Building ecological awareness in South East Asia

Since the middle of July I am in South East Asia; in Indonesia and the Philippines. Giving retreats and workshops on ecological awareness and an ecological life commitment.

The first two months I was in Indonesia and mainly worked in Central Java. Giving three retreats for in total more than 90 people. People of all walks of life, but mainly with a Christian background.

I saw and experienced the great changes in the environmental situation. Java, that I knew from my time there in the seventies, when I worked as a nutritionist in the poorer parts of Java, has changed tremenously. Development everywhere and more wealth for the people, though still one third of the people live in poverty in Indonesia. The beautiful rice plains are now turned into housing areas and industry. The infrastructure has been developed and beautitiful roads full with Indonesian made cars. If not a car yet then a motorcycle and the bicycles, so typical in the past, have disappeared.

Coming from the west, I realize my favorite position: a place to live in  that is relatively free from pollution of air, water and soils. Especially in the big cities the traffic is so heavy that a quiet place free from gasoline gasses is rarely found. The mystical East has given way to the developments of modern life.  There is not much difference I see with modern western youth in lifestyle, clothing, recreation and the use of technology.

Where to start with building ecological awareness? And what can I see as some one coming from the West? I have felt it as a precious fact that I lived and worked here in the seventies. The Indonesian language has not left me and I could express myself still in bahasa. I encountered people who are awakening to what is happening to their country, so rich in natural resources. The sadness about what happened and is happening to the forests. The mining and the peoples driven from their ancestral lands because of that. The “theft ” of the primal sources of water: large foreign companies that exploit the water in the aquafiers and put it in plastic bottles. Gone the tradition that where ever you go you find fresh water in earthen water jars.

Weeks of study and input on the present situation of the ecological crisis. Understanding the causes and finding a vision that leads us into the future.  Where to start building a more sustainable Earth community? What lifestyle and spirituality can sustain that work and the tremendous changes that this askes for. We focussed on processes that can restore the lost connection with the life processes of the Earth and nature. And most of all how to find a fulfilled way of life in a true concern  for the Earth and all her life.

It was a  most touching experience to see how much new life it gave to all of us. Discoveries, new understandings, new visions of doing things differently. Mother Earth herself made our hearts burn with fire to protect life and help to build a future for all Earth children. We were deeply touched by the promise of Jesus who came to make all things new and help to bring creation to the fulness intended from the Beginning.

At the moment I am in  the Philppines, in the midst of one tyfoon after the other. People in  the floods, harvests destroyed, houses blown away by the strong winds. The inconvenient truth of the global warming as one newspaper said in the headlines. I am deeply touched by the beauty and richness of this country, especially the days in Mindanao. And everywhere the same message; global warming is doing unpredictable things. The serious dawning awareness that we already have to prepare now with searching for new foodcrops to plant for the time when there will be no water anymore for the ricefields.

New awareness is arising and it puts hearts and hands in motion. It is a very deep experience to see the realities here and be with the people in  this. It will give direction and fuel to my awareness building work once I will be back in my homecountry The Netherlands somewhere next month. And for sure I will try to speak about the situation here once I am back.


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