My last Act of Leadership was a week ago when I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Training of Trainer for Conservation and Climate Change designed for Islamic Boarding School Network around Ujung Kulon area in West Java. This event, organized by the Islamic Study Center of Universitas Nasional and the WWF Indonesia, might be my most extraordinary activity to date
I consider it extraordinary since the audience consists of a number of Kiai (Head of Islamic Boarding School), Ustadz (Islamic Teachers) and Santri (Islamic students). Most of them are male, with only one ustadzah (female Islamic Teachers) among them. Islamic teaching communities are usually dominated by male teachers; hence, being a female climate leader in this group gave me an uneasy feeling at first.
I was unusually nervous, but Amanda Katili Niode the Manager of Climate Reality Project Indonesia, kept encouraging me to go and said that I am qualified to be a keynote speaker. Well, she was right. My knowledge in Islamic teaching may be insignificant compared to theirs, but I was not there to speak about religion. I was there to give a 90-minute presentation on the scientific background of climate change issues and to discuss a brief plan on how to deal with this to safe our planet from burning.
Indonesia Slide Deck
On the first training day I began with the Indonesia slide deck that Mr. Al Gore showed in November last year at the 24 Hours of Reality – The Road Forward broadcast. Furthermore, I displayed some data and charts on how CO2 and all the green house gases have caused global warming, leading to climate change.
I was really worried that the participants would fall sleep during my session, since I didn’t have a chance to translate Mr Gore’s slide into Bahasa Indonesia. Thankfully they were all attentive since I also screened four relevant and interesting video clips.
I ended my session with two dozen slides arranged earlier, to show them my best actions on the ground on how to deal with the climate crisis as a mother, teacher and citizen of this earth.
Climate change has so many problems but we have actions for solutions such as save energy, practice reduce-reuse-recycle, bike to school, use public transportation, or choose a plastic diet. Those options usually become my cool solutions offered during an Act of Leadership.
Yet, the audience on this training is totally different than the ones I am used to interact with. They are simple people from local villages around Ujung Kulon. They live in a very modest way without big carbon footprint. They neither use much fossil fuel, nor electricity. They simply created Islamic teaching schools, built boarding houses, and even provided food for the students, without even taking a single cent from parents.
I decided to offer the audience two coolest solutions that I could think of at that particular moment. First, plant trees including mangroves, and second, initiate urban farming, and seaweed farming, to secure their food supply. I believe that empowering this community economically will increase its ability in preserving nature.
During the discussion audience asked significant questions, mostly about goverment development policies that may decrease their land and what they are supposed to do. They also talked about how wild boars come to their village and ruin things.
After my session, we informally talked about Quranic verses on nature and human responsibilities. I enjoyed such conversation as it made me realize how the Islamic teaching has actually taught us how to balance life and preserve nature.
On the second training day, I helped climate leader Fachruddin Mangunjaya in facilitating discussions and helping participants write their commitments in conserving and preserving nature, as well as in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Participants then presented their plan for all to comment. At this point I just noticed that some in the audience did not even speak Bahasa Indonesia, because they presented their plan in Sundanese, a local language.
As a climate leader and an educator, my last Act of Leadership was really a great experience, especially knowing that in some part of Java Island, Indonesia’s most populated island, located not too far from Jakarta there are still so many things to do. Not only in balancing and conserving nature, but also in empowering communities so that they can live a better life, and in turn help us create a better tomorrow for the whole planet.
Text and Images: Arifah Handayani, highschool teacher and climate leader.