Isle Be Good to You

Last year, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival screened several films about environmental activism. The most engaging for me wasPulauPlastik. Directed by DandhyLaksono and RahungNasution, three individuals exploreplastic waste and its effects on villages and cities, health, and nature.

PulauPlastik uncovered the ugly truth that, right across our narrow Bali Strait, in Java, are many busy paper recycling plants which regularly receive shipments of paper from around the world, yet these are contaminated with plastic wrappers, bags, and other waste that are not actually paper.

With the western world dumping their refuse on Indonesia, these paper recyclers are stuck with the extra bits (soft plastic and foil/plastic wrappers) which are of no use to their processors, and factory owners have no expeditious solution for dealing with the materials.Balinese musician RobiNaviculaconfronts the daily dumping of these plastics (as well as untreated bi-products of the paper recycling) into waterways and the sea.

Robi laughs nervously as an expert chemist delivers some bad news. The ocean fish he caught near the factory outfall, cooked and ate, was filled with microplastics, and, so, unfortunately, is material from Robi’s digestive tract. Pulau Plasticbrings us to the chemist’s lab, bearing witness right along with Robi.

We’ve been reading that the average human is ingesting about one credit-card-sized amount of plastic on about a weekly basis. But seeing the stuff there on the scientist’s glass slide in Pulau Plasticmakes this issuevery real.

Like our NGOs Trash Heroes and Sungai Watch, Roby Navicularemains upbeat and gives some practical advice here:

View the documentary’s traileron and your community group can screen the entire film through contacts on thewebsite. You may just tip the scales on Bali’s health and future.


Reef-use microplastics!I just discovered that microplastics, though phased out in North America and South Korea, are still being manufacturedhere for use as thickeners and abrasives.Until we get a worldwide ban, the only way to avoid them is to read productkomposisi, often in fine print on the packaging. Exfoliating scrubs, mascara, even hair conditioner and skin creams can contain these. Washed down the drain, these end up in the sea, in critters there, and in our food chain.

Watch out for polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), nylon, parabens and polypropylene. Once considered a generally safe alternative to microbeads, evenacrylates copolymeror alkyl acrylate crosspolymerhave also beenfound in sea life. These go into a large number of skin, cosmetic, shaving and hair products.

Animals’ normal hormone functions are disrupted by ingredients in many sunscreens, so look for reef safe labeling. Sadly, the craze for sterilization and anti-bacteria has increased the manufacture of triclosan. Though not a microplastic, it’s toxic enough to go on your no-buy list and one clue is the label “antibakteri”. A good wash with ordinary soap and water is enough to kill most bacteria and viruses, so triclosan is utterly avoidable. It has been linked to cancer in humans, as well as weakened immune systems in many life forms.

Even local brands of lulur, hair, and moisturizing products still contain some of these additives. I can generally recommend the soap and skin care companies who sell via Bali Direct. I scoured the ingredients lists of the online shop’sbrands of scrubs and lotions, andfound completely natural ingredients in the website’s composition details. Walnut shells, coffee, rice and seed powders do the trick much better than plastic.

You can also make your own plastic-free skin exfoliant while supporting the Bali salt industry. Traditional markets in Denpasar, Klungkung and Karangasem have a few stalls sellingsalt by the half kilo bag. Mix a handful in a small bowl with a bit of natural liquid soap like those made byBali Asli ( and you have a wonderful and very inexpensive scrub.


Regional art tourism heads-up (not every passport welcome, but online participation planned):

Cairns’Indigenous Art Fairruns from 6 through 10 July.

Save the date for Darwin’s Aboriginal Art Festival, August 5 – 7. This is a super way to purchase art directly from artists. The festival features many performances for the whole family, and masterclasses for artists.

Taiwan has long reigned as one of the most dynamic art centers in Asia, established when the Kuomintang elite fled Mao’s China, carrying their treasures, intellectual elite, and high cultural traditions. Last year’s Art Taipei featured extended dates for virtual viewing within this massive exhibition. Save October 21 – 23 for this year’s main events, and bookmark part of the Taiwan arts year: Art Tainan March 11-13, Art Solo April 9-11& 15-17, Arttaipei October 21 -23


Are you an Indonesian citizen who is also an artist? Or do you have an artist friend who is an Indonesian living here or in any country, who deserves the national spotlight? Jakarta’s Galeri Nasional Indonesia is calling for entries to their big Manifesto VIII show in July and August. Competitors in themed categories can now register at . All Galeri Nasional Indonesia news is here:


Salt Farmer copyright Yoga Raharja Courtesy of Nyaman Gallery


By Renee Melchert Thorpe

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