Thursday, January 31, 2008
..... is everything.

This morning at 5 a.m. ~ yeah, I know, don't ask ~ my internet dial up connection was a massive 2kbs. Now, at about 2 p.m., it's working like shit off a shovel which is why the following email arrived in my inbox with such alacrity that you could hear the thud.

I'm posting it so that British citizens who have LOCATED themselves here in Indonesia may wish to form the Embassy who, ever since Suharto's abdication in 1998, have liked to keep tabs on us.

If you are a criminal on the run, the penultimate paragraph at the bottom may dissuade you. However I feel duty bound to inform you that once you have booked into a hotel or rented a house you are duty bound to register with the police.
----- Original Message -----
From: sally.larner@fco.gov.uk
To: 86 folk, including 35 with local (.co.id) email addresses and 20 with local company addresses.)
Sent: Thursday, January 31, 2008 11:54 AM
Subject: Registration with LOCATE

Dear All,

London has launched a new registration process worldwide called LOCATE.

Unfortunately in Jakarta we cannot use LOCATE yet. I will tell you when we can. What I fear is that new British nationals are registering on LOCATE and I am unable to register them in the Embassy.

If you have any newcomers asking about registration please ask them to use the Services and Consular Registration route or simply give them my email address and I will send them a form by email.

Many thanks,

Sally Larner
Warden Coordinator
British Embassy Jakarta
Tel: 021 31901314
Fax: 021 3160858
Visit <http://www.fco.gov.uk> for British foreign policy news and travel advice; and <http://www.i-uk.com> - the essential guide to the UK.

We keep and use information in line with the Data Protection Act 1998. We may release this personal information to other UK government departments and public authorities.

Please note that all messages sent and received by members of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and its missions overseas may be monitored centrally. This is done to ensure the integrity of the system.



2:30 pm |
Monday, January 28, 2008
  Weird Times

There's a question of etiquette to be faced when a dictator dies.

Respect for the dead? I don't think so, not when he'd lost any respect whilst still alive. But a week of national mourning has been declared and government buildings are flying the red and white at half mast. But very few flags can be seen elsewhere. When I've asked Indonesians if today shouldn't have been a day off for the funeral, all have told me that it wasn't appropriate ~ but if it had been SBY (or presumably whoever occupied the presidential palace) ....

So, should we be dancing in the streets? Probably not, but early this morning the main thoroughfares from the family residence in Jl.Cendana (hence the soubriquet Cendana Clan) to Halim airport, from where the cortège would depart for Solo, were lined with expectant crowds. 'Er Indoors tells me that there was an acceptance that Suharto is dead, but most wanted to witness the distress of the family members.

Perhaps they thought that the tears of the eldest daughter, Tutut, which we all witnessed yesterday as she gave a statement at Pertamina Hospital, were but crocodile tears. Or perhaps, it has been suggested, they were because she is aware of pending retribution, a topic dwelt on at length by a number of TV stations.

There are a number of indicators which suggest that this is so. For instance, the Vice President, Yusuf Kalla, believes that this country isn't really ready for democracy because economic stability is a priority.

"It is not surprising to see people elect figures who can maintain discipline and stability. Thus, the chance for those with a military background could be bigger," Kalla was quoted as saying Wednesday in Mecca, where he was on a minor haj pilgrimage.

That is a pure Suhartoism.

What I find troubling is that it is echoed by the Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Djoko Santoso who, last Thursday, said that recent election disputes which turned violent in some regions served notice that the nation was not prepared for democracy.

According to the Jakarta Post, he was referring to ongoing disputes between supporters of candidates in the elections for governor and deputy governor in South Sulawesi and North Maluku. The election disputes have dragged on, despite the Supreme Court's intervention.

While acknowledging that the political implications of the disputes should not concern the military, Djoko said the TNI bore the responsibility to restore peace.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has appointed Army chief operational assistant Maj. Gen. Tanribali Lamo as interim governor of South Sulawesi, a move which pro-democracy activists say signals a return of the military to practical politics.

Tanribali retired from the military just before his induction as interim governor, a position that will require him to restore peace and reconcile the conflicting camps.

A number of retired military generals are also eying gubernatorial or deputy gubernatorial posts in several future regional elections, reminiscent of the New Order period which saw military officers hold key civilian posts.

One is tempted to ask if this is collusion. After all, the Kalla clan hails from South Sulawesi, the base of their business empire, an empire which in order to thrive needed the nod and wink from Cendana.

Before heading down the conspiracy route, it is worth noting that the case of the assassinated human rights activist, Munir Said Thalib, may be reaching some kind of closure.

Pay attention at the back there and follow this, if you can.

The Supreme Court has sentenced former Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto to 20 years for the "premeditated murder of Munir". This is, of course, the same Supreme Court which last year quashed a previous conviction of 14 years following a trial at the Central Jakarta District Court, a conviction subsequently up held by the Jakarta High Court, but sentenced Pollycarpus to two years on charges of document forgery.

The document charges referred to him having arranged to be on the same flight as Munir from Jakarta to Singapore where Munir was poisoned with arsenic.

Justice Djoko Sarwoko described Pollycarpus as the "main actor in the crime", except it is now common knowledge that he acted in conjunction with officials of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).The police are now ready to question these officials, assuming they are still in this country - a big if.

There is also an element of compassion involved. Because Pollycarpus is in shock at his unexpected re-incarceration, the police will wait for him to readjust to his new-ish surroundings in Cipinang prison.

Back in the Suharto era, the police would not have been so compassionate. Pollycarpus would not have even been tried and Munir would have been just another victim.

Mixed signals and weird times indeed.


6:00 pm |
Sunday, January 27, 2008
  A Bit Of An Obit

You're going to be reading loads of articles about how the Father of Indonesian Development has finally snuffed it because his 40 or so doctors couldn't pretend any longer that his multiple organ failure refers to his collection of musical instruments.

This isn't one of those obits because I'd query the whole basis of that particular soubriquet. A mere cursory glance around the archipaelego doesn’t show much development towards a civilized society. His bequest is a nation where his cronies don’t seem to give a damn about the rakyat. Massive dollops of corrupted cash are lodged in Singapore, for which Lee Kwan Yew popped by to thank Suharto before he shuffled off. Mahatir, Suharto's mate from Malaysia, also flew in to remind us how good S was for this country.

I'm not amused by these bits of condescension; they are totally unwarranted considering the mess Suharto left behind, a mess exacerbated since by all his remaining cronies and the cabals of kallas who also just had to be seen visiting him in Pertamina hospital.

I am somewhat surprised that Suciwati, Munir's widow, and the bereaved mothers of those students 'disappeared' ten years ago also came by to offer prayers. Maybe they were for a safe passage to the other side, heaven or hell who can tell.

Or maybe the prayers were for the media to observe, so they could remind us all what a hypocritical tyrant he was.

I went to see Soeharto today, someone in the family is a close friend and came to pick me up. The media circus there was bizarre. I’ve nothing for the old man whatsoever, he should go, one last service to this country, the quicker the better, but the media circus over there was quite simply inappropriate. Forget the senile old tyrant, remember that the hospital also looks after several thousands of other less glamour dying people. What is wrong with our local establishments?
- Treespotter

The passing of Suharto has been too protracted. When he gave the vault keys to his sidekick, Habibie, in 1998, 10 years ago, it was the culmination of a very fraught period of rioting, targeted killings and disappearances, massacres and general paranoia.

Up until then, here in Jakartass Towers, with the TV and hi-fi on at full-ish volumes, ‘Er Indoors would still whisper the market gossip concerning the Cendana clan headed by Suharto, and it’s not as if we were living a life of protest or forthrightness. We’d visit the Indonesia In Miniature Park (Taman Mini Indonesia Indah) and recall the tales of forcible evictions and rumoured killings as Madame Tien grabbed the land. Or drive by the Golden Truly supermarkets and note that they were owned by Madame Tenpersen as she was popularly known.

I happened to call her that in a business English class I was teaching in the early 90’s and to my horror one of the students leapt to his feet, seemingly apoplectic. Shit, I thought, me and my big mouth, I’m going to get kicked out of the country.

“She’s not Madame Ten Per Cent,” he shouted. “She’s Madame Fifty Per Cent!”

Phew, not only did I learn a bit about discretion, but I also learnt how much resentment was lurking, ready to explode.

So, as was said about Caesar, I’m not coming to praise him but to bury him.

Besides, Suharto doesn't need anyone to praise him as he's built his own memorial, his last great erection, the Mandala Monument in Makassar.

And this is the dummy which confronts you as you leave. It represents Suharto in his gung ho pomp as the Commander of Operation Mandala - the military operation designed to threaten the Dutch into surrendering control of West Irian.

Dead or alive, real or wax, he still has the power to make us puke.

It's long been time to move on. There is a fear that with him gone his military friends and his business cronies, which include sons, daughters and at least one grandson, will do their damnedest to avoid prosecution for economic crimes. This is the time for SBY and his government, which of course includes at least a couple of ministers whose businesses benefitted from their association with the presidential palace, to put the barriers up by initiating prompt legal actions, to include travel bans.

If the government can show they're serious in breaking from the Suharto era and not only talk but also act outside the box, then we can all breath much easier.

Even though getting rid of the air pollution may take just a bit longer.

Suharto died
at 1.10 pm local time today.


1:15 pm |
Thursday, January 24, 2008
  A People's Send Off For Suharto?

The last we heard, the man in our thoughts for the past 42 years and, no doubt, for another umpteen, was still clinging on.

There has been much media coverage of his hospitalisation. Many say it's been too much when there are more immediate concerns such as the shortfall in the rice harvest and an abundance of floods in Java. Several commentators feel that sections of the media are being manipulated by Suharto's cronies and family members in order to evoke sympathy for his pitiful condition, thus creating a smokescreen avoiding memories of genocidal atrocities and massive corruption.

My good friend Derek Bacon, original author of Culture Shock! Jakarta, has spent the past 10 or so years forging a reputation as a graphic artist with commissions from such august publications as The Economist and children's book author Susan Ring.

The picture below was created a few years back on another occasion when Mr. S. was chatting up the nurses in Pertamina Hospital. There is a bigger picture with more detail awaiting the outcome of the current boring crisis. Derek hopes it will be used by a major media outlet for a suitcase of wonga ~ obviously not Jakartass Publications. However, if you should happen to mention to Del that I referred you, then he'll pay me my 10% and I'll have an insight into what it feels like to be associated financially with Suharto.

Anyway, this seems to be a fitting send off for the Father of so-called Development considering the funeral cortèges of the majority of the population. And we all want proof when he goes that he really has.

Having taken up yet more hyperspace with waffle about someone I feel absolutely no empathy for, I can only spare a line or two to say that I regret the passing of John Stewart, singer-songwriter extraordinaire, and Frankie Valley, Addick blogger par excellence.

I'll miss you both.


3:30 pm |
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
  I'm getting really frustrated.

In case you're wondering, it's not 'Er Indoors and nor is it my erstwhile employers who, thankfully for me and other colleagues-in-distress, keep screwing up.

Nope, it's the fact that I've not yet been able to publish my bit of an obit of Suharto. Everyone else seems to have rewritten theirs and published not expecting to be damned. After all, what can the old man do now, eh?

Actually he doesn't have to do anything; given his history of miraculous cures since his abdication, maybe he's lying in his bed keeping note of all those cronies and acolytes who turn up to stare at his mottled visage. Those who were definitely less than loyal but do turn up - step forward former President and Mrs. Habibie - aren't allowed into his sick bay. (They had to gloat from the room next door before flying back to Germany.)

And those he suspects of being less than loyal who don't actually turn up had better watch out. And those who he knows hate him yet do turn up ~ well, better the devil you know, eh?

Of course, he can lie in a vegetative state and continue to haunt us all while his cronies and acolytes scurry around like headless chickens wondering what fate awaits them once he's finally carted off to his marble mausoleum.

TB of the Jakarta Urban Blog has put together a very thorough piece with some interesting asides, including the fact that I didn't include anything about dukuns in Culture Shock! Jakarta. By and large, this is an impenetrable bit of culture and, non-skeptic that I am although as mystified as most westerners about such powers, I preferred to leave it alone.

TB writes: Make of this what you will but apparently it is hard for Soeharto to die. And this is as much to do with the hold that the spirit world has over his soul. If he is/was truly evil, then according to Jamma who comments on Indonesian Matters it may be because Soeharto can’t die so easily cause he’s got too much ilmu, some designated person will have to cross a river with Soeharto’s underpants on their head so he can die.

I like that image and would like it to be known that at my wake I'd like my family and friends to celebrate by wearing my underwear on their heads ~ washed or unwashed, it's up to you, lah.

You see, Suharto is/was a great believer in the power of ilmu, the magic power passed on by gurus. It is generally known that, connected as he was through his missus, Madame Tenpluspersent, to the ancient kraton (palace) of Surakarta, he was in touch with Javanese mystics. Whether he himself has/had magic powers is immaterial. Much of the population were kept in a feudalistic state during his regime, partly through cultural performances such as wayang golek (shadow puppet plays) which were only allowed - by the military whose dwifungsi (dual function) gave them power over the population - if they extolled the virtues and programmes of Suharto. The peasants had limited schooling, little access to the world beyond their community so they had no reason not to believe in the spirit world.

The Javanese are/were the bedrock of Suharto's support. However, 'Er Indoors informs me that Suharto also visited dukuns in Aceh and in North Sumatra he familiarised himself with the Batak Karo who, unlike other Batak 'clans', don't claim to be Christian or Muslim, but accept the most powerful influences. We may presume from this that Suharto wanted to absorb such 'powers' that could provide a shield against forces that opposed him, including the Acehnese who long waged guerrilla warfare seeking independence. Mind over matter?

So, until death do finally part us from the Godfather of Devilment, and I can summon up enough access to the internet for me to upload my red hot vitriolic obit, I recommend the following "This Is Not An Obit" posts so you can see that others have maybe said what I want to say:

Metro Mad
Green Stump
Bambang Aroengbinang


6:30 pm |
Thursday, January 17, 2008
  An addendum to an obituary
(which I haven't been able to post yet.)

Suharto will be buried (stored?) in the Argosari Mausoleum in Surakarta (Solo), next to his wife Tien who arranged for it to be built. An outer and lower ring is allocated for children and grandchildren and the upper level is for the royal family of Solo to which Madame Tien claimed some familial connection.

What intrigues me is that it is reported that there are 48 caretakers of the Cendana Clan’s bit of the plot. Is the family scared of body-snatchers or vampire hunters? Maybe there is a belief in numerology, the belief in the occult influence of numbers upon the life of an individual which Christians would say is both unbiblical and an offense to God.

So is 48 a Javanese thing?

Not that I care, but 48 caretakers does seem excessive. Wouldn’t an unmarked grave be more appropriate? It would certainly go some way to appeasing the souls of the many poor folk massacred during his regime. The genocide of supposed communists, i.e. those who had pissed off the military and the Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), in 1965/66, Petrus - the killing of petty criminals in 1983, the Tanjung Priok massacre in September 1984, the raid on the Indonesian Democratic Party in 1996, the disappearances and shootings of students at Trisakti and Atma Jaya universities and, of course, the victims of the May riots in 1998 which immediately preceded Suharto’s abdication are not easily forgotten.

One should also remember the victims in East Timor, now independent Timor Leste, and in Aceh and in West Papua, both provinces with supposed special autonomy.

These injustices have now been highlighted, but have yet to be resolved. Maybe that's because only 10 years ago what is written here would have been labelled as Communist propaganda and those responsible are still very active in public life.

The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) say that there are at least 3 prominent ex-generals who could (should?) be held accountable for the killings in the late 90’s.

SBY was the chief of staff of the Kodam Jaya (regional military command) at the time of should be held accountable for the attack on the Indonesian Democratic Party headquarters on Jalan Diponegoro on July 27, 1996. (Komnas also said that SBY is responsible for the policy of implementing martial law in Aceh.)

Maj. Gen. Sutiyoso - later and until late last year Governor of Jakarta - was the military commander for Jakarta under SBY at the time.

He was quoted by the Antara news agency as warning that the military was in no mood to tolerate new disturbances.

"We have issued orders to shoot if there are any attempts to disturb order." he said.

And there was General Wiranto who was armed forces chief throughout the latter stages of Suharto's despotic regime. Wiranto must also be held responsible for the extra-judicial killings in East Timor, which was under martial law at the time.

All three ex-generals will be presidential candidates in 2009.


4:30 pm |
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
  Think outside the box

(This post, which is subject to constant revision, will remain on this page until February. Please check below for posts before then.)

In a well-received speech to the delegates at the Bali Climate Change Conference in December, SBY was able to convince the USA delegation that to avoid universal condemnation, they ought to join the global consensus. This is part of what he said:

Future generations will remember whether we rose to the occasion and seized the opportunity before us or let it slip through our fingers. Too much is at stake. It is time to think outside the box.

I commented
then that with the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests and the country's reputation as the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases through the draining of its peatlands, then perhaps Indonesia should make an effort to put its own house in order.

The principle is simple: people in greenhouses shouldn't throw stones.

There are some obvious macro solutions such as a moratorium on the issuance of logging and plantation permits whilst a thorough environmental audit is conducted of those projects underway. However, it is the small initiatives which have the greatest consequences. After all, every tall tree starts off as a seedling.

As Jakartass, I am asking folk to join in a group writing exercise which will be published throughout February. A specific website has been set up to host all contributions and I am hopeful that this will be an ongoing think tank. If you are interested in contributing ~ and many thanks to all of you who already have ~ please email me.

I am hopeful that the group writing effort initiated by Pelf in Malaysia will have proved to be a model of co-operation.


11:59 pm |
Sunday, January 13, 2008
  Calling All Brits ...
..... over a certain age.

Tony Hart is now 82 years old. During his 50 years of broadcasting he has probably inspired the creative efforts of youngsters more than anyone else. For that reason I think he should be rewarded with an acknowledgement of his gentle tutelage to this nation.

Do you agree? Do you remember Morph? No? Then you've surely seen Wallace & Grommit, The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit or Chicken Run, animation movies with characters modelled from plasticine. And Morph came first, being introduced on the kids TV programme about art and doing it, Take Hart.

Tony Hart is up there with David Attenborough, now Sir David, in public affection. Tony remains plain Tony and thoroughly deserves a gong. Help him get one by signing this petition before January 18th.

I have.


11:30 am |
Saturday, January 12, 2008
  Ruling with an iron rod?

The British Embassy has placed a job advert in today's Jakarta Post which either has political significance or betrays the appalling standards of the British education system.

The Defence Section, British Embassy Jakarta is recruiting a staff with relevant experience to administer the Defence Section effectively.

According to Websters, a staff (pl. staves) is a long stick carried in the hand for support in walking. It (singular) could also be synonymous with rod, club, cudgel and crozier, all of which are disciplinary symbols and/or weapons with which to control employees, otherwise known as members of staff ~ staff being a collective noun, a word used to define a group.

Of course, it may be that the UK recognises that it has little chance of recouping the £507,353,037.91 and US399,251,313.93 (consolidating figures: £704.6 million) owed by the Indonesian government to the UK's Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) under the current UK/Indonesia Debt Agreement.

The context of the debt is that they accrued during Suharto's thirty-one year military dictatorship, a period which saw repression of civil liberties and many human rights atrocities throughout the archipelago, much of it enforced with weaponry supplied by the UK. The transition to democratic rule was marked by violence, which the British embassy witnessed.

With the imminent demise of Suharto, who will be greatly mourned by his many cronies and members of his family, presumably because after losing his mythical protection they may then face the wrath of the dispossessed, there will no longer be a need for massive arms deals. Besides, SBY prefers Russian military ware.

So if a big stiff rod is all the Defence Section can offer for, then I'm all for it. And as long as the Embassy doesn't try interfering with the Indonesian education system before it upgrades the language proficiency of its own staff then, along with Suharto, we can all live and die in peace.


3:30 pm |
Thursday, January 10, 2008
  Let The Cockroaches Rule.

I'm still hopeful that there are more folk reading this who like to think outside the box and can offer their constructive thoughts to the world at large by joining the Jakartass group writing project, co-sponsored by SBY.

Dilligaf of Hardship Posting already has, although, a regular nag this, his site is updated far too infrequently for those of us who enjoy his musings.

Rob Baiton is an independent voice offering an independent perspective on the law, politics, culture, people, and life in Indonesia and elsewhere - Carpe Diem!

He offers some very perceptive writings which are unfortunately very difficult to read. This site is almost psychedelic, with multi-coloured text on a black background, which is a shame because the opinions expressed are far from psychotic.

More relaxing is the Milk Tea Girl who has two other blogs, In Memorium and Dismantled Possessions. She lives in south Jakarta and describes her interests as breathing, photography, coffee, hanging out, relaxing in the sun, writing, contemplating, observing and conversing quietly, so all three blogs feature poems and short posts of fiction. Or is it all autobiographical? Anyway, I've given her a permanent link.

"Know your enemy" was probably said by a famous general, but it is a dictum to be understood by those who seek change, so I should've linked to Indo Law Report a year or so ago, and not just because reciprocating is polite. It offers reviews on legislations, regulations and policies affecting your business in Indonesia.

If there are so few of us prepared to challenge the status quo then this is an indication of atrophy and inevitable extinction.

So be it ~ let the cockroaches rule.


10:00 am |
Monday, January 07, 2008
  50 People Who Could Save The World

That headline in the Guardian caught my eye, not least because I really do not believe that the case can be made for just 50 individuals. That was the comment I made on their blog and many more agreed.

Those who are the most articulate may grab the publicity and the grant aid, so for them it's much easier to mount a platform and perform. However, it's all of us who are not in the headlines who are going to save the world.

I'm not a celebrity, but my involvement in environmental issues goes back to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 60's, to the squatting movement, Friends of the Earth, the anti-nuclear movement in the seventies into the eighties where I was involved in the Ecology (now Green) Party where I served on the executive committee.

So I do welcome the Al Gores and Leonardo di Cappucinos of this world and I applaud the recognition given to Henry Saragih. He's "a small farmer who has hardly seen his wife and children in 15 years since taking on the Indonesian government and the palm oil barons of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Not only does he lead a union of several million agitated Indonesian peasants, but he also heads Via Campesina, the global movement of increasingly militant peasant farmers which campaigns for land reform in 80 countries."

But then we must also recognise the almost lone voice of Riza Tjahjadi, co-ordinator of Biotani Indonesia Foundation, who is not only actively campaigning against the introduction of genetically modified seeds by major pharmaceutical companies with the backing of Indonesia's military (see my October archives), but was also a lone voice representing those sinking island nations which are too poor to have attended the recent Bali Conference on Climate Change.

I also welcome the inclusion of Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, who has gone from being a far left socialist to an inclusive 'green' innovator, and is championing renewables, energy from waste, heat and power systems, and ways Londoners can adapt their homes. The capital has seen a huge increase in cycling, and from this month most of the city's public buildings will be "retrofitted" to save energy. It's beginning to work, he says: four years ago, more than one in three Londoners used their cars every day; now fewer than one in five do.

Now if Fuddy Bozo, Governor of Jakarta, were to show a similar commitment, then I would call him a hero and by his real name and I wouldn't harp on about how he seemingly managed to amass a fortune during his 30 years as a City Hall apparatchik and said he isn't over-worried about the perennial floods "because other cities get flooded."

I'd also applaud if he could get the city planners to adopt the the architectural principles espoused by Ken Yeang, the world's leading green skyscraper architect. In the tropics especially, high-rises are traditionally the most unecological of all buildings, often wasting up to 30% more energy than lower structures built with the same materials. Yeang uses walls of plants, photo voltaics, scallop-shaped sunshades, advanced ventilation and whatever he can to collect water and breezes.

Here in Jakarta, there is Zenin Adrian whose Design Lab (ZADL) practices green building with specialization on complex geometry and digital fabrication not only to achieve energy efficiency and minimize environmental impact, but also to generate climatically responsible and locally contextual design.

There are many such local heroes, possibly even in City Hall. I mention this because Jakarta is one of the C40 cities, a group of the world's largest cities committed to tackling climate change. This group met in London last month, with Ken Livingstone in the chair. I really don't know who represented Jakarta and I'm sure that the majority of my local readers will nod knowledgeably if I suggest that the local delegates probably spent most of their time in Harrods and other upmarket shopping emporia.

Ho hum, eh?


7:00 pm |
Sunday, January 06, 2008
  Ah, B*gger It

Did you know that paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic bags? I didn't until today, which shows that Jakartass is behind the times. But then, so is Lucy Siegle, the 'green' correspondent of the UK Observer, who writes about her collection of bags for life, bags for today, bags for tomorrow...

I am in danger of turning into a bag lady. Not sartorially speaking, but because every day brings a slew of eco totes and green shopping bags. I now have more eco bags than I ever had plastic.

The development of 'eco bags' labelled 'This Is Not A Plastic Bag' came about because of a number of reports, including one for the EU in September 2004, brought together in March 2007 following the passing of an ordinance (local law) in San Francisco effectively banning the use of plastic grocery bags at supermarkets and large pharmacies. The objective was to stop environmental degradation and reduce litter, and its solution was to legislate the replacement of traditional plastic bags with reusable bags or bags made from paper or compostable plastic.

In an effort to gauge the impact of the decision, both in terms of environmental impact and litter reduction, the Editors of The ULS Report (Use Less Stuff) ... examined a number of credible third-party research reports, and used the findings to develop their own conclusions and recommendations

Another of the reports ULS used was commissioned by Carrefour, the French hypermarket chain partly responsible for overwhelming localised mom and pop retail businesses here in Jakarta, commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) report on plastic bags from Price Waterhouse back in 2004.

Some Findings:

1. According to the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), current research demonstrates that paper in today's landfills does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does. In fact, nothing completely degrades in modern landfills due to the lack of water, light, oxygen, and other important elements that are necessary for the degradation process to be completed.

2. By definition, composting and biodegradation release carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, increasing the potential for climate change. For example, composted paper produces approximately twice the CO2 emissions produced by non-composted paper.

3. Plastic bags generate 60% less greenhouse gas emissions than uncomposted paper bags, and 79% less greenhouse gas emissions than composted paper bags.

4. It takes 91 percent less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper.

5. Paper sacks generate 70 percent more air, and 50 times more water pollutants, than plastic bags.

Presumably Carrefour noted these findings because they still ply you with umpteen logo-emblazoned bags which are so thin that they're generally only suitable for two uses - one to carry your groceries home and the other to put all the unnecessary packing in so that it can be dumped in Jakarta's landfills in the neighbouring townships.

Or thrown in the rivers, such as this one in Tanah Abang, Jakarta, where they exacerbate flooding before reaching the oceans where they choke sea life such as dolphins and turtles.

As Lucy Seigle notes, over 100,000 birds and a large amount of marine life die each year courtesy of plastic waste, of which plastic bags are a large contributor - not surprisingly, given that less than one per cent are recycled.

The answers are simple, even here in Jakarta.

1. Litter bugs should join 'Clean Up Brigades', as part of a legally enforceable community service.

2. Shops should charge an exorbitant amount for carrier bags, thereby encouraging shoppers to use 'long life bags', preferably made from 100 per cent recycled polyethylene.

And given that those who shop the most are the richer folk, then they can probably afford to use a Voltaic Solar Backpack or two, made from recycled plastic mineral bottles with three or more tough, light weight, waterproof solar panels and a battery pack with 3 voltage settings to store solar power.

It seems to be up to you as to how you use your stored up energy although it is not designed to charge laptops; it will however charge cell phones, sat phones, PDAs, GPSs, iPods, cameras and most other handheld electronics.

At $249 this seems to be a mere snip for those on the go. However, apart from a pocket-sized camera, I haven't got any of those electronic gadgets, so this bag is not for me.

Besides, if I had $249 to spare, I could always employ one of the locally unemployed for a month or two to carry my shopping.


4:30 pm |
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
  A Way to Save The Oceans

I'm here today as part of Pelf's project on Giving Hands - 31 Ways To Save The Oceans.

And this is Son No.1 snorkelling responsibly in the warm waters off Banda Neira c.15 years ago.



1:00 pm
  And More Water

Looking after our inland waterways is just as important as guarding our oceans. We've had a lot of rain recently, but that's not unexpected given that it's the rainy season. North Jakarta, as per usual, has taken the brunt of this season's flooding, but they have high tides, subsidence and an increasingly silted up Jakarta Bay to contend with.

South Jakarta relies on the rains, generally flowing from the surrounding hills to the south, to swell the rivers. And this was our view of the River Ciliwung, two minutes stroll from Jakartass Towers, today. As you can see, several dwellings are partly submerged.

And this is a view of the rubbish-strewn river bank below us as we took the above photo. This partly explains why much of the city is unnecessarily underwater.



12:30 pm |
  Sailing Away.

Just to complete a trilogy of water works, two boats are scheduled to sail across the Atlantic this month.

It's only in the past 100 years or so that ships have not relied on wind or human power to get where they're going. Can we go back to that?

First off is Severance on which Dan, a Charlton fan, and family is, after years of dreaming, months of planning, weeks of fretting and the last few days of intensive work, provisioning, stowing away and re-familiarising ourselves with Severence and her nooks and crannies, .... finally ready to go - today.

Follow them as they blog their way to Tobago.

Then there's the Beluga Skysail, one of the first large cargo ships in 100 years to cross the Atlantic with the help of the wind, sets off from European shores this month on a voyage which is due to make maritime history.

The sail to be used is a computer operated kite and will apparently only save 15% of the usual fuel consumption but, hey, that's a start.

Now, what if the sails were also solar panels .... ?


12:00 pm |
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