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[Bali life] The inertia: The Importance of Experiencing Environmental Issues Through Surfing - Part2

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Continued from Part 1, yesterday:

The dry season in Indonesia this year had an episode of La Nina like 2008, so that the sea surface temperature was higher than usual and it rained much more than is normal in the dry season. As I surf every day in Canggu, Bali, I live in the rhythm of the ocean and the weather. I have experienced high sea water temperature and strange patterns of rainfall. I know that the easterly wind did not blow strongly in the dry season. Through the real world experience on environmental issues, an environmental researcher can discover a point of interest and verify the information obtained.

Field experience is fundamental to being a good environmental researcher. It is said that science should be objective, but it is necessary to set criteria for making a judgment such as “good or bad for the environment;” therefore, environmental science has to be subjective to some extent. Those involved in environmental issues should incorporate these issues into their life and be passionate about this subject. Otherwise, any attempt at solving an environmental problem becomes a business report balancing out with rapid development. Apparently, working on environmental issues is cool, which is why there are “hothouse plant” environment researchers who do not like to be covered with sand and mud on the beach. Sure, they can be smart and may write a report well on their computers while sitting in an air conditioned room, but is there a love for the environment there? Without actual contact with the natural environment, they are making decisions about the natural environment by treating it on par with their daily financial problems such as paying car loans and kids’ school fees. A sport such as surfing gives us the passion involved in environmental issues.

Environmental studies are an applied research area, so they are meaningful only if the results of research are used in the society. The research results have to be scientific. However, if the results are not communicated to development organizations and NGOs that need the results, it is almost meaningless to do the assessment. It is not easy to make people understand environmental problems scientifically. I have experienced the difficulties of bridging the gap between science and policy in Indonesia. That’s why I think we need to make a coherent argument clearly and passionately. A report in which we can feel the enthusiasm will be read by more people than another report that is only scientifically significant. A report is not the only way to spread awareness on environmental issues. It may also be done by visiting a development site with senior officials of the local government who usually decide everything around a desk. It may be in the form of a workshop with civil society organizations near a populated beach. Even if you do not come up with a concise number, you can make them experience the problems in the field, and let them meet civic groups living with environmental problems. Those who threaten the natural environment and the lifestyle of the people living there may feel differently after seeing, talking, and experiencing things. Again, the experience is important for better communication.

If you are an environmental researcher who has not played outside recently, why not go to the beach next summer? If more people surf and adopt an environment-friendly lifestyle, all environmental issues will be solved. Am I making an overstatement? I don’t think so.

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