Satoyama principle in 2012 ProSPER.Net Young Researchers’ School
by Devon Dublin, Hokkaido University
My PhD research is based on the Satoyama principle in the management of nature reserves and how it can be applied globally as a tool for achieving economic benefit, maintaining biodiversity and building sustainable societies in vulnerable areas of the world. What struck me initially in the field trips in Yogyakarta is the fact that people are basically the same all over the world. We generally grow attached to the area around us, our family, the infrastructure, nature, etc. and as a result it is difficult to part with these things even in the face of natural disasters and utter destruction. It is on this basis that it becomes difficult for persons unattached to a particular area to fathom the reality of persons that have lost family members, homes and their prized possessions to still refuse to move away from the possibility of imminent danger once again. As the saying goes “Who feels it knows it”, you have got to be in their position to understand their plight and subsequent reaction to it.
It is on this basis that the need to build resilient societies arises. It is not possible to relocate every society that has confronted some natural disaster and even if it were possible they will not all agree with that proposal. If one looks at the Satoyama principle historically, one would appreciate that the society in question learned to overcome their difficulties and even take advantage of what may seem to be negative situations that present themselves and convert same into a meaningful resource or tool. Certainly, if one were to travel around the world and have a look at the indigenous communities in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas, there are many examples of this phenomenon which would be obvious to even the untrained eye. I saw this reality in Yogyakarta.
The inhabitants of the Gondang Shelter demonstrated this fact quite notably by having a desire to chart a sustainable future but at the same time having a preoccupation with their original land. Had it not been for the benefit of having a new home at no cost to them, villagers may not have accepted their relocation. Attachment to land is a very important thing and it is from there that our lives are sustained since we cannot live without the ecosystem services that the environment around us provides. Serut Village and Kasongan Village also share similar characteristics. The unity of the people for obtaining economic independence and to protect the environment that provides them with an income is high on their agenda.
One of the features of Satoyama is that waste generated should be dealt with in an eco-friendly and sustainable way. It is on this aspect that Sukunan Village takes precedence. It is extremely commendable, the progress that they have made and in such creative and unique ways as well. They certainly are an excellent example for those who wish to avoid polluting their environment and giving back to nature.
However, there is a particular challenge that we are faced with in the modern world. We have moved away from the traditional way of life where we were in direct contact with nature and most of what Satoyama stands for we have lost. Therefore, getting back to where we were is an active process that requires dedication, resources and investment. There are evidences of this type of movement such as the greening of the cities, eco-parks etc. It is on this aspect that what Bumi Langit Institute seeks to accomplish becomes important.
This institute is built on a religious conviction and converted into a practical aspect. My thesis is premised on this type of initiative, where we can build on social, religious, cultural, traditional and even political foundations to establish the cohesiveness between humans and nature. The reason for using foundations that exists already is based on that fact that elements of Satoyama exists in some way or the other though on various scales, and using these to build on allows for an easy entry point to the community by firs of all pointing out the good points and practices that are part of their lives. Many times policy makers try to convince societies to adopt something new without giving them credit for their efforts and achievements thus far and as a result are inefficient. The Bumi Langit Institute has intelligently done the opposite and will succeed because in a predominantly Islamic society, if one asks the question “Do you want to be a good Muslim?” then the answer will be an overwhelming yes. Then take care of the environment because it is a divine instruction becomes the ideal entry point to instill good human-nature interaction.
My desire is to successfully promote this principle in other parts of the world as has been done in other cases before. I am indeed encouraged by persons who in their own little ways are making a difference in their little part of the world. These success stories should always be highlighted and shared with other like-minded individuals and similar communities so that the world can be a better place.
We have made many mistakes in the past but it is not too late to make a difference. The experience in Yogyakarta has given me motivation and assurance that my intended research is necessary in this ever changing world and that the world can be a better place if we all make an effort in our own little way.