European elections are coming up and we’d like to have Juicy Media reminding us of the last parliamentary term as they did for the Australian government: 2019 Election
We discovered Juicy Media just a couple of month ago and it turned directly into our favourite news programme. Keep in mind we spent most of the time hidden away on a small island with fluctuating internet access, so there is even more reasons to appreciate sporadic news delivered to your phone instead of every evening misery.
Apparently Juicy Media started 2009 with rap adds (glad we missed out on that period) and is broadcasting from Australia. An entertaining way to get to learn or be reminded of some political and corporate activities in parts of the world that hardly make the regular evening news – anywhere in the world for that matter. There are also few adds from other governments incorporated for example this one after Trump’s election and one from the European Union regarding the Internet Censorship Bill which has been a little bit postponed, but utlimately passed through the European Parliament in March and the European Council in April.
All clips of “Honest government ad” have been interesting, there are also some from the US government and are labelled „#GenuineSatire”, however there are some certain areas which get us especially agitated: Big business backed by politics for the exploitation on cost of local people and their livelihoods as well as wildlife and nature.
Just subscribe to their youtube channel (and whilst you at it ours please too please) to get your semi-regular doses of juicy governmental disgust.
Alternatively we present you the best off environmental disasters (in the making),. Pick and choose or just get carried away:
Protest against the Adani Coal Mine is organised in the growing movement #stopadani, but also 350 (NGO fighting to end the use of fossil fuels and building a climate movement with chapters worldwide) is running a long-term campaign. Here the latest press release from 350 Australia (3rd May 2019): Adani mine proposal fails again.
Just because it is collected doesn’t mean it will get recycled. How shifting the meaning of recycling is blinding us to see the painful truth about our part in plastic pollution: Plastic rubbish travels the world already before it enters the oceans.
Rubbish collection and neglection
I’ve been living in different countries throughout the last years – with a focus on diving. Therefore I have not only seen how rubbish is (NOT) collected in many places, but how much ends up one way or another in the oceans. Just recently I had the shocking experience: A motivated dive team and attentive guests collected lots of rubbish during dives, carefully disentangling fishing lines and nets from in between corals, catching plastic bags floating by and picking up every plastic cup and bottle that isn’t already fused into the reef or otherwise completely overgrown. We knew we cannot win against the plastic flood this way, but at least it feels good to clean up – or so we thought. Until we figured out that the boat crew tossed it back into the sea when nobody was looking. Shocking realisation!
Easy to point fingers, and believe me we did, all these uneducated people in countries with growing populations, they have no understanding of how toxic plastic is for the environment, they don’t care about nature or hygiene and that’s why there is so much plastic accumulating in our seas (and all along the food chain in fact, eventually coming back to us …). But what about us? I’ve heard it so many times by so many divers (hey, that is the world I’m living in): THEY are responsible, after all WE have great rubbish collections. Our waste is separated and treated and for sure is not part of the ever increasing plastic disaster in the oceans worldwide.
What does recycling actually mean?
In Germany we are proud of our system to separate waste. We have differently coloured bins (like in many other countries btw). In fact I wouldn’t be surprise if actually a Scandinavian country happens to follow a way more specific separation of rubbish on a household level, but anyway we claim the title and call ourselves “Recycling World Champion” (DW: Plastic waste and the recycling myth). But what does recycling actually mean? What is happening with plastic in Germany? As it turns out, not a lot.
Recycling plastic is much more complicated than recycling glass or paper. At least if you stick to the original meaning of the world recycling (Oxford Dictionary): “The action or process of converting waste into reusable material.” Ideally this material can be used for the same purpose it was used for in the first place. In reality even glass bottles, unless they are actually cleaned and reused, will be recycled to become something different than a glass container, e.g. used as ingredient for road building etc. But hey, I can live with the fact that office paper gets recycled to cardboard boxes. Still great!
How to (NOT) recycle plastic: Creating your own comfort zone
Recycling plastic is so much more complicated. There are so many different kinds of plastics to start off with and in almost most products and particula
rly packaging is made of a variety of polymer types, but only single-variety plastics can be recycled. So in order to make recycling of plastic reality, producers would have to design the products and packaging differently from the start (see also “Plastic Planet” for more info on that topic). Recycled plastic bags or juice bottles can be turned into flower pots, coat hangers and other plastic products that are not associated with food or personal hygiene. Exporting plastic waste is only allowed if it is recycled, nevertheless there are German products found on (open) rubbish dumps, e.g. in Malaysia as the Handelsblatt reveals in February 2019. Until the beginning of 2018 Germany used to export most of its plastic waste to China. Then China put a hold to this and as exporting rubbish is the cheapest way to deal with our rubbish and we believe in a free market that is problem solving capabilities, new destinations in Southeast-Asia were explored: Plastic imports of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand have increased dramatically (National Geographic News). Fantastic, that’s our recycling done then!
Not quite yet, we still have a great infrastructure in Germany (and within Europe) to deal with what is left of own rubbish mountains. Let it burn, baby! OK, it is not really turning waste into a reusable material, but we generate heat and energy this way and, even though it takes a lot more energy (and new raw materials) to manufacture a replacement product from scratch, we still call it recycling (Tree Hugger on Germany and Sweden). And that makes of World Champion!
What makes German recycling to efficient?
To be sure to be sure, we don’t base our recycling quota of plastic on what is actually happening with the rubbish; the statistics of recycling plastic waste in Germany are based on the amount that is collected and separated. But that’s where it ends. Some might get actually recycled, most of it won’t. Doesn’t matter. We have done our part. We buy and consume. We separate (mostly) and put it neatly together. But what happens to all the waste afterwards is really not our responsibility anymore, or is it?
Avaaz petition (with the pathetic title: Before another whale dies …) goes out to environment ministers of Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, and other leaders: “Add plastic under the Basel Convention on hazardous waste and then take bold steps to end plastic pollution everywhere!” This could put an end to exporting plastic “for recycling”. Greenpeace NZ is campaigning for “ocean sanctuaries across the planet, and for NZ to back the strongest Global Ocean Treaty at the UN to enable this”, you can add your name here.
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
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.
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!
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:
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).
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.
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:
In our first blog entry last year „Journey into the unknown“ we discussed how little is actually known on the impacts of the „first deep-sea mining Solwara 1, which aims to mine the Bismark seabed for high grade copper and gold, in Papua New Guinea by Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian company“.
Now the EU and SPC have published a so-called assessment on the costs of benefits of mining deep-sea minerals in PNG. Papua New Guinea Mine Watch writes in their blog: The
„new report claiming the money to be made from experimental seabed mining in PNG far outweighs the costs. Unfortunately the expensive report:
Fails to put a monetary value on many of the potential environmental costs
Fails to deal with the fact billions of dollars in mining revenues have already FAILED to improve the lives of ordinary people in PNG
Fails to acknowledge the past failure of PNG authorities to manage land based mining and its terrible social and environmental impacts
Assumes, totally against the evidence, that any environmental damage will be fixed by the mining company.“
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! In 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!