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Entries in awareness (4)


Oakland couple improves schools in Bali


Balifornian Tours and Travel Blog works with several organizations to enhance educational opportunities and to give back to the island, remain sustainable, lower our impact, and build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.  Projects like Bali's Green School and The Colbert's foundation are emmensely important to us and we do all we can to help.  Please contact us to learn more and see how we can incorporate charitable elements into your own tour.  Most of our tours contain elements of ecotourism and charity.  We encourage you to bring donations of clothing, children's toys, tools, etc. to donate to impoverished villages in Bali and throughout Indonesia.  We want your tour to be as rewarding and memorable as possible. ~ ed.
By Dave Newhouse
Oakland Tribune columnist From The Mercury News

Dennis and Nancy Colbert, of Oakland, are at that stage of their lives -- late 60s, three children, seven grandchildren -- when they're expected to retire, decelerate to a much slower speed, and go softly and quietly into old age.  Not the Colberts, who refuse to act like other seniors. Preferring an accelerator-to-the-floorboard state of mind, they're actively making a huge difference 10,000 miles from home on the Indonesian island of Bali.  They've dedicated themselves to improving the educational quality of Bali schoolchildren, first- through sixth-grades. The Colberts renovated four elementary schools in poor rural areas, and added learning centers to all four schools through their nonprofit Balinese Children's Education Foundation.

What a positive influence the Colberts have been in Bali, not only improving dilapidated school buildings, but also impacting 500 students, who attend school until noon, then voluntarily return in the afternoon for two hours of reading, learning English, and playing educational games.  The couple's fascination with Bali didn't begin with the musical "South Pacific." Nancy's sister, Christina Welty, had retired in Bali. The Colberts visited her there in 2000 and found they couldn't stay away.

"The beauty is just inspiring," said Nancy.  "And the people are very warm and gracious," added Dennis.

Bali's population is 2.5 million -- 90 percent Hindu, 6 to 7

percent Muslim. The island is 90 miles by 60 miles, mostly rice paddies. A Bali night club bombing in 2002 killed 171 and injured 274. But the Colberts insist the island is peaceful.

Dennis was shocked upon first seeing the neglected schools. Seeking something to do as a retired business executive, he found it in Bali. The schools needed extensive repairs, and they needed books. The Colberts came up with the money to buy 2,000 books, while also setting up libraries. And through their foundation, they hired six teachers.

"Their (school) curriculum is totally dictated by the government," said Nancy, a former schoolteacher who now advises college students stateside. "They teach to the test."  "A lot of teaching by rote," noted Dennis.  Thus critical thinking isn't emphasized.  And so the Colberts decided upon learning centers.  "We were very considerate," Dennis said. "Here we are from the United States, knowing this was their culture. So we asked how could we help. The Balinese were receptive."  Bali adults, mostly parents of schoolchildren, filled in holes in classroom floors, laid tile, patched walls, painted and replaced broken windows. Suddenly, going to school was exciting.

The Colberts visit Bali three times a year, staying three, four weeks each trip. When they leave Bali, the students bow, take the Colberts' hands, and put their foreheads against their hands -- an ultimate show of Balinese respect that gets the couple teary-eyed just talking about that emotional scene.

"The greatest thrill is that we're helping these children by adding a little bit to their education," said Dennis, "and by our relationship with the children."  "One of the satisfactions is to find something that we truly love at this point of our lives," said Nancy. "I can't imagine anything that would bring us more pleasure."  The Colberts, who've been married 46 years, wanted to join the Peace Corps as newlyweds. But it didn't work out. Now, in a sense, it's finally happened.  "We've enjoyed the fact that we can be on the ground, working," Dennis said. "And we're thinking of setting up some more libraries at other schools."

The Colberts funded most of the early schoolhouse repairs. Then came their foundation -- they're the only board members. Their website is, and all donations are tax deductible.  "Our goal was not to teach the Balinese children English, but to get them to appreciate and enjoy reading," said Dennis. "Now the children want to take books home at night to read."  Two senior citizens, changing the world.


NYT article about Bali's wonderful Green School

Balifornian Tours and Travel Blog works with several organizations to give back to the island, remain sustainable, lower our impact and build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.  Projects like Bali's Green School are emmensely important to us and we do what we can to help. Please contact us to learn more and see how we can incorporate this into your own tour.  Most of our tours contain elements of ecotourism and charity.  We encourage you to bring donations of clothing, children's toys, tools, etc to donate to impoverished villages in Bali and throughout Indonesia.  We want your tour to be as rewarding and memorable as possible.
Green Column

Bali School Makes Sustainability a Way of Life

SIBANG KAJA, BALI — Half a world away from Cancún, Mexico, and the international climate change talks that took place there last month, a school here in Indonesia is staging its own attempt to save the planet.


A blog about energy and the environment.

It is small-scale and literally grassroots — and possibly in some respects more effective than the tortuous efforts of politicians to agree on how to stop global warming.  In the midst of the lush, steaming jungle of Bali, along a pitted road, past scattered chickens and singing cicadas, Green School has two dozen buildings made of giant bamboo poles. There are no walls, and there is no air-conditioning. Just gracefully arched roofs, concrete floors and bamboo furniture. There is a big, grassy playground, complete with goalposts made — yes — of bamboo; a bamboo bridge across a rock-strewn river; vegetable patches; and a mud-wrestling pit.  But there is also a computer lab, a well-stocked library and an array of courses drawn from an internationally recognized curriculum and taught in English.

More than 200 children from 40 countries, including Indonesia, are learning math here, as well as grammar, science, business studies, drama and Bahasa Indonesia, the official language spoken in this country of 240 million. The students, whose levels range from kindergarten to 10th grade and who represent 40 nationalities, are also learning to grow and thresh rice and how to make ceramics and paper from materials found on the school site. They get dirt under their fingernails and mud between their toes. Visitors are advised to wear comfortable shoes. High heels are not recommended.  If all this sounds a little bit hippie and idealistic, that is because it is. A little.

But then, Green School, the brainchild of John Hardy and his wife, Cynthia, is also realistic and practical, designed to give children not just a sense of how to live sustainably, but also to leave them ultimately with the skills to enter academic institutions anywhere in the world.

“We want to create future green leaders — we need green leaders,” said a sarong-clad Mr. Hardy, picking his way along a dirt path last month. “We want to teach kids that the world is not indestructible.”

Mr. Hardy himself — sarong notwithstanding — is no mere dropout, tree-hugging beach bum. True, he says, he “ran away” from his home in Canada in 1975, to go to Bali. But he is also an entrepreneur, and the upmarket jewelry business he and his wife built over the years was worth enough, by the time they sold it in 2007, to allow the Hardys to set up the Green School.  The original idea had been to retire quietly. But then Mr. Hardy saw “An Inconvenient Truth,” the 2006 documentary about the campaign by Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, to educate people about climate change.  “Al Gore ruined my life,” Mr. Hardy, who is now 61, likes to say.  The movie prompted him to scrap plans for a quiet life and to try to do his part to change the way young people — and ultimately society as a whole — behave toward their environment.

Environment-studies courses and nature excursions have, of course, long been popular in U.S. and European schools. But Green School, Mr. Hardy and its teachers believe, is unique in that it completely immerses children in a world of sustainable practices throughout the school day — with the nonflush compost toilets, the (easily bearable) lack of air-conditioning and the fact that virtually everything in the school is created from bamboo, rather than steel, glass and concrete.

“There are lots of schools that have elements of ‘green’ teaching, but I don’t think that anyone has been ambitious or foolhardy enough to try anything on this scale before,” said Ben Macrory, a New Yorker who moved to Bali in 2008 to take on the job of Green School’s head of admissions and whose 4-year-old daughter, Maggie, attends the school. “Every experience the children have here is about how to live with only a minimal impact on the environment.”  Yes, there are trade-offs. Schooling is only available from nursery school through 10th grade, with plans to extend teaching for the remaining two years by 2012. Also, students have a more limited choice of languages or other standard courses than might be available at Western schools or other international schools on the island of Bali.  But that has not prevented the appeal of Green School, which is in its third year, from growing.

Many of the students have come from other schools in Bali, and an increasing number come from families who have moved to Bali recently — often in large part because they want to send their children here.

“The atmosphere is magical,” said Barbara Friedrichsen-Mehta, who visited the school with her husband, Rajesh, and their daughters Lena and Vinya last month. The family is considering moving to Bali, once their institute for innovative music has been established in Singapore.  “We’ve always missed the educational vision in most of the international schools in the many places we’ve lived, and done a lot of home schooling for that reason,” Ms. Friedrichsen-Mehta said. “But this place is creative, innovative and multicultural. And the girls really, really liked it.”

The mystique of Bali — its arts, ubiquitous temples and gentle climate — helps to draw families to this place. And the slightly offbeat profile of expatriates on the island means parents are open to novel concepts like a school without walls that grows its own vegetables.  “No boring people move to Bali,” Mr. Macrory said. The island attracts entrepreneurs, artists, healers and some staff members from nongovernmental organizations, rather than the financial and corporate communities that have grown in Hong Kong and Singapore, Frankfurt and New York.  Still, Mr. Hardy says he is convinced that the Green School concept can work elsewhere, too, and he hopes the school will be the blueprint — or “greenprint” — for more. “Not just one,” he said — “50!”  Will Green School be a game-changer in the global fight to combat climate change? Who knows?  But for now, 200 children are visibly enjoying the school. And perhaps the school and its future spinoffs will someday yield another Al Gore to shake up someone’s retirement plans.

Contact Balifornian Tours and Travel Blog to learn more


Community-Based Eco Tourism in Indonesia

 The folowing is from WWF for a living planet.
About Borneo Ecotourism
Kayan Mentarang National Park
Community Interests Meet Environmental Responsibility
Ecotourism can be a sustainable enterprise. But to deliver on its promises, conditions must be created for communities to control the intensity of tourism, retain autonomy, and develop tourism in accordance with their own vision of the future and the needs of the environment.

Two aspects need to be addressed to develop ecotourism as a successful conservation-based enterprise. On the one hand, it has to be equitable and benefit local people . On the other hand, the enterprise has to be economically sound, generate revenues and be professionally operated. For this reason, it is important to develop appropriate marketing strategies and to engage in an open dialogue with the private sector.

Developing Community-Based Ecotourism
For a successful ecoutourism enterprise we need to pay attention , to people and nature, to capacity building, to partnerships and then support these efforts through adequate  practices and policies. With this mind, in developing community-based ecotourism we need to: adopt conservation principles, regulate the number of visitors, and closely monitor impacts
Ensure equitable benefits for local communities
Encourage fair partnerships between local communities/entrepreneurs and tour operators
Create “special transboundary ecotourism zones” where tourists are allowed to cross border for tourism purposes in areas like HoB with high potential for ecotourism.

WWF, a Natural Role in supporting Ecotourism
At several field sites, WWF is engaged in helping local communities  develop, promote and market community-based initiatives by :

Building capacity of communities to lead small ecotourism enterprises
Encouraging communities to enter  fair partnerships with private sector
Help strengthen environmental awareness
Support conservation efforts
Apply and monitor “Green and Fair” criteria in ecotourism development as part of a strategy to bring added value to this enterprise based inside or in the surrounding of conservation areas.
Help promote  Green & Fair products  like local crafts, NTFP, and local agricultural products to tourists and a wider market. .


Can Ecotourism save the orangutans? Indonesia wants to do the right thing

Ecotourism: can it save the orangutans?


RACHEL DREWRY investigates ecotourism as a conservation tool. Inside Indonesia

'We were in the rainforest for fifteen hours and spent eleven of those waist-deep in a swamp looking at orangutans'. Trekking through the swamps and rainforests of Kalimantan may not be everyone's idea of a fun and relaxing holiday, but to an increasing number of ecotourists there is no better way to spend a couple of weeks.

After speaking with a group of ecotourists, recently returned from Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Kalimantan, their motivations for going became clear. They went in search of adventure, excitement and, most of all, orangutans. Daily treks through Tanjung Puting, in search of wild orangutans, and active involvement in data collection and habitat surveys, turned the ecotourists into willing volunteers.


The treks were long and arduous, but the group remained determined. Some did not even get to see any wild orangutans, yet still they trekked for hours in search of them. Others saw many. Margaret, an ecotourist from Western Australia, said that her group found one orangutan with an infant within an hour of going into the jungle. 'We were very lucky. We stood for four hours under two trees, watching them eating the fruit. It was great to see. We also took very detailed notes on the habitat and the orangutan', she said.

The group also came into close contact with the rehabilitant orangutans at the Ministry of Forestry's (MoF) feeding station. Although not officially permitted, holding the rehabilitant orangutans was the highlight of the trip for most of the ecotourists.

Australian ecotourist Terry likened the experience to nursing a human child. 'We ended up carrying the babies around. They just run up and hug you and want to be carried', he said. For Judith the experience was more profound: 'I cried when I got to hold them. To me it was such an honour to accomplish one of my goals.'


Canadian anthropologist Dr Birute Galdikas oversees the non-government Tanjung Puting tours. For her, ecotourism is not just about cuddling baby orangutans. She ensures there is a strong emphasis on raising awareness about the plight of the critically endangered orangutan. She does this by involving the ecotourists in the collection of data, and by arranging lectures and trips to see local Dayak villages and areas of deforestation. This last is a sobering lesson.

The deforestation they saw astounded all the ecotourists. 'Oh, the destruction! We went up to the gold mine, just outside Tanjung Puting, and that was so important to see because there was so much destruction there', said Australian ecotourist, Ros. 'The river, the logging, the records we kept, all those things were reinforcing all the time about the habitat destruction and the invasion of western civilisation'.

Others began to see the futility of efforts to save the orangutan if their habitat was continuing to be destroyed. 'People are working to rehabilitate them, but the government and companies are chopping the trees down', said Gordon, another ecotourist from Western Australia. Gordon was involved in an orangutan rescue during his stay at Tanjung Puting. 'It's illegal to log in the forest where we were, but you see the rafts full of logs every day. Yes, they all want to save the orangutan', Gordon went on, 'but even as we left in January the papers were saying Indonesia is going to increase its export of timber to help its balance of payments. We went two thirds of the way across Kalimantan to save four orangutans and put them back into Camp Leakey. But at the other end they are chopping the trees down'.

Pay for itself

Ecotourists' desire to see orangutans in the wild have not been lost on the Indonesian government. Nor has the possibility that ecotourism offers as a conservation tool that, theoretically at least, pays for itself. Andi Mappisammeng, Director General of Tourism, says: 'Ecotourism can be a great ally of conservation efforts. It can encourage love of nature as more people seek solitude with nature. It can also provide a self-financing mechanism for the conservation of the natural heritage through proper management and ecological control.'

Echoing such sentiments, the government has resolved to establish more orangutan ecotourism centres in Kalimantan. At present, Tanjung Puting is the only orangutan centre open to ecotourism. But there are plans for ecotourism centres at Sungai Wain and at Kutai National Park in East Kalimantan.

The dilemma for ecotourism planners in Indonesia, as anywhere, is to ensure that they achieve a balance of economic, social and ecological control. To date, however, a lack of political will and commitment to achieving genuine sustainable development has flawed the government's conservation record.


Economic and political concerns take priority over ecological ones. How strong really is the government's desire to establish an enterprise that is truly sustainable? Indonesia's forests are among the nation's most valuable resources, second only to oil. Business people both overseas and within Indonesia constantly lobby the government to win the right to exploit them.

Some of the wealthiest people in the country have lucrative shares in logging concessions and timber processing companies. Most are closely connected with President Suharto - his children Siti Hardiyanti, Sigit Harjojudanto and Bambang Trihatmodjo, and other well-connected people such as Bob Hasan, Liem Sioe Liong, Sukanto Tanoto and Prajogo Pangestu.

The vast wealth and power that comes from this industry results in huge rewards offered in return for political favours that see certain companies and/ or individuals granted resource concessions over other bidders.


If we examine the situation of protected areas in Kalimantan we will see how economic and political interests are favoured over conservation values. The total land area of Kalimantan is 536,150 km2. Of this, 20,338 km2 of forest has been set aside for protection. In reality, however, logging and other forms of human encroachment continue to threaten the future of many of Kalimantan's protected areas.

For example, in South Kalimantan 60% of conservation forests and 35% of protected forests have been grossly deforested. A case in point comes from the Pleihari Wildlife Reserve, which the MoF has converted into production forest for logging. This was the last remaining habitat of the barking deer.

Another example comes from the Bukit Baka/ Bukit Raya National Park. This ecologically rich stretch of rainforest was split down the middle by the logging company Kurina Kapaus Plywood. Then-Minister of Forestry, Hasrul Harahap, granted the logging concession.

Examples can also be found in the proposed and established orangutan ecotourism areas. In and around the 3,040 km2 of Tanjung Puting National Park, mining and logging companies and human settlements have destroyed many forested areas. In fact, although the official Tanjung Puting guidebook states that it remains substantially wild and natural, the Directorate General for Forest Protection and Nature (Phpa) has argued that pressures from transmigrants and oil, gas and gold mines on the park's border have caused extensive deforestation. In 1989 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Iucn) listed Tanjung Puting National Park as a protected region in danger.


At Kutai National Park the deforestation is just as alarming. Although Kutai is only 200,000 hectares it is regarded as one of the most important parks in the world, particularly in terms of its biodiversity value. Kutai is under extreme pressure, however. Mining and logging interests are literally camped at its doorstep, and local and migrant communities continue to clear vast areas of forest for crops. Approximately 100,000 hectares of the park has already been deforested.

The Sungai Wain nature reserve in East Kalimantan, the 11,000 ha release site for rehabilitated orangutans from the MoF/PHPA Wanariset Reintroduction Centre, has been subject to similar pressures. The oil company Vico has cut many lines through the forest for seismic probes and has cleared a large area for use as a helipad. Communities in the surrounding areas also use the forest regularly for their subsistence needs.

Negotiations are currently in place to have Sungai Wain upgraded to national park status so that orangutan ecotourism may begin. As we have seen, however, national park status will not automatically ensure forest protection.


These examples highlight another major obstacle to the success of sustainable orangutan ecotourism. That is, the use of protected areas by local communities. Obviously, to ensure forest conservation, limits need to be placed upon all forms of human access and use of these areas. However, it is the manner in which governments enforce this forest protection that will ultimately determine the success of conservation efforts.

The traditional solution to ecological protection in Indonesia has been to enclose specified areas, in the hope of limiting human activity. Ironically, if the government were to succeed in adequately protecting the forest in this way, the results would be devastating for human communities dependent upon the forest for their survival.

More often, however, the government is not successful in completely enclosing protected areas. As a result, environmental protection is limited, because disenfranchised groups continue to use forest resources illegally and unsustainably. This has certainly been the case since the enclosure of Tanjung Puting, Sungai Wain and Kutai National Park.

Whether the forest exploitation is to meet subsistence needs or for short-term commercial gains, these illegal uses further deplete the habitat of the orangutan while, in the long term, adding to human poverty as forest resources decline.


Incentives for local communities to protect and conserve the environment are vital if the Indonesian government is serious about the promotion of orangutan ecotourism. Genuine socio-economic incentives, control over the direction and size of the ecotourism development and control over the possible impacts would empower local communities making them willing actors rather than reluctant subjects.

Planned correctly, ecotourism can help conserve the orangutan. This outcome depends on appropriate levels of management, a supportive political climate and commitment to achieving conservation and social participation at the local level.

Balifornian Tours works with several organizations to give back to the island, remain sustainable, lower our impact and build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.  Please contact us to learn more and see how we can incorporate this into your own tour.  Most of our tours contain elements of ecotourism and charity.  We encourage you to bring donations of clothing, children's toys, tools, etc to donate to impoverished villages in Bali and throughout Indonesia.  We want your tour to be as rewarding and memorable as possible.