Saving the Environment, One Child at a Time

Olga Amato Jakarta Globe 4 Feb 13;

When it comes to solving Jakarta’s ever-present flooding problems, Arnold Abdi, a waste management entrepreneur and die-hard environmentalist, doesn’t even want to talk about the government.

“Children are a very important and powerful agent of change,” says Arnold, who took time out of his busy schedule to teach the children of Penjaringan, one of the worst-hit areas during the recent floods, about waste management and caring for the environment. “If we talk to young adults, people in their 20s, it starts to be more difficult. The main focus has to be to train the kids.”

Arnold is the founder of Armada Kemasan Nusantara, a burgeoning paper recycling company. He believes that education, interaction and basic waste management practices are the keys to change.

“Most of the people in the dirtiest areas of Jakarta don’t even know what trash cans are,” says the 37-year-old Trisakti University graduate. “[In] dirty areas, some of which are right in the middle of what some people might call elite areas, like Kemang or Buncit, every inch of the ground is full of trash, with children playing around in it. The people cook next to it. How can we expect their areas to change if there is nobody to teach them how to change? The government doesn’t teach people about environmental issues, provide trash cans or explain to them how to deal with everyday waste.”

To stop environmental degradation in Jakarta, Arnold says that teaching children is key.

“In a generation of high technology, where children deal more and more with iPads and indoor games, there is the danger that [that will mean] less interaction with nature,” he says.

“Because of this, there is a risk that children might no longer understand how valuable our environment is. So it’s crucial for us adults to keep educating them on how important it is to care for and save our environment.”

According to city data, Jakarta produces up to 6,000 tons of waste daily, and that’s not including the trash we see floating in the rivers.

Nova Hapsari Yudhopurwono, who helped recruit Arnold to come and speak to the children of Penjaringan, also believes in the importance of focusing on children to prevent floods and protect the environment.

“It’s important to have more environmentalists like Arnold willing to spend time with the kids,” says Nova, who is head of corporate social responsibility for the Blue Bird Group. “The more people like him there are around us, the more effectively we can teach the children about their environment. One-off projects and events are not enough to change their perspective. Blue Bird is hoping to organize more talks like this where we can spend the day cleaning up the neighborhood and teaching the importance of putting trash in the right place.”

Renie Elvina Tiurma, who heads the KDM Green Project run by Kampus Diakonia Modern, agrees that a one-off lesson about the environment is not enough to change everyday habits.

“One of our efforts in spreading the word about waste management is by giving presentations and campaigning to schools around Jakarta,” Renie says. “What’s fundamental is the participation and awareness of the kids, not only of the teachers, so they can put into practice what they have learned starting from their schools. It’s so important to be able to recycle properly, as around 48 percent of our household waste can be recycled and 40 percent can be turned into compost.”

Meanwhile, Hendra Aquan, the director of Transformasi Hijau, a grassroots community based in Bendungan Hilir, is helping the environment in another way.

Transformasi Hijau teaches the next generation about ecology and biodiversity by promoting the preservation of animal habitats found here in Jakarta.

“Trash is one of the elements that damages the ecosystem the most,” says Hendra, who routinely travels to the Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve on the fringes of North Jakarta. “We’re at the moment focusing on two already endangered species of bird which might have been damaged by the flood that happened recently.

Just next to a river full of trash in Manggarai, a neighborhood of houses was completely submerged during the recent floods, forcing people to temporarily evacuate their homes. One of them was 12-year-old Delfiani, who lives there with her parents and a younger sibling.

“We lost many things at home, including my school uniform,” Delfiani says. “During the flood, we saw all the trash in the river coming up and going inside our houses. In school we learn that we shouldn’t throw trash on the street or in the river, so at our home we make an effort to throw our waste in trash cans.

“But still, our parents end up throwing the contents of the trash cans into the river, because they don’t know where else to throw it.”

Saving the Environment, One Child at a Time

Armada Kemasan Nusantara Tel. 021 2870 7748 E-mail:

KDM Green Project Tel. 021 844 3545/6E-mail:

Transformasi Hijau Tel. 0815 798 8053E-mail:

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