Environmental Pioneers in Bali

1 rock god, 2 artists, 3 educators – meet Bali’s environmental pioneeers

Earlier this year at the 11th Annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, a panel of creative and forward thinking conservationists discussed the complexities of Bali’s pressing environmental crisis.

What appeared to be a skewed collection of thinking on paper proved to be a far more fascinating debate in real life, with their varying approaches to spearheading change appearing somewhat contradictory.

The session, entitled “A Creative Change”, brought together; Robi Navicula, lead singer of influential Indonesian rock band, Navicula; Celia Gregory, a sculptor and eco-artist from the UK; and Made ‘Bayak’ Muliana, a multimedia artist and pioneer of Indonesian environmental education.

All three panel members share an inspirational vision to revolutionise Indonesia’s weak sustainability system through their various passion points and let their work act as an education platform.

Their differences emerge when discussing the tonality used to voice their common message; one side aiming for subdued inspiration that softly probes new ways of thinking, the other turning to tear jerking shock tactics looking to spark a domino effect of radical activism.

With the increasing fragility of not only Bali’s ecosystem, but also that of the entire Indonesian archipelago, such discussions are not simply interesting, they are critical.

These three inspiring individuals took the time to speak to inBali and share a bit of their wisdom. Whatever tactics they employ to inspire change, we admire their efforts wholeheartedly.

Bali’s environmental pioneeers

Robi Navicula, Indonesia: Co-founder of social-enviro magazine Akarumput and lead singer of rock band Navicula

If anyone has the power to grab the attention of the masses, it’s longhaired rock god, Robi Navicula.

With a casual 82 thousand Facebook fans and over 600 thousand views across their YouTube channel, the popularity of Navicula’s band has led way to a demand for knowledge surrounding the environmental issues they cover.

Musician and environmental activist, Robi Navicula.

In other parts of the globe, musicians of his calibre make headlines for their wild party antics and boisterous behaviour. Meanwhile, Robi creates film-clips that speak of horrifying deforestation in Sumatra and the poison of excessive consumerism, uncovering issues that are otherwise hidden by Indonesia’s conventional media.

inBali: With so many issues in the world, how did you arrive at your point of passion?

Robi: My passion is creating and collaborating, and I do this through music. But what inspires the music is the issues you mention. Especially now, with so many urgent issues affecting us and nature, it is everyone’s responsibility to be mindful, to actively make the world a better place, and to conserve our very fragile global environment.

Through music, I have an audience – so I use the music to get these messages across. I think of it like I am journalist, and the music is the media.

inBali: What have been the most rewarding and challenging elements of doing what you do?

Robi: With my band, Navicula, the most rewarding aspect of creating music is starting with an idea, a message, then collaborating with other artists to create the music, videos or artwork, and collaborating with an audience to bring a live performance to life. The most challenging element is still the business side of things.

Outside of the band, I also teach organic farming and art, and consult for a number of environmental NGOs. This is very rewarding as well, and through these experiences I gain a lot of inspiration for my music.

inBali: What advice would you give to other people wanting to do something that positively impacts the island?

Robi: Remember that what you buy and how you live impacts the island. Be conscious consumers and choose environmental products. Avoid palm oil, pay taxes and don’t take part in corruption through bribes, especially to do with building and land use.

Remember that Bali is a small island with very limited resources and be aware that Bali is part of Indonesia, meaning many products you buy here, through the way they were manufactured, impact the rainforest in Kalimantan and Sumatra, the tin mines of Bangka Belitung, and the oceans of Papua. It’s the butterfly effect.

To hear more of Robi’s music and follow the band’s eco-adventures visit naviculamusic.com.

Celia Gregory, UK: Sculptor, eco-artist and founder of The Marine Foundation

Celia Gregory contradicts the stereotypes of an angry environmental activist. She’s not on a mission to smash windows of parliamentary buildings and she doesn’t plan to chain herself to a tree anytime soon.

Rather, Celia approaches the issues of sustainability from an angle of non-judgemental education and awareness.

Celia Gregory - Eco artist & founder of The Marine Foundation.

Through her work as an eco-artist and founder of The Marine Foundation, Celia is proving that acting environmentally can actually be economically viable, creating win-win situations in which no one has to compromise.

inBali: With so many issues in the world, how did you arrive at your point of passion?

Celia: It was a process. I have always been arty and loved nature. My love of nature has provided me with a source of joy and inspiration all my life, so it saddened me to see its wellbeing in decline.

My first really strong connection to the sea was through dolphins; they helped heal me of my Bulimia which I suffered from very badly as a teenager, a time at which I dreamed of being a marine biologists.

Years later, I observed that the annual dolphin killings by the Japanese was still happening and our eco-system was dying. Bubbling inside of me was the desire to find and create a more positive approach to the issues. I had changed my lifestyle and spent more time in and around the sea.

So my focus became the ocean. As I dived under the waves, I learnt about artificial reef technology and sunken wrecks, none of which were man made objects, but around which life grew and flourished. As an artist, I naturally had a desire to play with this idea.

I was also fascinated by how tourism could provide economic incentive for preservation, creating a win win situation.

inBali: What have been the most rewarding and challenging elements of doing what you do?

Celia: The most challenging part is making it financially sustainable! The most rewarding is collaborating with amazing people from all over the world and learning so much during the process.

inBali: What advice would you give to other people wanting to do something that positively impacts the island?

Celia: There is so much to do. Just look around – there is need everywhere! Volunteer, donate, support projects and businesses that are creating positive systems.

Start a business that believes well-being is as important, if not more important, than profit. We need to make a living, but at what expense?

To get involved with Celia’s incredible work, visit themarinefoundation.org

Made ‘Bayak’ Muliana, Indonesia: Painter, musician and environmental activist

The way Made ‘Bayak’ Muliana tells it, he is only afforded the title of “Artist” thanks to a heavy dose of passion mixed with a little study.

And his environmental activism will do “little more” than inspire the next generation of Balinese to start thinking sustainably.

Artist and educator, Made Bayak Muliana.

Bayak’s humility and slight edge of trepidation towards presenting his ideas position him as a trustworthy and endearing character, useful traits for a man coercing Balinese school children to think green.

Beyond direct education, Made uses multimedia artworks to challenge the idea of exoticism and reflect the dwindling notion of paradise on the island of Bali.

His latest project, Plasticology, presents intentional paradoxes such as topless elderly Balinese women amongst disconcerting images of plastic bags.

inBali: With so many issues in the world, how did you arrive at your point of passion?

Made: Until recently, I did a lot of art works that reflected many different issues. But then I realised I must start from my own island, start from the closest problem that is in our everyday life. I love Bali so much and I don’t want this beautiful island to become an island of trash. So I started my art project to bring this message up and make people more aware of the issue.

inBali: What have been the most rewarding and challenging elements of doing what you do?

Made: The most rewarding thing is that I make lots of friends sharing this project. The challenge part is to connect with the government – they are so slow to respond to good ideas. But this project will run with or without them. It’s already been 4 years!

inBali: What advice would you give to other people wanting to do something that positively impacts the island?

Made: I don’t give any advice, I suggest we do it together!! No matter what your background is, let’s find a way to collaborate and create a “weapon” to fix Bali’s environmental problems. I use art because it’s what I know and it’s my passion.