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Climate Crisis Protests

A version of this post originally published at Tempo.co on June 27, 2019. Sherry Arnstein (1969) stated that a protest is the most radical form of public participation in the public decision-making process. What about the current climate crisis; is it sufficient justification? Are Indonesians aware of the fact that climate change increases the risks of droughts, disasters, floods and poverty? Do efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions hold any significant value in their daily lives?

Observing climate crisis protests in other countries could provide us with interesting perspectives. In 2018, Extinction Rebellion was initiated in England. It was a non-violent socio-political movement to protest the climate crisis, mass extinction and the ecological destruction that disrupts the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. This movement used protests to urge for government transparency and policies against climate crisis. This movement characteristically embodies civil disobedience.

At an Extinction Rebellion protest in April 2019, for example, a 62-year-old retired doctor stuck herself to a train. “What else can I do? I want to speak for future generations, for our children. For the generation that will lose their lands and struggle for food.” The 7 to 12-year-old protestors lying down on the floor of the dinosaur museum in Glasgow, England, said “We don’t want to go extinct like the dinosaurs.”

On May 1, 2019, the English parliament declared a climate crisis and called on the government to take drastic measures to protect the environment for future generations. It was the world’s first-ever climate crisis declaration from a national institution. This was accomplished through protests, a radical form of public participation in shaping public policies.

Indonesia has made it clear that it is looking to fight climate crisis to cut emissions through Law No. 16 of 2016 concerning Paris Agreement. A public figure that genuinely cares about climate crisis would rally their supporters to express their concern for the cause in various ways, such as protests. They could raise the issue of climate crisis to stress the serious threat that climate change poses to society.

Unfortunately, educating the public on climate crisis is not an easy task. What should the protestors write on their banners? What should they shout? Will messages such as “29% emission cut by 2030” or “Stop the use of fossil fuels” personally resonate with them?

How do you make the climate crisis personal? Perhaps the impact of climate crisis on daily costs would hit closer to home. For example, the residents of Penjaringan pay Rp6,000 per day for 100 liters of clean water, far more expensive than the PDAM tariff of Rp1,050 per day for 1,000 liters. The challenge is to raise awareness on the relationship between climate crisis and water scarcity, as well as the high prices that must be borne by the urban poor.

There doesn’t seem to be any personal stake on climate crisis in Indonesia. For instance, a global student climate strike took place on March 14, 2019. Hundreds of thousands of students in more than 100 countries walked out of their classrooms to demand government’s action on climate crisis. Here, only a handful of students were seen in front of the Jakarta City Hall.

If protest is not the right modality in the era of information technology, how can we create a sense of urgency about climate crisis on an individual level?

There are at least 3 things to consider. First, the government must be more steadfast in leading climate crisis mitigation and clearly demonstrates such leadership to the people, with or without the pressure of demonstration.

Second, the grand issue of climate crisis must be simplified into tangible impacts on the daily lives of the people. The roles of government, non-governmental organizations, campuses and the private sector are key to translating, explaining and promoting climate crisis to the public.

Third, the culture of transparency that has begun to bloom with the enactment of the Law on Public Information Transparency must be reinforced, especially on information that would help the public better understand climate crisis and its impact in their daily lives. For example, we can show the connection between data on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by coal-based power plants and data on BPJS Health claims relating to urban air pollution to help people gain better understanding of the reality of climate crisis in their daily lives.

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