By Maureen Gilbert | Photography by Peter Wall
For over 20 years, I Made Suarnatha has been slowly and quietly ensuring that Bali’s most precious resources are preserved. The fact that you may not have heard of this man is even more remarkable, given the forces he is combating, namely – over-development and tourism and their threats to this island’s cultural and resource sustainability. In 1993, Suarnatha and seven other partners created the Wisnu Foundation, one of Bali’s oldest NGO’s, locally known as Yayasans. The creative spark that launched the NGO was an attempt to find a financially and environmentally viable method to turn waste plastic into something useful. The team participated in the Goethe Institute’s artistic event dubbed Art and the Environment, by constructing a monument out of plastic bricks. This first project gave Suarnatha and his Foundation a peek into the enormity of the waste problem in Bali.Eager to place greater emphasis on community involvement in tackling these issues, the Foundation devised a small scale, integrated waste management project that was designed in accord with local needs and capacity in Pupuan, Tabanan. The project involved the collection and separation of household waste and the production of compost from organic waste.
From there, Suarnatha decided to tackle the Bali tourism beast head-on by establishing four eco-tourism villages on the island, with the goal of giving visitors an authentic Balinese experience without artificial ceremonies that diminish the true depth of the cultural heritage of the people. The four villages are: Dukuh Sibetan, known for its salak or snake fruit; Kiadan Pelaga, which specializes in organic co_ee; Tenganan Pegringsingan, an ancient village dating from the 11th century; and Ceningan Island, which does seaweed cultivation. While not an overwhelming success by capitalist standards, (combined, the villages only attract about 400 visitors a year, and they have generated about Rp 1 billion since their establishment in 2002), they have sustained themselves for ten years – a fact remarkable in its own right.
Not satisfied with the enormity of what he has already created, his latest project is in many ways his boldest and most creative yet. Realizing that community and creativity may be two of the most endangered resources on the island, he recently launched Wisnu Open Space – almost ten years since he first dreamed of the idea. Located at Jl. Pengubengan Kauh 94 in Kerobokan, it will ultimately have a coffee rendezvous, a community gallery, a public library, a radio station and a big organic garden, all in one place. Suarnatha’s vision is a venue where inspiring people can interact and communicate with each other. What makes Wisnu Open Space different from other creative hubs is the focus on local resources and sustainability. The radio station, dubbed Radio Rebel Indonesia, will allow local activists and socio-environmental movers and shakers to produce their own radio programs. The library will focus on the main principals of the Foundation by stocking books about coffee, urban farming, youth culture, rock rebellion, environmental revolution and responsible design. The organic farm will supply the coffee rendez-vous. In our western society, focused on instant gratification and quick results, Suarnatha is a beacon for two increasingly scarce human resources: perseverance and patience. His work is a testament to the inspirational results that evolve from proper cultivation of both.
To schedule a visit to the eco-villages or find out more about Wisnu Open Space go to http://www.jed.or.id/EN/welcome.php or visit Wisnu Open Space’s Facebook page.
Maureen is a true global nomad now making Bali her 8th foreign home. She worked as a Natural Therapy Consultant in Ubud but recently returned to the US.
Maureen is a Certified Bio- Energetic Therapist, Money Coach, and Colon Hydrotherapist. Maureen is a true global nomad now making Bali her 8th foreign home. Prior to Bali, she owned and ran a retreat center & spa in Northern California. There she created custom detox, wellness, and Bio-Energetic programs for her guests.
She loves helping people with transformation. She works with people at a deep level helping them link their physical, emotional and spiritual bodies to own their gifts, talents & abilities and release what is no longer serving them. We all have areas in our lives where we are not functioning at our highest potential. Bringing these areas into conscious awareness with Maureen can assist you to clear and heal them… creating space for transformation in your life.
She blogs on money, health, spirituality and personal transformation on her websites: www.wealthmajik.com, www.trulyseen.com and www.conscioushealingcenter.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org