Cambodia || Siem Reap: Rural Exploration

Our time in Cambodia wasn’t just exploring ancient, mossy temples. In addition, we were able to see a few different versions of Cambodian living. During one such experience, we traveled out to the stilt houses on the edge of Tonle … Continue reading

How living in the 13th largest city in the world made me want to be a granola-crunchy tree hugger

Okay, okay.

That’s kind of extreme… but let me explain.

Those of you who know me well are aware of the fact that I love nature.  I love trees and blue skies and warm oceans and birds.  I love my mom’s flower garden, chickens, fishing with my dad on the local lake, and drinking coffee on the porch. Of course, there are parts of nature that I don’t like (the giant spiders that live in the woodpile at HFCC, for example, or the hordes of mosquitoes that swarm in every suburb, city, and cornfield of Michigan), but overall, I would say that I am a pretty pumped about the great outdoors.

Most of this excitement comes from growing up outside. My older brother and I jumped over (into) a lot of creeks and climbed (fell from) a lot of trees between the ages of seven and eleven.  I would spend hours collecting frogs, picking up snakes and laying on the big drainpipe in the back woods, squinting into the water in hopes of finding a crayfish.  All of these experiences at home set me up for a lot of other adventures that would include some sort of appreciation and knowledge of creation.

But, I don’t live in the woods anymore.

Jakarta is the thirteenth largest city in the world.  It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, second only to Brazil, and is even considered to be “megadiverse.”  However, within that beauty, there are a few major issues.  The first is deforestation, which is a huge issue that I don’t want to gloss over, but really isn’t the focus of this post.  It’s terrible, it happens illegally, and it is killing populations of species and people, displacing the indigenous tribes of regions like Papua, and no one does anything about it.  (Why?  Because of money, that’s why.)

What I really want to write about is pollution.

This is a durian.  It smells as bad as it looks.

This is a durian. It smells as bad as it looks.

I live in Jakarta, which is sometimes referred to as “the big Durian.”

Durians are these huge, green fruits that smell truly terrible.

Jakarta, too, smells terrible.

You may remember the panoramic photo I posted on my second or third day in Jakarta.  There was a snippet of blue sky and, although you couldn’t see the mountains on that day, you could still clearly see the distant buildings.  Well, I took another panoramic photo today, in hopes that you will compare the two.  This is what it looks like on a normal day.  Because of the smog, you can barely see the other city towers in the north, and you can’t see any of the southern structures.  No blue skies.  No brilliant sunsets.  And, not even a clear cityscape for consolation.


While there are plenty of examples of how pollution on the ground and in the sky has hurt the overall quality of life and aesthetic beauty of Jakarta, my second example moves away from the city, to an entirely different island: Sulawesi.  One of the northern islands of the archipelago, Sulawesi is gorgeous.  As an island that is not very tourist-y, Sulawesi hasn’t been overdeveloped for a specific demographic.  In January, I visited Manado, which is located on the northern tip of the island.  From the mainland, you can travel by boat to Bunaken Island.  We went to Bunaken to snorkel.  One of the most biodiverse reefs in the midst of one of the most biodiverse countries of the world, Bunaken underwater is mind-blowing.  It’s like sticking your face into an aquarium where the fish follow you around.    But, when your head is up, and you swim back to shore, you realize that the beach is trash.  And I don’t mean that it’s a crappy beach — I mean, it’s actually covered in trash.  The trash, which seemed to be mostly composed of these 8 oz plastic cups that are Indonesia’s version of water bottles, is raked up into huge piles and burned.

Bunaken TrashThis post is already getting too long, so I am going to cut to the chase.
I loved nature and I was on board with conversationalist efforts long before I came to Indonesia and saw the piles of trash and breathed in the smog. I never thought I was someone who based her beliefs on a reaction to the negative.  However, after seeing the devastating power of pollution on cities and creation, I must admit that my desire to recycle and compost and care for creation has increased exponentially.

Final aside:  Even the dirtiest American city is cleaner than Jakarta.