Bali Radio


THE DROP: A Shift of Paradigm for Paradise

THE DROP: A Shift of Paradigm for Paradise


Surfers are by nature environmentalists with Mother Nature providing waves that create a playground most of us can’t imagine living without. But how do surfers return the favor? The more pressing question may be how do we preserve the perfection bestowed upon us in Bali. This gem so many of us call home, whether grown here or flown here, is an idyllic island both in and out of the water, for those who ride her waves or simply come to marvel at her beauty in nature. But she is under threat of loosing that charm faster than we like to admit to ourselves.

 The unfortunate truth is that the threats to perfect waves in Bali, which many surfers travel to for are now growing exponentially due to the impacts of man-made climate change.  There is an acute stress on resources; more land that is needed to build even more hotels and villas, the issue of water for those establishments and how to dispose of all the waste (1000 cubic meters daily) created by the 10 million visitors that will visit this year alone. This is three times the local population and most surfers visiting the island do not fully understand the awful magnitude of environmental destruction presaged by the current scenario of exploitation by big industries and hotels on Bali, with no restrictions or plans put in place to deal with these mounting problems.


 To meet this new threat, surfers and the surfing conservation community need to evolve exponentially in coming together and effectiveness. We have to believe that this is entirely possible, and in fact, the surfing community in Bali can become a model nationally, regionally and even globally for living the change that is necessary.




 The rubbish mountain on Turtle island is a monument to how bad it is. The unrelenting smell of garbage rotting when you drive past Serangan when the winds are just right tell of this looming hill of horror.  Just a quick look online points to this mammoth problem from the New York Times (As Tourism Rises in Bali, What to Do with Waste?) and the Huffington Post (Bali: Paradise Lost) all shedding light on Bali’s ‘Trash Mountain’ to show us just how much this needs looking into, offering exposés on who is helping or hindering the problem.

 The trash on land creates toxic run off that filters into the drinking water and water supply used by the southern part of the island.  And the trash problem isn’t confined to that land. The trash travels and trickles down to the ocean and we are finding trash on our beaches and in our seas. This past rainy season the winds blew in the worst onslaught of trash that covered the beaches and made headlines that took weeks to clean up.  Efforts by private organizations, hotels and other establishments by the water could only provide a temporary solution to the problem, but what we need is something more pre-emptive. But all the blame can’t be put on our guests’ as locals are partly responsible, in many ways because their habits have stayed the same while the products they used have changed. Awareness and education involving all sectors regarding how to care for the environment needs to be put in place for an over reaching change to take precedence.  We need to work on our defense.


Sadly there has been no real action by the authorities even as people are poisoned by garbage that seeps into the ground.  The government is then also responsible for the demise of this paradise, since they have failed to put proper waste management systems in place for the millions of tourists they invite to come to the island year after year. The solution they offer has largely been through the process of using incinerators, which releases toxic pollutants into the air. Hello respiratory illness.




The future of development and its future in Bali are painfully apparent in the debate involving Benoa Bay in southern Bali and the land reclamation project. It is a controversial plan to build and develop 9 islands into an integrated tourism park covering over 800 hectares by the developer Tirta Wahana Bali Internasional — a massive project that critics contend will devastate the ecosystem and put the local fishing community out of work.  If the land is reclaimed that means the bay will be dredged, irrevocably destroying the mangroves and ecosystems vital to the island creating more damage than we can probably fathom.


Critics say the creation of small new islets in the middle of the bay will damage Bali’s coastline, from Kampung Bugis Benoa to Tuban, Kuta and Serangan, all the way through to Sanur — essentially the entire beach stretch of the main drag.  It will kill the fish and coral in an area where traditional fishing methods are still practiced on a daily basis. As a surfer you can only imagine what this will do to the waves, how this can inevitably harm the surf tourism so popular on the island. The changing tidal patterns will also increase the risk of soil abrasion on the runway of Ngurah Rai International Airport, opponents to the project say. A feasibility study by experts from Udayana University, the leading academic institution in Bali, has also recommended that the project not go ahead, yet the local government has insisted otherwise.  A decree permitting the project was first issued on Dec. 26, 2012, but later revoked by Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika, coincidently that was the same year professional surfer Kelly Slater, tweeted "If Bali doesn't #DoSomething serious about its pollution, it'll be impossible to surf here in a few years. Worst I've ever seen."


 Benoa bay is a recognized conservation area, however the governor tried to change the law (rezoning) later issuing a new reclamation decree granting TWBI permission to conduct another feasibility study on the plan to use, develop and manage the Benoa Bay area. Upon issuing the second decree, the governor denied any personal interest in the project and has been recorded saying that ‘reclamation goes on in plenty of places so why not here…’


But the secrecy surrounding the project is unacceptable and small business owners in the area are resenting this, rejecting leaders that side with greedy developers.  At the heart of a project to reject reclamation is Wayan Gendo Suwardana, the head of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, who is rallying against the reclamation of land in Benoa Bay. His efforts are not in vain thought as he works through, Walhi, as it is also known, an organization that is now the largest independent environmental non-profit organization in Indonesia. On their website it mentions they are present in 28 provinces actively campaigning at a national and international level.    




“(The) Balinese should take the move to save Bali, if not us then who, if not now then when.” - - unknown local activist


Despite the anger towards Bali Governor Made Pastika who has been criticized for flip-flopping on the issue and breaking his own rules, he did say that "We need new icons of tourism in Bali…" and though he may mean more developers the message has truth in its opposite.  We DO need new icons of tourism to lead a sustainable kind of tourism, to be a role model for the region and how it should move forward. Our new icons could be environmentalist, entrepreneurs, surf enthusiast, artists, designers and even a new generation of business and hotel owners, all still making a living on this island but doing so consciously with the land and a better future for Bali in mind. There needs to be a change in ‘how we run this’ island with a plan in place not just for the next generation but for the hundreds of generations to come that will hopefully see the same magic we found here, providing it can be sustained long enough or that far ahead in the future.


Today I stumbled across an interview conducted by Tim Hain of the ASC (Asian Surfing Championship) that interviewed Mike O'Leary, the founder and CEO of the non-profit humanitarian organization R.O.L.E. Bali, which is spearheading waste management and improving the livelihood of people living in underprivileged circumstances. He teaches the importance of things like garbage separation and recycling, while the organization has sub-programs helping communities in need and boosting awareness that Bali needs eco-friendly job creation. In the interview he mentions that overfishing and over developing are contributing factors to people loosing their traditional livelihoods, with the poor and unskilled affected the most.  His organization is one of few that addresses and does something about Bali’s development being based on exploitation, workers living in shanty towns building million dollar deal villas and resorts, with no budget allocated to properly look after the basic needs of their employees.  The foundation also has micro projects for those without the opportunity or language skills to keep up with the development and changing way of life, like seaweed farmers or fishermen that have been affected and have to change profession, learning a new trade in order to survive.


The musician Glenn Fredly said at a concert late last year at the Hard Rock Cafe Bali, “You can have fun in Bali, but you also have a responsibility to preserve Bali.” A new approach to awareness must be promoted on the island. It could be something more appealing to the youth with a dialogue created on conscious consumerism integrated into things like art, music, and creative events that are already in place to entertain tourists.  Surfers need new icons to carve new lines in the paths we make and take on the island. We need a shift in how we consume and new icons in the industry to inspire us, like the founders of Green Foam Blanks Joey Santley and Steve Cox in the States, creating what is thought to be the world’s first recycled polyurethane blank — the foam core of a surfboard. They basically collect polyurethane cuttings from surfboard factories and, using a proprietary process, mix the trimmings with virgin foam to create a blank that is 60 to 65 percent recycled waste. The goal is to reduce production of new foam, which is typically made with a carcinogenic compound called toluene diisocyanate, or TDI.


We need to commemorate and continually support organizations like Project Clean Uluwatu; a group started small by distributing trash containers to the local warungs of Uluwatu making sure the trash was taken to the dumps. Since then they've worked on informal education to change the disposal habits of tourists and locals. installing a $50,000 liquid waste processor at the base of Uluwatu that will filter the human waste and cooking oil through the processor-carrying the remaining gray-water will go into gardens.  On a larger scale, other organizations such as Bali Fokus are running campaigns to encourage Balinese to compost food waste, which makes up a high percentage of the total waste in Bali.  If we can support more companies like this, that are moving in a direction to reduce waste, reuse and recycle then maybe we have a shot at sustainability and can come together to point towards the new direction the island will be heading in the future.


The United Nation millennium goal for Bali was to be a “shift of paradigm for development,” and while local businesses may accusingly cry, “Why? You want us to be poor forever?” the real cry should not be an accusation, but a question on how we can still develop in a way that doesn’t harm but helps the environment. Ideas of sustainable development, green economic policies and creating a pathway for sustainable tourism come to mind with neighboring countries in the region already working towards this initiative. It’s only a matter of time till we realize that the only way forward is to consider our future through building a growing awareness of the global links between mounting environmental problems, economic issues and social responsibility. The concept of sustainable tourism should be seen as an adaptive paradigm, a part of the main concept of development and sustainable development. While this paradigm shift may be seen as an “ideal” it should be read as a process of refinement and a historical development. Not only does tourism have to adapt to outside changes, it must change its focus, depending on economic, social, cultural and technological developments that are happening to our way of life now and in preparation for a better future for this island and the world at large.

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March, 2018
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