The Heavy Challenge of the Indonesian Environmental Movement

“There was an eerie hush in the room. Take birds as an example. Where exactly have they gone? This topic is discussed by a lot of individuals. Confused and tense throughout. The birds in the courtyard had abandoned their feeding sites, so they had left. Some birds are still seen in a dying state. These birds are shaking so violently that they are unable to fly. In her book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson presents a city in the United States that is in harmony with nature, but then it becomes silent. The city is called “Silent Spring.”

Carson was agitated during that period because he was concerned about the broad use of chemicals for food demands. Carson was concerned since the effects of this widespread use were not only felt by people, but also by other living things. One of them is how the birds are going extinct, which he describes. The few birds that have managed to survive are passing away. In the book Silent Spring, which came out in 1962, he voiced his worries about the environment. It was the impetus for the beginning of a worldwide environmental movement.

At long last, activists for environmental causes arrived in Indonesia. with the same anxiety on the state of the environment in Indonesia and the means by which it can be preserved. At the very least, it was the sentiment shared by the Group of Ten, which later played a pivotal role in the conception of an environmental forum organization comprised of individuals from diverse backgrounds who shared the same goals and objectives. Walhi, come into being. In its infancy as a social movement, Walhi’s first priority was to educate people about the significance of protecting the natural world.

Observing how the exploitation of nature is spiraling out of control along the road, as well as to a nearly same degree in many different regions of the planet. Anxiety morphed into “rage” when the paradigm for development was centered on the dredging industry, which relied on power equipment to continue draining the land without halting. This caused a great deal of environmental damage.

Every minute, we are witnesses to the capitalist economic system destroying without pausing through the machinery of extractive industries controlled by corporate power. These industries include mines and large-scale monoculture plantations, both of which engage in such destructive actions. They disassemble and dredge the contents of the ground, modify the terrain, siphon off water, pollute springs in order to uproot ecosystems, and ruin the living space, culture, and spirituality of indigenous peoples and local communities on a vast scale.

A movement that first focused on increasing people’s awareness grew into one with the ultimate goal of bringing legal action. In the instance of PT Indorayon, Walhi filed a lawsuit against the state for the very first time. Despite the fact that they were unsuccessful, Walhi has reached a significant milestone by having their legal standing as an environmental organization acknowledged. In the next step of the fight for ecological and social justice, the courtroom serves as a witness for the people and the environmental organizations.

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In his book titled “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” Jared Diamond bases his theory of collapse on various elements that have an effect on the lives of individuals. The various facts of environmental damage, the climate crisis, and the ecological disaster that have occurred in Indonesia up until this point should be read in the context of the complex logic of elevated growth, ignorance of environmental change, and neglect of the costs borne by citizens throughout the history of development.

The expenses include structural poverty, which leads to a food crisis, as well as a crisis in regards to clean water and electricity, which are fundamental need for human survival.

Diamond also stated that the collapse and development of an entity inside an environmental unit is not dictated by natural geographical conditions. This was another one of Diamond’s assertions. The human entity that resides in it is responsible for making the decision to either survive or collapse.

There are situations in which the selection of the entity’s political leader serves as the deciding factor. Oligarchy in Indonesia is extractive, and investments in the natural resource sector continue to be the backbone of the economy. This is inextricably linked to the consolidation of the oligarchy’s hold on power and cannot be divorced from it. In addition, the business of natural resources, which is one of the most important contributors to political politics, is required to post a permit as the bond.

The political leaders in a nation known for its archipelagos are uninformed of the dangers posed by the climate crisis and the ecological harm that must be borne by the people who live there.

The environmental movement and the democracy movement are facing an increasingly difficult challenge. Oligarchy never feels justified in taking advantage of mankind and environment. In the current setting of Indonesian politics, we are confronted with a situation in which the democratic space is getting narrower and reforms are getting corrupted. This is a situation that we are currently facing.

Both the democratic agenda and the reform agenda have been taken over by power, whether it is political power or economic power. The people who are fighting for their right to the environment and the place in which they live have their voices stifled by those in authority. In point of fact, the goal of achieving ecological justice necessitates the establishment of a democratic forum that is accessible to the general populace.

In the midst of all of these difficulties, the young group was the thing that took everyone by surprise. This was a group that was thought to be apolitical and unconcerned with social and environmental issues. The school strike movement started by Greta Thunberg, as well as a lawsuit against political leaders around the world for their insufficient reaction to the climate issue. Greta has been successful in inspiring students in a number of different nations to take to the streets in order to raise their concerns about climate justice.

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When oligarchs become increasingly violent in implementing exploitative and repressive laws, the movement of youth groups in Indonesia, which are often distinct and small, comes as a surprise. They appeared all of a sudden, like waves from a storm, waves that struck the arrogance of authority in the action to reform corruption in September 2019. Forest and land fires were mentioned as one of the demands made by young people and students.

In precisely one year, the young group demonstrates its power once more, at a time when the oligarchs are becoming more avaricious and are making policies that will abuse humans and nature even more. The Bill on Mineral and Coal Mining (Minerba) was ultimately passed while the epidemic was in progress. The next step was to disregard the opinions of members of the public, who voted against the Job Creation Bill and the Cilaka Bill, respectively. These bills were designed from the start to roll out the welcome mat for business investment and to ensure that corruption within state institutions would continue.

It is impossible to halt it because, in addition to marching to the streets to demonstrate against oppressive authorities, the movement against the Cilaka Bill is also a campaign on social media that is in their control. A vote of no confidence in the administration has recently been a topic that is popular in online discussion forums. The passage of this bill represents the apogee of a betrayal of both the constitution and the people.

They have not been silent in addressing the injustices that must be fought against, injustices to the environment and injustices to the people. Of course, there are not a few people who belittle the youthful group that has come to this street, but they have not been mute in taking action.

Ecological justice

As a member of the environmental and democratic movement, Walhi has been raising awareness about the ecological justice agenda, which is an inseparable component of the struggle for socio-economic justice. This movement supports the implementation of structural reforms in the political and economic systems that have contributed to the existence of injustice. To be more specific, inequalities in the governance and use of natural resources, as well as a disregard for the expertise and experience of indigenous and local groups in the administration of natural resources.

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The fair and equitable distribution of social and environmental (natural) resources at all scales, from the neighborhood to the national to the international level, is the primary element necessary to bring about ecological justice. This is done to ensure that fundamental human needs are addressed and that the environment is in a healthy state. Additionally, this is done to ensure that there is a strong sided with the weakest groups in society. Additionally, there is a promise that every citizen will have the freedom and the opportunity to develop their personal, societal, and social and ecological duties. This freedom and opportunity are guaranteed to them by the government. Also, ensuring future generations enjoy equal rights. The rights of future generations, who have the potential to become complete legal subjects, must be protected.

These young people are more than just a number to be exploited during elections in order to garner votes. In point of fact, members of the Millennial and Gen Z generations have the power to design narratives that can dismantle obsolete narratives on the economy and progress. This cohort is not only able to speak out against injustice by turning to the streets, but they are also intellectually capable of breaking through critically the dominant narratives through their studies. The research team conducted a gap analysis of Indonesia’s climate policy from the point of view of intergenerational justice as part of one of the studies that they carried out. According to the findings of this study, if the government does not take proactive measures to address the issue of climate change, the government will be aware that they are committing mass murder against future generations.

In recent years, political processes have finally extended an invitation to us, the environmental movement, and democracy to reflect on who we are as institutions. That, at the age of four decades of the journey of the environmental movement in Indonesia, young people are actually the future that will bring change to our nation, and this is something that should not be lost sight of. In addition, what makes the environmental movement unique is that it is not just the generation living now that is being fought for; it is also the generation that will live in the future.

Walhi, a carrier of the struggle for the environmental movement in Indonesia, needs to develop the belief in order to remain grounded and continue to engage with the people. In the midst of this more severe political crisis, there is no other way to attain ecological justice except for WALHI to continue expanding the consolidation and restoration of democracy, which is currently ripped apart. This is the only way.

Finally, I want to wish everyone a happy 40th anniversary of Walhi, the center of the democracy and environmental movements in Indonesia.