A Travellerspoint blog

A Breath of Fresh Air

Sun rays broke over the jagged volcanic peaks scattering honey dew light onto the tropical waters and coral beaches.

Joanie and I are on the tiny island Gili Air, a 1.5 km wide island (and 3.1 mile circumference – this I know for a fact – I went for my first run in 6 weeks around the island) situated in the turquoise, coral filled waters between Bali and Lombok.

Today marks the two-month anniversary of our trip – eight weeks of perpetual motion via bus, train, car, shuttle and the occasional moped.

You could say we’re on a break from traveling. Getting some much needed down time before we pick up the pace in Vietnam and mainland South East Asia, where we’re heading on November 10 after – hard to believe – a month in Indonesia.

We’ve experienced the amazing and not so amazing: volcanoes, delicious foods
(snake-skin fruit, Gado Gado), disgusting foods (anything that showed up with meat or shrimp paste), poverty, sand fleas (that left a trail of bites on Joanie), breathtaking sunrises and sunsets (Mount Bromo), indefatigable hustlers and touts (Beijing and everywhere in Indonesia), to name a few.

We’ve watched each other react to our surroundings and the challenges they present. Putting aside spending 24-hours a day with your partner (at times a blessing in disguise), one of the greatest we’ve faced is pollution.

Putting aside spending 24-hours a day with your partner (at times a blessing in disguise), one of the greatest we’ve faced is pollution.

And I am afraid.

Beijing's Olympic Village and Jakarta, Indonesia

As the cities in the developing world expand and populations become increasingly wealthy, ownership of motorized, pollution spewing vehicles (cars, mopeds, motorcycles) is skyrocketing. In one sense, this is a huge step forward for these countries development. But progress comes at a cost.

The epitome of the pollution (so far) has been Beijing and Jakarta, both sprawling metropolises with unchecked growth and little to no pollution control. At the end of a day of exploring we would return to our guest house covered in grime, light headed and coughing from their polluted air. There is no sky in these cities, only a brown haze hovering overhead like storm clouds on a gloomy day.

I’ve been disconnected from most of the campaign rhetoric flying around in the US right now, but I know for a 15 minute new cycle, the “job killing” EPA was the topic of derision.

Do these presidential candidates want to do what’s best for our country and the American people really think we would be better off without environmental protection? Is the EPA really a job-killing monster as decried?

During America’s balmy summers, who hasn’t experienced an Eco-Action day? I know from living in Bushwick, near cement factories, on a hot day after a run, I’d return home gasping for air – a mixture of pollution and a touch of asthma it likely triggered. And this is with EPA protection.

In other places like West Virginia, with it’s depressed economy and denuded landscape, mountains flatted and water poisoned with the slurry need to process the coal, could it be worse?

An alternative as proposed where anyone can do as they please in the pursuit of profit? Dump chemicals into rivers, spit sulfur into the air or doing nothing to reduce the agricultural and sewage running into the Gulf of Mexico that’s significantly contributing to Red Tide?

I don’t claim to have a panacea, but I do know that our problems need to be addressed through a careful balance of strengthening the EPA and their enforcement abilities and promoting sustainable growth. One could argue that costs will increase (ex. carbon tax) and that business (or the American people) could not afford or stomach any additional price hike.

In the developing world, increasing vehicle efficiency and especially devising a way to make mopeds and scooters less polluting would do wonders to cut back on the noxious haze. No doubt scientists are researching (at least I hope) ways to do this and reproduce the technology cheaply at scale.

One catch phrase often heard is corporate responsibility. If the companies that manufacture these vehicles: Honda and Yamaha, the most common in this part of the world, took full responsibility for the consequences of their product would they remain solvent?

Doubtfully. So it’s a balance that must be sought.

If the candidates with ambition to lead our country and arguably the world (although not in environmental protection even under the status quo) had their way with the EPA, pitting profits against American’s environment and health, who would win?

Actuaries put a value on human life and it seems the candidates have as well.

So much for sunny days.

Posted by bucketbath 06:28 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali beach indonesia travel china air gili lombok pollution fresh epa

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Micah, I thought you didnt want to talk politics, there is a fine balance between growth and legislation. At this point the EPA has far too much power and is not responsive to the all of the future needs of our country. We all want a clean and safe environment, the question is at what price?

by brent rubin

I enjoyed your new blog very much. It was great seeing you on google +. I'm glad you and Joanie are taking a break you deserve it.
Love Uncle Hal and Aunt Pam

by Aunt Pam and Uncle Hal

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