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Geothermal Projects Don't Match Balinese Culture

Respected Indonesian Elder Statesman, Emil Salim, Insists Technology Should Always Take a Back Seat to Local Culture and Tradition.

(10/9/2010) In the face of calls to re-examine the long-stalled geothermal project in Bedugul, Bali, the much respected senior Indonesian environmentalist and former national minister for the environment, Dr. Emil Salim, told the Bali Post that geothermal projects are considered inappropriate to Balinese tradition and culture.

The Bedugul geothermal project was halted five years ago following public protests and objections from the Bali House of Representatives (DPRD-Bali).

Said Dr. Salim while attending a conference in Bali on Sustainable technology development at Bali's Udayana University on Thursday, October 7, 2010, "if a specific technology is inappropriate, just refuse it."

The world-respected economist and environmentalist who serves as an advisor to the United Nations said he did not accept the view that traditional societies and cultures must learn to adapt to the demands of technology. He insists that the opposite is, in fact, the case. Asking, shouldn't technology learn to conform with culture and tradition? Adding: "Why must local culture bend to technology? Use your heads, man!"

Seeking to be diplomatic, Dr. Salim told the conference that should the geothermal project go ahead in Bali, this must be done in conformance with the demands of local culture and tradition. He said that technology represents the fruits of an intellectual process, while local culture comes from the very heart and soul of the people. Salim asked: "Can technology's intellectuality be made to conform with the contents of the soul? If it's not appropriate, why force the issue? Is there another technology that be implemented?"

The former minister who held a number of cabinet portfolios over several decades, pointed to the alternative energy forms of wind and sunlight for Bali, providing these can be introduced without destroying Bali's environment and local culture.

Salim insists that new technologies can be introduced in Bali. But those technologies must be environmentally friendly. In this context, Bali's leaders are obliged to develop Bali without copying the mistakes of developed nations. He pointed to the Balinese commitment to the concept of Tri Hita Karana which mandates a balance always be maintained between man, God and nature.