Post D: The People of The Coral Triangle

The Coral Triangle – An underwater amazon that encompasses an area half the size of the United States and harbours more marine species than anywhere else on the planet. For centuries, it has been home to a Bajau ethnic group, a Malay people sprawled across the mass of ocean between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia (Matador Network 2014). Born and raised at sea, their entire lives are spent wandering beneath the waves. Their bodies have amazingly adapted to physically harvest the ocean floor; they are the underwater ballerinas; the Bajau Laut sea nomads of Indonesia.

1122The origins of the Bajau settlement are not entirely clear, however linguistic evidence has traced the ethnic group back to the 9th century, to what is now the southern Philippines (Matador Network 2014). Thought to have migrated south in considerable numbers, they are believed part of a regional trade prospered under the wealthy Malay sultanates from the 15th century onwards (Matador Network 2014), although the Bajau recount their origins through a different tale. Their legend tells the story of a Malaysian princess who was washed away in a flash flood. Her grief-stricken father ordered his subjects to depart the kingdom, only to return once they’d found his daughter. They’ve been wandering ever since (Matador Network 2014).

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Incredibly, over the generations, the Bajau have adapted to their maritime environment, learning from an early age how to hold their breath for minutes at a time. They have even been commonly known to deliberately rupture their eardrums so that they can eventually dive without pain (Matador Network 2014). For the most part, they are sustained completely by the ocean. For centuries they lived on small, dilapidated boats, but in the recent decades controversial government groups have forced them to settle on land (James Morgan Film and Photography 2013). Reluctant to give up the ocean, many remain inseparable from the sea and have built their homes – fragile, wooden-stilted dwellings in the shallow bays on the waters edge (Matador Network 2014). To the Bajau, every reef, tide and current is thought of as a living entity; that the ocean is filled with spirits that govern their lives (Matador Network 2014).

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It is hard to believe that this group of people who have such a sacred regard for the ocean, play a detrimental role in the common practice of destructive fishing techniques amongst the coastal populations of the Coral Triangle (James Morgan Film and Photography 2013). Using homemade fertiliser bombs and potassium cyanide, they have decimated reefs but also claimed many lives and injuries within their community (Lost in Internet 2014).

The destruction is predominantly driven by the live fish trade – an industry with a global worth estimated at one billion US dollars. A devastating 50% of all imports come from Indonesia (James Morgan Film and Photography 2013). Reef-bombing is not isolated to the individuals in the Bajau community, it is a regional phenomenon (Aljazeera 2012). With a significant depletion of marine life, the Bajau have to some extent been forced to resort to these illegal methods of fishing in order to sustain their biological lifestyle. Nonetheless, it is truly saddening, for what was once a rarefied, untainted species of man, who for centuries nurtured their beautifully complex respect for the ocean, has been infected with the toxic nature of the modernized man.

77James Morgan 2011, People of the Coral Triangle, motion film, Vimeo, viewed 1 May 2015, <https://vimeo.com/17419531>.

Matador Network 2014, Last of the Sea Nomads, Johnny Langenheim, viewed 1 May 2015, <http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/last-sea-nomads/&gt;.

(James Morgan Film and Photography 2013), Bajau Laut: Last of the Sea Nomads, viewed 1 May 2015, < http://www.jamesmorgan.co.uk/photo/bajau-laut-sea-nomads/>.

Lost in Internet 2014, Bajau Laut: Last of the Sea Nomads, James Morgan, viewed 1 May 2015, <http://lostininternet.com/bajau-laut-last-of-the-sea-nomads-by-james-morgan/&gt;.

Aljazeera 2012, Poverty and Development: Indonesia’s Last Nomadic Sea Gypsies, viewed 1 May 2015, < http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/10/20121027184859926.html>.

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Matador Network 2014, Last of the Sea Nomads, Johnny Langenheim, viewed 1 May 2015, <http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/last-sea-nomads/&gt;.

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Blog B: Solar Panel Roadways: Challenging Global Energy Consumption

1.6 – This is the number of planet earths we need to provide resources and absorb our waste (The World Counts 2015). Currently, our civilisation consumes 15 Terawatts of power from a combination of energy sources (The Economist 2008). To give you an idea of just how much weight this carries, you should note that 1 Terawatt can power 10 billion 100-watt bulbs at the same time. But this isn’t just about the now. In 2030, global energy needs are predicted to be more than 50% higher than what they are today (International Energy Associations 2005). Energy sources are not infinite, and it seems while we go about our busy day-to-day lives, many of us forget to stop and think about the consequences of our takings, and how they will inevitably worsen the lives of the generations to come. Eventually we will strip our resources bare, they will run out – it’s not a matter of if, but when. So what are we doing to prepare for the day we drink our planet dry?

Inspiring technologies are emerging from the United States that replace the likes of roadways, parking lots and side walks with intelligent, micro-processing interlocking hexagonal solar units, or in other words – solar-powered roadways (Solar Roadways 2015). These units are produced with a specific glass material, designed and tested to meet all impact load and traction requirements. It’s creators, Scott and Julie Brusaw have ambitious visions for its future, proposing a technology that generates electricity which pays for itself.A D

Not only do the solar panels produce clean energy but they also have several innovative secondary design features. The panels use the energy they store to keep the surface temperature above freezing, eliminating the dangers of icy roads and snow for those who live in cold climates. Every panel has a series of LED lights that can be programmed to light up road lanes, pedestrian crossings, warning signs and parking configurations, which can be re-adjusted at any time, eliminating the need to re-paint road lines. They even let you choose your preferred sports-field configuration. The panels are pressure censored so they can detect when large debris such as branches or boulders have fallen onto the road, or if an animal is crossing they can warn drivers with LED texts to slow down for an obstruction. If the technology is damaged or malfunctions, it simply requires the individual panel to be replaced (Solar Roadways 2015).

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A solar technology that can power the future of the entire planet – it’s an ambitious vision that is a long way away from a concrete realty. But despite facing heavy criticism in regards to its potential for realistic application, smaller but similar initiatives around the world have rebutted such claims, proving that maybe its realisation isn’t as far off as many may think.

In 2014 the Netherlands introduced the world’s first solar bike lane – a 70 meter stretch of solar-powered roadway. The road is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells embedded into the concrete, and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass (Collective Evolution 2014). The panels generate approximately 30% less energy than those placed on rooftops, still, that is 30% more energy generated than the roads we use today.

The World Counts 2015, Current World Energy Consumption, viewed 30 April 2015, <http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/current_world_energy_consumption>.

The Economist 2008, A Survey of The future of Energy: The power and the glory, viewed 30 April 2015, <http://www.economist.com/node/11565685>.

International Energy Asociations 2005, World Energy Prospects and Challenges, viewed viewed 30 April 2015, <https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/birol.pdf>.

Solar Roadways 2015, Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways!, motion video, YouTube, viewed 30 April 2015, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTA3rnpgzU>.

Collective Evolution 2014, Netherlands is the First Country to Open a Solar Road for Public Use, viewed 30 April 2015, < http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/11/09/netherlands-is-the-first-country-to-open-solar-road-for-public/ >.

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Solar Roadways 2015, Introduction, viewed 30 April 2015, <http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml>.

Post C: A Case of Mistaken identity

Five years ago Edgar Myer knew close to nothing about Indonesia, and didn’t really think much of it. Being a young, keen anthropology student, he jumped at the opportunity to do some fieldwork there; unaware of the effect it would have on his future. He soon found himself completely fascinated with the culture; learning the language, returning home, and without hesitation, changing his degree to law.

Upon asking Myer as to what exactly it was that intrigued him about Indonesian culture, he quickly (and rightfully so) suggested I distinguish between Indonesian culture ‘as a nation’ (or perhaps more aptly a national project) and the many different indigenous cultures within Indonesia (2015, pers. comm., 30 April). Slightly taken aback by this comment, I took a moment to consider what I myself associate with Indonesian “culture”, coming up with a shameful generalization of the death penalty, asylum seekers and vacations to Bali. It is a frightful realisation to comprehend that many Australian citizens demean our neighbouring nation, which is so intricately intertwined with our political prosperities, down to a tropical holiday destination. Not only are these associations crude and unjust but they also highlight a serious flaw in the nature of Australia’s perception of a country so truly rich in cultural diversity.

In recent months, the media has bombarded us with the topical issue of Andrew Chan’s and Myuran Sukumaran’s execution sentence, painting a very blunt picture of the corrupt Indonesian political system. However, as E. Myer (2015, pers. comm., 30 April) points out, these events speak to Indonesia’s national culture (though perhaps more so its current political climate, though the two go hand in hand), but they don’t speak to the Acehnese, the Javanese, the Balinese, the Sikkanese, etc, per se, each of whom are Indonesian, but also quite different.

In 2010, the then president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, delivered a speech to Australian parliament addressing the strengthening relationship between the Indonesian and Australian people, but also drew upon the wavering misperceptions of the two national cultures (Parliament of Australia 2010).

Post C-Quote 1He also acknowledged the distorted views Indonesians have of Australia, highlighting that many of the people of Indonesia “still remain afflicted with Australiaphobia.” (Parliament of Australia 2010).

Post C-Quote 2According to E. Myer (2015, pers. comm., 30 April), it was most likely his intention to simply acknowledge that these misperceptions do exist (and continue to exist), as he probably sought to assuage these fears by going on to say that the reality is quite different. A more recent poll conducted by the Lowy Institute for International Policy found that of the 21 countries, Australia was the fourth most warmly regarded moving from a lukewarm 51° recorded in the Institute’s 2006 Indonesia Poll to a warm 62° (Lowy Institute for International Policy 2012).

Whilst these statistics indicate a fortifying relationship between the two nations, the divide is still very much in two. Indonesians have dramatically warmed towards Australia, but take a second to ask yourself, is 62° a number you can be proud of?

Parliament of Australia 2010, Address by the President of the Republic of Indonesia, viewed 30 March 2015, <http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F2010-03-10%2F0047%22&gt;.

Lowy Institute for International Policy 2012, Indonesia Poll 2012: Shattering Stereotypes: Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, viewed 30 March 2015, < http://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/indonesia-poll-2012-shattering-stereotypes-public-opinon-and-foreign-policy>.

The Interpreter 2010, SBY’s speech to parliament, viewed 30 March 2015, < http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2010/03/15/SBYs-speech-to-parliament.aspx>.

Post A: The Architectural Design of a Multifaceted Society

In a country so abundantly rich in cultural diversity it comes as no surprise that the architecture of Indonesia vastly reflects the cultural, historical and geographic influences that have shaped Indonesia as a whole. Invaders, colonisers, missionaries, merchants and traders had a profound effect on building styles and techniques, bringing with them all sorts of cultural influences that have shaped the way of Indonesian architectural design (Indonesian Architecture 2012). From India, China and the Middle East to countries in the West, the history of this small country is extremely multifaceted, but as we progress in this fast paced modern day world, one might question whether an authentic Indonesian architectural style still exists, and if so, how are we preserving its culturally intertwining age-old traditions?

In 2008, Rumah Asuh and Yori Antar, two local Angerang-based architects stumbled upon one of the few remote villages on the island of Flores where traditional Manguri houses can still be found. Five stories in height, the houses are built around a core structure of worok wood, supported by a bamboo framework held together by ropes (Preservation of the Mbaru Niang 2013). Shaped from its natural environment, the structure is designed to be renewed every few years using materials harvested from the surrounding forest.

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Upon their first visit, the architects discovered the houses were on a steep decline, some having collapsed, with the rest in a state of advanced decay. In an attempt to resurrect these historical treasures, the architects, along with a group of young design students, drew upon the local wisdom to discover that the ways of the indigenous cultures are just as effective as modern day building techniques, and can very well stand the test of time. The kind of knowledge gained from working on buildings that adapt with the climate was incomparable to the kind taught in a classroom, but it was also in directly connecting with the local people that the villagers themselves were able to drive the process, re-learning the forgotten skills of their ancestors.

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While these skills could only have been obtained through the passing down of generations, the democratised processes initiated by Rumah Asuh and Yori Antar, enabled collaboration between both modern and historical design context, to achieve a mutual goal of preserving a valuable piece of Indonesian identity. Not only do these incredible environmental structures instil the base requirements of a shelter, they are examples of a living culture (Design Boom 2013). They are now an architecture that inherits the power of family and humanistic kinship – a reassurance that all is not lost for the future preservation of traditional Indonesian architectural culture.

Indonesian Architecture 2012, Architecture of Indonesia, viewed 29 April 2015, http://indonesianarchitecture.weebly.com/blog/architecture-of-indonesia>.

Preservation of the Mbaru Niang 2013, motion film, Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Indonesia

Design Boom 2013, Yori Antar: Mbaru Niang Preservation, Flores island, Indonesia, viewed 29 April 2015, < http://www.designboom.com/architecture/yori-antar-mbaru-niang-preservation-flores-island-indonesia/>.

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Preservation of the Mbaru Niang, 2008, Design Boom, viewed 29 April 2015 < http://www.designboom.com/architecture/yori-antar-mbaru-niang-preservation-flores-island-indonesia/>.