Written by Janet Liu Yan Yi, a student from Dalton Academy in Beijing, China, who participated in this November's iteration of Skillseed's Environmental Stewardship course based out of Bali Barat National Park, in collaboration with Biosphere foundation.
SEVEN DAYS IN BALI gave me a lot of precious memories and lessons, & and would like to share the top 5 lessons I learned here:
1. The most dangerous creatures are humans.
This lesson came to us from our expert Sierra before we entered a monsoon forest. When we were asked about the dangers we needed to pay attention to in the forest, Sierra asked us what the most dangerous creature in the forest is. Someone answered 'snakes', while others answered 'monkeys'. My answer was the mosquito. To our surprise, all of us were wrong; Sierra told us that the most dangerous creature who can cause damage to the forest is ourselves - humans.
We, people who are eager to protect the forest, become the “enemy” of the forest when we aren't mindful of our behaviour. Sierra's answer surprised me at that moment, but after I saw the trash that people left in the forest, and after I read the articles about unmoderated deforestation, I came to believe that we are indeed the most dangerous creature.
2. A human being becomes a child when facing the nature, when facing Earth.
Sitting beneath high trees that reached to the sky, standing on the immense land near the mangrove forest, snorkelling in the bottomless blue ocean and as the waves crashed and flooded the ground on which I stood; compared to nature, we humans are so tiny, and so young.
I felt this again during an activity called the Council of All Beings. Here, everyone put on a mask to represent a creature. Sunlight, soil organisms, ocean, deers, polar bears emerged and spoke out about serious problems caused by people, just like how adults and elders blame little kids for their mistakes. This was when I realised: people are not mature enough to rule the world, though they might be talented and 'evolved'. We have yet to be good enough when it comes to how we care and relate to nature and other creatures.
3. The best way to understand a culture is by imitating local people’s habits and behaviours.
Before we arrived in Bali, we were told that the local shower was special. Due to the hot and dry climate there, local people pour cold water on their bodies directly, without first heating the water. On the first evening there, I decided to try it for curiosity; I'll admit that the local way of taking a shower wasn't comfortable for me at first, but after more times, I got used to the coolness of the water and began enjoy my bath the local way. After the first try, I insisted on taking a 'local shower' the next few days, and probably learned how people feel when they get shower: the cold water stimulated every square centimeter of my skin, helped me cool down and made me feel alive. Maybe those were some of the reasons why the locals developed this way of taking a shower. I realize that more I experienced, the more I could feel, and the closer I could get to, and understand the culture in Bali.
4. More awareness, more actions need to be taken.
Once I tried to figure out the reason why Sierra had invited us, 17-year old students from China, on this expedition to Bali. The knowledge she shared seemed pretty familiar to me, probably because many people or advertisements from certain organizations had already advocated this information.
As we are young, we cannot make big contributions and difference, so why do people still persist with this work? I found the answer when I was deeply touched by a documentary that Sierra led us to watch - this video showed the picture of some birds who ate plastic bags and then died. The images were shocking and even a little bit frightening. After watching this documentary, I couldn't sleep for a long time and finally decided that I should do something - we should do something - to save those innocent birds.
The motivation took root in my heart and niggled at me whenever I was at rest. I wrote about what I saw in my personal blog, told my parents and friends about these dead birds, and paid more attention to environmentalists’ achievements. I came to believe that the more people know about these pressing issues plaguing helpless species, the more actions will be taken by people like me, or other people more eager to take actions.
5. The only way to eliminate plastic is to stop producing it.
This lesson was about plastic.
As we all know, plastic lasts for so long that my great-grandchildren will not live to see the plastic thrown by their great-grandmother disappear. For me, the plastic I use will outlive me. Therefore, the only solution to this problem of plastic disposal is to stop using it altogether. To stop trading, using, and producing. As there is still no legislation that prohibits the production of plastic, we should take action to stop this harmful material from spreading damage to all corners of the world. From now on, we need to use water bottles instead of plastic bottle, and refuse taking new plastic bags when we shop.
Every small effort can make a difference, but only if we insist.