Introducing Tri Hita Karana, Bali's Bold New Model for Sustainable Development: What the Media Missed In ItS APEC Coverage
By Danny Schechter
Bali, Indonesia: When you arrive in Bali, the most diverse and popular of Indonesia's 7000 plus Islands, you are immediately confronted with a just constructed state of the art vast airport with an arrivals area designed to accommodate thousands of visitors and conference delegates.
It had its inaugural run a week earlier for the Ms. World contest that brought bevvies of beauty queens and their entourages to the Busa Dua Convention Center that, this week, plays hosts to far less popular government leaders of the 21 member APEC--Asia Pacific Economic Community. Later as foreign leaders arrived, the new airport was shut down--ostensibly for security reasons far inconveniencing 17,000 travelers.
Predictably, there were more photos in the press of the victory of a smiling and vivacious Ms. Philippines than all of the self-important politicians scurrying for credentials. The news in America focused on one issue: Obama's no show and then John Kerry standing off to the side for the official photo., and what he was wearing.
Once again, it was all about us. What the rest of the world cares about was barely touched on.
Political interventions are not new in Bali. Ten years ago, a small group of homegrown terrorists attracted the kind of attention politicians hate by blowing up a night club, leaving bodies and chaos in their wake.
Earlier, back in 1908, in an incident deeply embedded in Bali's history---a country known today for peaceful interreligious harmony--Dutch invaders slaughtered resisters to their colonial invasion in an even bloodier massacre that was followed by survivors committing suicide rather than live under foreign domination. Bali doesn't like being pushed around!
Today's visiting leaders were drawn, like tourists the world over, to the beautiful beaches and scenic flora/fauna that is part of the reason tourism in Indonesia is the 4th highest foreign currency earner for the country. More than 8 million visitors flocked here in 2012, and an additional million are expected this year.
No wonder that foreign investment in hotels and restaurants hit a record $729.7 million last year. The investors may be happy to welcome smiling tourist with credit cards, but environmentalists worry that this deluge is already unsustainable. Perhaps, that's why the opening conference in the run-up to APEC 2013 dealt with sustainable development with a special focus on tourism.
It had few of the big guns that draw CNN and sound alike TV news outlets, perhaps because unlike the posturing politicians, this one was about a matter of real substance. And, hence, was ignored.
I didn't know that world tourism is now recognized as the planet's biggest industry, generating 231 million jobs, or nearly one of out twelve jobs globally. This according to one of the speakers, Professor Kelly Bricker, chairman of the Global Sustainable tourism Council (GSTC).
This side meeting that brought leading academics, government officials, environmentalists and business people was endorsed by Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a military General who became a reformer and was provoked by Indonesia's very dynamic Minister of Tourism And Creative Economy, Mari Elka Pangestu.
Other leading participants included the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the President of Peru and Professor Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute of Columbia University in New York and Special representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
The US government didn't seem very interested in attending, perhaps because US firms have a reported $65 billion invested in in 35 major companies in Indonesia.
Like many governments, the pay lip service to environmental change but seem more committed to the agendas of business. China Daily described the Conference as committed to "Building a free market economy," a neo-liberalism that I was surprised to see China endorsing.