An Evil Wind in Jakarta

Going to the countryside, a small town, the highlands, is like hiding yourself in some quiet place to be alone to wait for the last stages of some fatal disease to run its course. It’s like staring at a lone bright spot as darkness closes all around. The march of environmental degradation in Indonesia makes up so much of the lifestyle for me, and its progressive march seems unstoppable.

At times, when eyes sting and nostrils burn, this simple fact of life makes me feel like Jakarta has changed, even in my short time here. I feel less healthy, weaker; I feel less hope. It truly lowers the quality of life for the people here. In my daily experience, there is no such thing as a refuge, a quiet place to ponder, a soft patch of grass to sunbathe on. Everywhere is the explosions of man’s machinery and its slimy residue; at the very least, the boom and scream of motorbikes is never far. Looking across the lake in the campus’s park at dawn, a haze already blankets the world in the morning light. Open fires are omnipresent, in neighborhoods and in the middle of the city – with so many people in Java, so little space, and such poor public services, there is nowhere else for the trash to go.

When I do finally get out of the city, visiting friends and their families in Klaten or in Purwokerto, breathing the fresher air, feeling a cool and moist breeze on my skin for once, it’s like drinking a wheatgrass shot with a fresh squeezed orange juice chaser, breathing from a tank of pure oxygen, and injecting adrenaline-laced Redbull through an IV tube. And then, after the high, you’re left with an immense sadness, because you can feel the cloud of slime creeping its way over the archipelago, towards the trees and blue sky.

And that does not even scratch the surface of what’s going on in places like Borneo, Papua, Sumatra, where so much forest and irreplaceable jungle is getting raped and torched every day. There are many battles to be fought in any attempt to solve or at least slow this problem, everything from poverty to corrupt government, to the presence of unethical multinational corporations to overpopulation, as well as traditional practice and the need to feed the world. More often though it seems to be the calling of a quick buck.

Anyway, sorry for the depressing thoughts. That’s just one of the downsides, amidst a lot of upsides, I assure you. A couple of related articles that popped up today, below.

I try not to send too many emails, wouldn’t want to clutter your in box- even the crazy and bizarre becomes boring after a while, if it becomes to routine! Hope you all are well. Talk to you soon. Ted Andy

Indonesia apologises for polluting its neighbours

Plane falls off runway because of haze

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