Environment and Culture

By:Taufani (Opan Rahman)

            Environment crisis is a present problem that human encounter in their everyday life. This crisis emerges due to the shift of modern people treat the nature. People once used the environment to fulfill their needs, but now because everything should be measured by money, so that people seek to use the opportunity around to take the profits including exploiting the nature. For example, those who live in the area surrounded by the big forest will be promised by the multinational company that people around will be employed in this company. Besides, the multinational company also promises that infrastructure in that area will be increased if it can cut the trees in the forest. Badly, the company colludes with local government, in which the government gives the official license for the company to cut the tree within. So, this license will strengthen the position of the multinational company.

            The local people’s motherland is threatened because the land deemed sacred for them will be exploited by the multinational company. The government, in opposition, seeks to weaken them, in which their freedoms of speech and expression are ignored. The local people will be sued in the legal process if they bravely oppose the existence of this multinational company. The government also does labeling to the local people as primitive one in marginalizing them because they still keep their own belief which make sacred of nature. Their belief is considered primitive because it is incompatible with the modern paradigm that the multinational company adheres, in which point out that the nature, is  not to be “venerated”, but to be exploited no matter how risky it is.

            Because the government fully realizes that this exploitation of nature can produce many profits, so they do not fight against the company which wants to exploit the nature. They keep supporting it because economically it will give the benefit for them. They know the excess of this exploitation, but they are indifferent. Their focus is how to make their family more prosperous to elevate their social status. They become “amnesia” to the religious value that they adhere with. They keep praying and performing the religious ritual (individual piety), but they do not apply the social piety.

            One of the very approaches done by government to underpin their point of view towards this “exploitation” is through education. The government makes the education curriculum which based on the “modern” perspective in which remove the local knowledge because it is deemed old-fashioned as well as dismiss God’s intervention in it. God is only placed in very private sphere; God do not deserve to intervene for human life in public sphere. This finally induces the pragmatism for human life nowadays, in which the pragmatism only views everything based on its function (especially, to accumulate money) and ignores the impact (Nashir, 1999: 21).

            This pragmatism, then, generates capitalism, in which accumulation of capital is its main agenda. This capitalism has expanded worldwide, in which it always seeks to integrate everything to be one entity as well as strive itself as universal value by penetrating within the system. It is underpinned by Lorentzen (2001: 181) whom he notes that “globalization, most broadly, is the integration of nation-states, cultures, economies, markets, and diverse people, into a global network or system”. This very integration is deliberately used as globalization value to convince everyone that this phenomenon is inevitable, so everyone with his/her worldview should integrate with the value of globalization advocates.

            This exploitation escalates due to the religious figure also involve in this corruption. The religious figures do not fight against it. Conversely, they also keep supporting the multinational company to legitimize their status quo. The multinational company grants huge money to the religious figure in order to support religious activity such as building mosque. The building of mosque is deemed as perfect strategy by the multinational company to spread its charm to the local people as if it pays much attention to the religious life. The religious figure, finally, becomes silent because they are co-opted as a figure to appease the anger of the local people towards this exploitation. The religious figure becomes so passive; they are no longer becoming liberating avant-garde.

            Yet, we should thank to Sri Sultan Hamengkubowono X who is a prominent figure from Yogyakarta, because he seeks to counter-attack the public policy which consider that political, economy, and technology aspects are the only ways for national building and disregard the cultural approach. He (2010) argues because of the absence of the cultural aspect taken by government in making a public policy, so the development which is the main agenda of the government tends to remove the approach that the local people believe which is so-called local wisdom. The local wisdom, indeed, has a force for social cohesion because it tends to push for the togetherness and appreciation, so that it can prevent every possibility which can spoil the sense of communalism (Haba in Abdullah, Mujib, and Ahnaf, 2008). Hamengkubuwono X (2010), in addition, states that the absence of the local wisdom eventually induces several conflicts in the country such as inter-ethnic conflict in West Borneo, etc.

            Hamengkubowono X (2010), furthermore, states that it is important to transform our local wisdom to be more scientific, so that it can survive in this modern era, for example our ancestors used to make some taboo to keep the harmonization of nature such as not to kill particular animal or not to contaminate the water-spring because there are spirits in it. In addition, he also exemplifies that the people around Mount Merapi still keep their harmony towards it. People in Merapi by the help of Mbah Maridjan who was the spiritual guardian of Merapi ever led the procession of about 100 people, circling nearby villages three times, covering a distance of 54 kilometers in silence. Resident also made offerings like apem (rice flour cakes) to appease angry spirits of the mount Merapi in 2006 (Jakarta Post, 28/10/2010). This designates that because there is spirit within it, so people around Merapi always do some traditional celebration to keep the harmonization of nature

            For modern people, this kind of view is deemed irrational. But, if we want to see honestly, people who still keep their local wisdom has sense of compassion to take care of nature. They do this because they regard that the nature is important thing in their life. They very “venerate” their nature, however, venerating in this regards does not mean that they idolize (worship) the nature because they know that the only being that must be worshipped is God. For them, it is impossible to defeat the nature. They “venerate” the nature as their strong commitment to keep the creation of God.

            Hamengkubowono X (2010) proposes two ways to strengthen the local wisdom for the development capital. Firstly, geo-cultural approach, in which every culture should take and give to enrich each other. Secondly, the basic-rights of local people are necessary to be re-fulfilled, so that they can develop their sense of environmental wisdom to take care of nature.

            In my mind, it is also important to re-strengthen the teaching of local knowledge. The teaching of local knowledge especially in our curriculum is lately being peripheral. The local knowledge which is taught, sometimes only focuses on the local language and disregards to teach the students of the local wisdom (value) that has been successfully keep the harmony of nature. The government should rethink to make presence this subject because the “modern knowledge” cannot fully solve the problem. Besides, the government should involve the local people in making a public policy because they know everything around them. By involving them, it can reduce the potency of conflict because the local people know how to solve the problem around them by means of local wisdom.


I think the presenter should develop the questions relating to this essay. I believe the presenter in this discussion is the best representative that the comittee selects…have a nice discussionJ

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Environment and Culture

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