportation changed. There is a waste management officer in each community. The idea is to strengthen integrated waste management system and making it easier for the population to participate in the separation of garbage, hereby increasing recycling numbers and reducing the overall amount of rubbish going to landfills.

“The story of plastic” shows how this decentralized model works in in some parts of Manila (The Philippines). “We believe in the power of the communities to solve their own waste problems if only given the right support to actually do it.” Communities are working towards zero waste by separating organic waste for composting as well as those materials which can be recycled. Communities are left with about 20-30% of non-reusable rubbish. And here it is getting interesting: By checking which companies are actually producing these products and packaging in the first place and asking them to eliminate them or come up with alternative designs. “The Story of Stuff Project” (NGO who produced the clip) supports the idea that products that can’t be managed by the communities properly, shouldn’t be created in the first place. This way the bottom-up initiative presented by „The Story of Stuff Project“ addresses the plastic problem at its actual root:

Also Indonesia wants to work on both ends: legislation to reduce plastic in production as well as changing use of plastic products from the users. The central government’s role is guidance and a series of programs (like early childhood education, cooperation with other ASEAN countries). Local administrations have to draft their own regulations. Fingers crossed!

Behavioural and production changes – Minimise plastic pollution

We can all help to reduce plastic rubbish. Most importantly, by putting pressure on corporations and supporting any administrative initiatives to reduce the production and use of plastic and to support reusing, recycling and upcycling. Holding companies responsible for the waste they are producing seems to be a valid angle and Greenpeace encourages people to take pictures of plastic sitting somewhere it doesn’t belong on our pretty planet and post these picture to social media (tag brand and use hashtag #IsThisYours?). More info online: Is it yours? “That’s what we’re asking the brands whose plastic pollution is choking our planet. We’re gathering evidence that single-use plastic packaging is ending up where it shouldn’t be, and holding the corporate polluters accountable.”

One day a year dedicated to clean up is not going to cut it. Support campaigns and NGOs that are fighting fundamentally against the plastic pollution that is flooding our planet, like the ones mentioned in this article and/or on this list. And of course, let’s try to minimise our own plastic pollution already by buying and using less. After all the best plastic is the one that isn’t produced, the one that isn’t entering the ocean in the first place.

To be continued.

Sich treiben lassen oder zwei Wasserratten in den Bergen

Ihr geht auch noch in eurem Urlaub tauchen, war die verdutzte Nachfrage anderer Gäste auf Lembeh, einer kleinen Insel im Nordosten Sulawesis (Indonesien), wo wir uns für sieben Tage mit unserer Kameraausrüstung austoben konnten. Nachdem wir den Luxus genießen, unserer Leidenschaft fast tagtäglich nachzugehen und die Stunden, die wir unter Wasser verbringen dabei noch Arbeit nennen können, erwarten die meisten Menschen eher, dass wir unseren Urlaub anders verbringen. Wobei wir, wenn wir in Wakatobi, ebenfalls zu Sulawesi gehörend doch ca. 800 km weiter südlich gelegen, mit Gästen tauchen, sind wir zwar jeden Tag umgeben von Naturschauspielen, können diese jedoch nicht selbst fotografieren und filmen.

Und tatsächlich wollten wir uns im Anschluss ans Tauchen zur Abwechslung vom ständigen Inselpanorama noch ein wenig Bergluft um die Nase wehen lassen. Ich hatte gelesen, dass der Mahawu bei Tomohon im Nordosten Sulawesis einer der am leichtesten zu besteigende Vulkan des Landes sei. Hervorragend, dachte ich, so können wir Meeresanbeter einfach die Aussicht genießen. Immerhin ist Indonesien das Land mit den meisten Vulkanen weltweit: Im größten Inselstaat der Welt sind 147 Vulkane während der letzten 10.000 Jahre ausgebrochen. Die jüngsten schafften es in die Nachrichten in Europa: Die Ausbrüche des Anak Krakatau erzeugten einen Tsunami im Westen Inselreichs, während der Agung auf Bali seit 2017 rumpelt und pumpelt, hin und wieder Asche ausstößt und damit Touristen davon abhält nach Bali oder gleich ganz nach Indonesien zu kommen. Nur zur dimensionalen Einordnung (da kommt die Geografin durch) die über 17.000 Inseln Indonesiens erstrecken sich über mehr als 5.000 Kilometer, das entspricht in etwa der Strecke von Portugal bis zum Ural Gebirge.

Bei unserer ersten Rundfahrt mit dem Motorrad durch den Ort hatte ich bereits ein Schild entdeckt, das den Weg zum 1.324 Meter hohen Berg wies. Das reichte mir vollkommen, um Yoeri vom Rücksitz des Motorrads aus zielsicher zum Parkplatz lotsen konnte. Von hier aus sollte es in nur zehn Minuten über eine Treppe an den Kraterrand des Mahawu gehen – fast schon zu einfach. Statt einer Treppe folgten wir dann jedoch einem streckenweise äußerst rutschigen Pfad, der erst nach zehn Minuten wirklich begann anzusteigen. Wir sind schon echt unfit, wenn andere Leute es in nur zehn Minuten bis nach oben schaffen, dachte ich mir im Stillen. Yoeri kam ins Schwitzen und warf ein, er komme aus dem Flachland, heißt schließlich nicht umsonst Niederlande, und Berge besteigen, entspräche nicht seiner Natur. Einfach weiter gehen, immer einen Schritt vor den anderen, war mein Mantra, auch wenn der Bambus zunehmend tiefer herabhing und uns Stolperfallen legte, während das Dornengestrüpp heimtückisch Halt in unseren bloßen Armen und Beinen suchte. Als ein Baum den Weg versperrte, wollte Yoeri umkehren, oder wenigstens eine Möglichkeit finden, das Hindernis zu umgehen. Die gab es allerdings nicht, denn mittlerweile ging der Pfad fast senkrecht Richtung Gipfel. Weit konnte es meiner Meinung nach jetzt nicht mehr sein und selbst wenn wir aus der Puste waren, konnten wir doch nicht die Besteigung des einfachsten Vulkans Indonesiens abbrechen! Yoeri musste mir also den Rucksack unter dem Baumstamm durchreichen und anschließend hinterher kriechen. Es ist nicht einfach für große Menschen, ganz besonders auf Reisen. Nach insgesamt bestimmt 45 Minuten erreichten wir abgekämpft den Kraterrand.

Als erstes sah ich auf der gegenüberliegenden Seite die Aussichtplattform, inklusive einer chinesischen Reisegruppe, die den leichten Anstieg über die wohl auf der Seite angelegte Treppe genommen hatte. Als zweites sah ich, dass gerade Wolken aufzogen. Fotos über den Kraterrand hinweg zum höheren Nachbarberg Lokon (1.580m) und weiter zum Meer hatten sich damit erledigt. Yoeri sah erst einmal gar nichts, sondern schöpfte bloß Atem. Dementsprechend freudig beseelt, starteten wir also den Rundgang. Doch Natur entschädigt selbst mit begrenzter Aussicht und schlecht gelaunt zu sein, wird schnell anstrengend. Yoeri fand es sehr gelungen, dass die Wolken den Blick auf die ausufernde Stadt verdeckten und die Minahasa Highlands doch erst so richtig zur Geltung bringen. Die schottischen Highlands kennt er schließlich auch eher wolkenverhangen. Was soll man machen, es herrscht eben momentan in weiten Teilen des Landes Regenzeit. Immerhin werden wir nicht nass und können wenigstens in den Krater mit seinen gelben Schwefelablagerungen und kleinen Rauchsäulen hineinschauen. Voraussichtlich waren wir an diesem Tag die einzigen, die den Vulkan umrundet haben – und das noch mit erschwerten Auf- und Abstieg. Unser erster Gipfelsturm nach über drei Jahren im Land! Kaum wieder beim Motorrad angekommen, lichteten sich die Wolken für mich.

Belohnen wollten wir uns anschließend mit einem Bad unter einem Wasserfall, sozusagen um die Elemente zusammenzuführen. Leider schafften wir es nur mit Mühe und Not mit dem Motorrad den Berg hinunter in den Ort. Dann war der Hinterreifen platt. Im Allgemeinen findet sich an jeder Ecke ein „Tambal Ban“, wo Reifen aufgepumpt und geflickt werden. Allerdings war heute Sonntag. Obwohl der überwiegende Teil der Bevölkerung, 88 Prozent von 267 Millionen, muslimischen Glaubens ist, ist überall in Indonesien das Wochenende Samstag und Sonntag. In den meisten Teilen des Landes würde es trotzdem keine Rolle spielen, denn die Geschäfte haben einfach immer geöffnet und gerade Shoppingmalls werden am Wochenende besonders frequentiert. Dieser Zipfel im Norden Sulawesis, sowie einige weitere Enklaven und Inseln vor allem im Osten des Landes, sind jedoch überwiegend protestantisch. Auf den katholischen Philippinen haben wir mit Reifenpannen an Sonntagen eher ungute Erfahrungen gemacht, aber das ist eine andere Geschichte.

Erfreulicherweise waren hier in Tomohon alle Blumenläden geöffnet. Dass vulkanische Böden sehr fruchtbar sind, war uns ja klar, weniger hingegen wer eigentlich diese ganzen Blumensträuße und -gestecke kauft. Vielleicht schob sich der Verkehr deshalb so zähflüssig durch die Hauptstraße – mehr relativ neu aussehende Autos als Motorräder im Übrigen. Kommt Manados Mittelklasse zum Sonntagsausflug und Blumenkaufen in die Berge? Wie auch immer, Yoeri schöpfte Hoffnung. Diese Läden werden von den Frauen betrieben, meinte ich, Männer haben nach dem Gottesdienst einfach anderes zu tun und ich habe in Indonesien oder den Philippinen noch nie eine Frau in einer dieser kleinen Werkstätten arbeiten sehen. In der Tat fanden wir ein „Tambal Ban“ nach dem anderen geschlossen vor.

Da wir die Situation nun einmal nicht ändern konnten, stellten wir das Motorrad kurzerhand in einer Seitenstraße ab und machten uns zu Fuß auf. Die Langsamkeit des Gehens eröffnet ohnehin neue Perspektiven. Wir können die Umgebung viel intensiver wahrnehmen, was auf der vielbefahrenen Hauptstraße nun wirklich kein Vorteil ist, so dass wir lieber wieder in die grobe Richtung des Berges liefen. Der buddhistische Tempelkomplex wäre allerdings selbst von einem Bus auf der Hauptstraße aus schwer zu übersehen gewesen, doch angehalten hätten wir höchstwahrscheinlich nicht. Nachdem wir uns ganz in der Nähe für Körper und Geist gestärkt hatten, fühlten wir uns von der Anlage, die ein wenig wie ein kunterbunter Kinderspielplatz wirkte, geradezu magisch angezogen.

Vermutlich gibt es hier eine größere chinesische Gemeinde, die den Tempel aufgebaut hat und die Anlage fleißig weiter ausbaut. Mit buddhistischen Tempelanlagen kenne ich mich nicht aus, habe sie mir aber trotzdem anders vorgestellt. Vielleicht abstrakter, vielleicht zurückhaltender oder eher majestätischer? Schon merkwürdig, Vorstellungen von Dingen zu haben, von denen man keinerlei Ahnung hat. Wenn wir nichts von der Mythologie verstehen – und das geht uns bei anderen religiösen Stätten genauso – neigen Yoeri und ich dazu unsere eigenen Geschichten, um die Darstellungen herum zu dichten. Doch wir wollen niemanden unsere Version aufdrängen, also entdeckt es selbst.

Welcome to wonderland: Buddhist temple with pagoda and statue in Tomohon (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Willkommen im Wunderland: Buddhistischer Tempel in Tomohon (Sulawesi, Indonesien)
Statue in front of mount Lokon at Buddhist temple with pagoda and statue in Tomohon (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Statue 1 „Vanahasa“
Statue in front of mount Lokon at Buddhist temple with pagoda and statue in Tomohon (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Es gab eine ganze Reihe dieser Statuen
Statue in front of mount Lokon at Buddhist temple with pagoda and statue in Tomohon (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Offen für Interpretation
View of mount Lokon from pagoda of Buddhist temple with pagoda and statue in Tomohon (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Blick auf den Doppelvulkan Lokon-Empung von der Pagode
View of Minahasa highlands from pagoda of buddhist temple in Tomohon (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Rückwärtige Aussicht von der Pagode Tempels
Giant turtle in Buddhist temple with pagoda and statue in Tomohon (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Schildkröten bringen Glück
Sign: Do not pee, turtle, pagoda at buddhist temple in Tomohon (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
Bitte hier nicht pinkeln: Eindeutiges Pictogramm, doch zweifelhafte gelbe Flecken (Buddhistischer Tempel, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesien)

Die Pagode, die Besucher erklimmen dürfen, solange sie sich vorher die Schuhe ausziehen, was anders als „Pinkeln verboten“ neben dem Schildkrötentempel nicht in einem allgemein verständlichen Piktogramm dargestellt war, lieferte eindeutig den besten Blick über die umliegende Landschaft. Die drei Dollar Spende, die als Eintrittsgeld verlangt wurden, waren also gut investiert. Von den Kirchen an jeder Straßenecke hat uns im Übrigen, auch als wir zu Fuß unterwegs waren, keine so angesprochen, dass wir sie uns näher angeschaut hätten.

Der chinesische Einfluss wirkte sich im weiteren Verlauf unseres Tages positiv aus. Denn deren „Tambal Ban“ hatte auch am Sonntag geöffnet und so konnten wir einen neuen Schlauch aufziehen lassen und der „Innenstadt“ mit ihrem ominösen Verkehr entkommen. Für den Wasserfall war es inzwischen zu spät, aber unsere Suche nach weiteren Aussichtpunkten, als Insulaner ist es einfach verlockend, den Blick über etwas anderes als den Horizont schweifen zu lassen, führte uns zu der größten Kuriosität des Tages. Aussichtpunkt und Fotopoint – heutzutage vor allem von sich selbst versteht sich – in Kombination mit einem verlassenen Rastplatz, umgeben von Ständen, die aussehen, als ob der Dschungel sie bald vollkommen verschlingen würde. Eine passende Kulisse für Zombiefilme oder aber Party mit Blick auf Manado und dazu den bezaubernden Schriftzug „Flower“ aus Pappmaschee, mit dem sich die Gegend passend selbst beschreibt.

Das größte Rätsel gaben uns aber die pompösen Säulen auf, die den Rastplatz zur Straße hin abschotteten. Was hatte es mit der Eule dort oben auf sich, die mit roten Augen auf uns runterfunkelte? Diesen Turm haben wir vorsichthalber gar nicht erst betreten, sondern stattdessen nur die Aussicht vom Rande der Plattform genossen, von wo aus immerhin nicht gejagt werden durfte. Was uns das andere Schild in der Mitte des Platzes mitteilen wollte, wissen wir nicht genau, vielleicht „Kletternde Affen“? Gesehen haben wir keinen. Die Eule entpuppte sich letztlich als das Wappentier von Tomohon, wobei sie auch in dieser Darstellung bedrohlich wirkte. Für Yoeri hatte der ganze Bau etwas von Ostberlin, wobei der Adler dort erst nach der Wiedervereinigung erneut zum Wappentier aufstieg. Doch megalomanische Denkmäler und skurrilen Partygelände lassen sich offensichtlich genauso in anderen Teilen der Welt finden.

Eine kurze Internetrecherche zeigte mir, dass die Anlage auf Bildern aus dem Jahr 2016 recht neu aussieht. Um die Zeit begann der bezielte Ausbau touristischer Infrastruktur als wirtschaftlicher Entwicklungsansatz in Indonesien. Mittlerweile hat Jarkata zehn Zielregionen definiert, darunter Labuan Bajo auf Flores. Vielleicht flossen darüber Gelder, nur die Touristen lassen noch auf sich warten, während der Zahn der Zeit, in diesem Klima besonders unerbittlich, beständig an den Bauten nagt. Für den Unterhalt der einmal geschaffenen Infrastruktur sind dann wahrscheinlich wiederum die Kommunen zuständig. Kommt mir von irgendwo bekannt vor.

Restart

Two and a half years of absence are coming to an end today. The main reason for not being active on our website anymore was simply the internet connection. In general there wasn’t a lot to catch on a remote island in Wakatobi (Indonesia) and secondly we are reglemented to a very small amount per week which doesn’t allow to up- or download anything basically. Holiday to the rescue!

Another reason for inactivity is content related. Yoeri’s camera stopped working after our time in Komodo (see final clip on: Where are you going?). The pictures of my old Pentax started to have annoying spots in multiple places and there was never any housing available to begin with. Only a couple of months ago we finally treated ourselves to new camera equipment – and are totally excited to put it to good use in 2019 and beyond.

We had our first dives on the House Reef and, of course, I created some postcards which are part of the bigger collection Warm regards.

My new camera is a Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and I have a nauticam housing. In the beginning I didn’t have a strobe yet, so all pictures of this collection are taken with natural light only and the LUMIX G Vario 14-42 with the wide angle conversion port from Nauticam. Looking forward to new projects and adventures in 2019. One of my new years resolutions: Follow my passion – in and outside the water: Create, share, inform and get active!

Where are you going?

As a traveler you better get used to being asked where you are from, as this question comes up early in conversations no matter where you are going in the world. Nevertheless I was surprised to hear the Indonesian version “dari mana?” constantly when walking down the roads of Labuan Bajo. Without a greeting like “Halo” or “Selamat” it felt rather direct for the generally very modest and polite Indonesians. Of course, we didn’t want to be the rude foreigners and learned our reply: “Dari Jerman”. OK, actually Yoeri is “Belanda” by passport, but he is also a Berliner, and the Dutch are not very much loved in Indonesia.
More complicated was a second question which often followed, sometimes was even the only one asked: Ke mana? Where are you going? We were not only passing through as tourists therefore I didn’t know what to answer; hopefully nowhere for a while. Even though Labuan Bajo isn’t the most appealing place to be, it serves as a gateway to Komodo National Park with all its natural wonders as well as lush Flores. It was winter in Europe so we were definitely planning to stay in Indonesia for some time. Basically we came to stay, but on which islands and for how long we had no idea. “Where are you going?” turned out to be even more of a philosophical question revealing that we were drifting, going with the flow – quite happily, but without any proper destination or plan.
After a while we started to understand that these questions in fact are meant as a greeting. Unlike in other parts of the world where only strangers are asked, in Indonesia everybody is addressing everybody else this way. It’s simply not so much how you are doing, but where you are doing it. But even then you don’t have to be precise. You can say “jalan-jalan” for walking or my favourite expression “makan angin” (eating wind) which in a way reflected our approach to come to Indonesia quite well.
We moved on by now. But we still don’t really know where we are going or when this will happen. We are enjoying life where we are – most of the time at least. However I can show you where we are coming from and maybe where you are going to one day as we highly recommend exploring the beauties of Komodo yourself:

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Stay wild: Blacklist of tourist attractions and stunning beauty of nature

We just read a disturbing story of two dugongs, mother and child, that were kept on a chain in a little cage in shallow waters in Indonesia to be presented to eager tourists who could enter the cage for taking pictures with these endangered animals (selfie mania: stick to yourself!). Luckily two tourists not only refused to fall for this “attraction” and explained the status of these protected animals to the fisherman who caught and kept them, but also alerted wildlife authorities who freed them in the end (read full story on The Dodo).

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World Animal Protection

It’s easy to blame the fisherman for imprisoning these gentle creatures, but truth is as long as there is a demand there will be a market. (That’s why the US war on drugs can’t be won by oppressing the producers in other countries, but that’s another story.) Therefore everybody: Please, be aware of the so-called tourist attractions that involve animals. Not always is the abuse as obvious as with a dugong on a chain in a cage.

World Animal Protection listed the 10 most cruel tourist attractions:

In Bali we were constantly offered an island tour that included a stop for a very special coffee: kopi luwak. Ripe coffee cherries are eaten by the civet cat. While the pulp is digested the bean stays intact. Collected from the poo – actually here I wasn’t interested anymore – the beans are further processed. With so many tourists on Bali and all the tours offering this particular stop you can imagine how much poo has to be collected – every day. Instead of crawling through the bushes it’s much easier to catch a civet and forth fed coffee sherries to produce high quantities. Apparently all over South East Asia and for an international market… Tony Wild presented in The Guardian not only the development of this market, but also discussed a sustainable way of producing kopi luwak: Stay wild!

“Wild kopi luwak could provide smallholders with a premium product that also helps conserve the animal’s natural forest habitat. Maybe not so repulsive after all…”

Same goes for other animal attractions worldwide. There are very destructive and harmful ways and alternatives that can support local livelihoods and protect animal and their habitats in a truly sustainable way. We will put together some additional posting regarding tarsiers and whale sharks in the Philippines (to be linked soon).

But sometimes the only solution is: Stay away (like Boycott Seaworld)! For all divers and snorkelers it should be clear already: Don’t touch, don’t hold, don’t harass or chase (also not with that camera on a stick!).

If you want to see a dugong, find out where there are high chances of spotting them in the wild – without disturbing them. Apparently they can be seen in Komodo National Park. We keep our fingers crossed and our eyes open. But even without a dugong we have had fantastic diving, fascinating nature observations and unforgettable wildlife encounters on all our trips from Labuan Bajo. See for yourself in Yoeri’s clip for Uber Scuba Komodo:

 

 

 

 

Update on seabed mining

My arrival in Indonesia: Dig or dive?

Whitesand beach with plam trees and crystal clear water at Bangka Island, North Sulawesi, Indonesia (Photo: Fabio Achilli, flickr with cclisence)
Bangka Island, North Sulawesi, Indonesia (photo: Fabio Achilli, flickr with cclisence)

During the flight to Indonesia in the beginning of December 2015 I read in my diving magazine Unterwasser about Bangka Island in the North of Sulawesi: Beautiful and diverse coral reefs just outside the famous Bunaken National Marine Park – less known, but very much worth going, especially if you enjoy small island life and would like to explore dive sites where hardly anybody has dived before. This tiny island of only 48 sq km is a hotspot of biodiversity. Perfect conditions for community-based ecotourism and conservation work how it is implemented in the South of Sulawesi by Wakatobi Dive Resort since more than 20 years already. Unfortunately the reefs are not the only natural resource found in the region.

“PT Mikgro Metal Perdana (MMP), an Indonesian subsidiary of Hong Kong based Aempire Resource Group, has been seeking licenses to extract iron ore from Bangka since 2008” (The Guardian, 3 April 2015). Even though a ruling of Indonesia’s Supreme Court in 2013 blocked further mining activities on Bangka the former Minister for Energy and Minerals, Jero Wacik, granted the exploitation license covering two-thirds of the island in 2014. Since then construction of mining and transportation infrastructure is causing direct demolition of reefs as well as indirect destruction via run-offs and waste products. The support campaign for the little diving heaven started immediately, but hasn’t been able to put a halt to the mining activities yet (read more on activism and diving around Bangka on Dive Advisor).

This case in the country where we hope to stay for 2016 or longer not only brought together my two passions, diving and activism, but combined the issue of marine protection with the topic that kept me pretty busy in 2015. After we came back from St. Eustatius in June I started researching the global impact of European trade and investment policy on exploitation of raw materials for PowerShift e.V. and the campaign Stop Mad Mining. Finally the study has been published! Title of the study "Alles für uns!? Der globale Einfluss der europäischen Handels- und Investitionspolitik" von Nicola JaegerIn German though: Alles für uns!? Der globale Einfluss der europäischen Handels- und Investitionspolitik auf Rohstoffausbeutung. Even though the EU calls her newest trade and investment strategy “Trade for all” it is clearly in the interest of big European corporations while democratic, sustainable, transparent and fair concepts of governing the natural resources from civil societies as well as Governments in resource rich countries are undermined.

Local populations are the ones who are most likely to lose everything: Their land, their intact (marine) ecosystems, their livelihood, and their future. “Bangka Island’s 2700 residents make their living fishing, tending coconut and cashew plantations, and catering to a growing tourism trade based on the coral reef. Residents are virtually united in their rejection of the mine, concerned it will threaten coral reefs and diminish fishing yields” (Inside Indonesia, April-June 2014). Mining doesn’t bring jobs or economic development to the region – or in this case island. In most cases local populations are not profiting from the infrastructure or getting any sort of revenue of mining projects. The Indonesian government tried to increase the national benefits of their natural resources, but rolled new mining law in 2014 when Newmount Mining used the ISDS mechanism (investor-state dispute settlement) of a Bilateral Investment Treaty to sue Indonesia for compensation (Hilde van der Pas and Riza Damanik): “The case of Newmont Mining vs Indonesia is a powerful example of how investment agreements, particularly Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), are used by companies to get exemptions from government regulations and legislation, undermining democracy and development.”

ISDS is a corporate weapon against public policies worldwide and is used to discipline states once a foreign corporation has invested in a country which signed BITs. But in the case of Bangka there was actually an Indonesian law prior to granting the exploitation license which prohibits mining on islands smaller than 2,000 sq km. Inside Indonesia writes: “Only weeks after the re-zoning, in December 2013, the Indonesian parliament revised Law no. 27/2007 to allow large-scale extractive industry investment on five small islands previously protected by small island conservation provisions – including Bangka. The revision was enacted very quietly.” Money talks, one could think. And in another mining case in Indonesia there is actually proof.

grasberg mine in papua and protests (photo: AK Rockefeller on flickr with cclisence)
grasberg mine papua (photo: AK Rockefeller on flickr with cclisence)

During that same flight I read about a corruption case that would be debated in Indonesia in December 2015: “The speaker of the House of Representatives, Setya Novanto, stood accused of trying to extort $4 billion in shares from the local unit of the American mining giant Freeport-McMoRan” (The New York Times, 17 December 2015). The operation license for the company’s Grasberg mine is ending in 2021. The controversial project in the East of Indonesia is the world’s largest gold mine and third-largest copper mine (collection on Grasberg mine by the London Mining Network). Mining friendly decisions on all levels are contrasting to the attempts to increase (eco and diving) tourism in the country. Digging and diving is a bad match.

Or so I thought: A couple of weeks later on a diving boat in Komodo National Park I met an engineer who is working in the Grasberg mine. Strangely enough his holiday love affair was a NGO campaigner from Peru who needed a little break from fighting to keep roads, illegal settlements and the oil industry out of natural and indigenous reserves.

Pic for Video gallery: ISDS – Corporate weapon against public policies worldwide
Video gallery on „The ISDS cases“ on youtube
The only way to travel: boat! Explore the (under)water world and islands in the sky. Dive into the endless ocean and enjoy the sparkling sun on the water while travelling through this magnificent part of the Flores Sea in Indonesia: Komodo Nationalpark.

Islands in the sky

The only way to explore the water world of Komodo Nationalpark: boat! But it’s more than just a way to travel. We enjoy the view of the islands in the sky before diving into the endless ocean and the sparkling sun on the water when getting back up after another magnificent dive part of the Flores Sea. Come to think of it: We actually wouldn’t mind to live aboard.

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With happy regards from Komodo

A week ago raining season started in Labuan Bajo. Even though the land in all the Eastern parts of Indonesia badly needed the rain, it does have its downsides. Not only are the clouds blocking our precious sun, but it creates quite some runoff that together with rubbish is being washed into the sea. But that’s a story for another day. Unfortunately it seems like the water, sediments and garbage have flushed away our internet too. Since five days there is no more connection in our accommodation anymore. “Maybe tomorrow?”, is the daily answer. Additionally to our nightly blackouts electricity stopped working this morning too. It most definitely does not make me happy.

It is annoying. It keeps me from doing things I planned to get done today. No idea when electricity is coming back, I’ve almost given up hope on internet all together. But what can I do? Be angry and frustrated all day about the situation, about the staff, about the circumstances in town, the weather in general. Possible, but it doesn’t change a thing. In fact I can’t control any of this. All I can do is to adapt my plan.

Just before the rain started I set up a new page on our website: Warm regards. I just got notice that my first real postcards from Indonesia started to arrive around the world. The idea for this section of online cards evolved from an evening with friends when we agreed that running – or any excessive sporting for that matter – is not our path to happiness, as well as a postcard I sent to my dad. Even though the quote on there is actually not from Buddha, it’s a good approach to life: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” Nothing against running by the way: Take your time and enjoy it.

Nature is taking over all parts of the former marshalling yard in "Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände" in Berlin (Germany). I was playing with focus and blur that day. Everything depends on your perspective - no matter if in photography or in life. This is the first picture of a series of three: There is no way to happiness. 2nd: Happiness is the way. 3rd: Take your time and enjoy.
Tube one can walk through in "Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände" in Berlin (Germany) where nature and art are meeting in the industrial setup of a former marshalling yard. I was playing with focus and blur that day. Everything depends on your perspective - no matter if in photography or in life. This is the second picture of a series of three: Happiness is the way. 1st: There is no way to happiness. 3rd: Take your time and enjoy.
3rd part of the series: Take your time and enjoy. 1st: There is no way to happiness. 2nd: Happiness is the way. Showing runner in park "Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände" in the city of Berlin where nature and art are meeting in the industrial setup of a former marchalling yard. I was playing with focus and blur that day. Everything depends on your perspective - no matter if in photography or in life. Nothing against running, but if happiness is the way, running will not get you there any quicker.

Instead of sharing my happy moments via cards I would love to have family and friends with me whilst travelling. Even the most paradisiac islands are better together. Come to think of it, a lot of these wonderful places don’t have internet or even reliable electricity. After all at the moment I only have to walk over to the dive center to get online. OK, the advertised “Free wifi” doesn’t exist, but the cable connection at least seems to be waterproof. Electricity just came back. Happy day!