Millennial Kartinis to Save the World
SOCIAL distancing because of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to pollution levels falling and a cleaner environment. Political decisions are needed to make this change permanent.
People should learn from major disasters. Fifty years ago, a number of activists started the Earth Day to warn the public of the threat of environmental damage. This warning was made after a huge explosion at an oil well off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, killed tens of thousands of marine animals. Today, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to change the way we live on this planet.
Almost two months after the introduction of social distancing in many parts of this country, change is becoming apparent. Air pollution has cleared, environmental damage has reduced and wild animals that had been in hiding have begun to emerge. The earth is experiencing a cleaning phase after years of bearing a heavy burden. There is a hidden lesson from this frightening pandemic.
The question is, when this pandemic end, will we repeat the same life cycle? Many experts predict that industrial and economic activities will increase multiple folds over following the pandemic to make up for lost time. Before this happens, we should learn from those who have been working to protect the environment.
Since the beginning of this year, Tempo has been collecting the names of women who work quietly to preserve the environment. Women have intentionally been chosen because nature is often associated with the role of a mother who gives birth to and raises us. The stories of these women working to save the earth can also serve to remind us of the contribution of Raden Ajeng Kartini, whose birth date is commemorated the day before Earth Day.
In Bengkalis, Riau, Solfarina 36, strives to protect the remaining elephants in the Balai Raja and Giam Siak Kecil Wildlife Reserves. In Bulungan, North Kalimantan, Sri Tiawati, 27, works alone to convince people of the importance of education for the children of the Dayak Punan tribe living deep in the jungle. In Bandung, West Java, Lasma Natalia Panjaitan, 29, tirelessly pursues legal action to prevent environmental damage from the coal-fired power stations in Indramayu and Cirebon.
In Malang, East Java, Lia Putrinda, 26 has been working with her father since she was a child planting dozens of hectares of mangrove on Clungup Beach. Finally, in Surabaya, East Java, Eva Bachtiar, 33, collects leftover but still edible food from restaurants, cafes and wedding parties to be distributed to poor people. Her action not only reduces waste, but also teaches about the importance of reducing overconsumption.
These five women represent real action taken by people to save the planet. They preserve and protect the environment while educating and mobilizing the public to care. All of them are still young, showing us that young people are able to do important and good work for nature and the nation.
Solfarina, Sri, Lia, Eva and Lasma are part of a major movement of young people increasingly aware of the perilous state of the planet as a result of climate change. The use of nonrenewable fossil energy, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and uncontrolled pollution of the environment are all producing carbon emissions and increasing the temperature of the earth. If we are unable to keep this increase in global temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius in line with the 2015 Paris Accord, our grandchildren will have nowhere to live.
As public awareness about the dangers of the climate crisis is continuing to rise, it is ironic that a number of government policies have increased the danger to the environment. The delays in developing new and renewable energy sources, the weakening of environmental protection legislation and the way that illegal polluting activities are allowed to continue all show the weakness of the government’s stance. Without political decisions and new policies in this nation, actions by people will have no widespread or systemic impact.
We do not yet know when the Covid-19 pandemic will end, but we do know that the earth cannot be allowed to continue suffering. Not returning to the way of life before the pandemic is not a choice, but a necessity. Without permanent changes in the way we live on this planet, we are all heading for extinction.