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Different Views of Nature, Ecological and Disaster Mitigation Policies in South-East Asia

A Religious-Theological Perspective

In: Exchange
Author:
Emanuel Gerrit Singgih Duta Wacana Christian University Yogyakarta Indonesia gerrit@ukdw.ac.id pdtgerrit@yahoo.com

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Official ecological and disaster mitigation policies in South-East Asia are often experienced by the local people who live close to nature as being detrimental to their well-being and future. It can be seen in the experiences of the Karen people in the highlands of Thailand, the gunung Balak people in South Sumatra and the people who live in the surroundings of the Merapi volcano in Central Java. The policies are usually based on Western or modern construction of nature, which excludes human beings from nature. To save nature means to save it from the reach of human beings. Modern disaster mitigation also starts from the same assumption. As successful mitigation policy must reduce risk to the minimum, it always ends in eviction and resettlement. This is different from the traditional construction of nature, which includes human beings as part of nature. The way of life of those who live in the areas which are designated as “protected forest or wilderness” never endangers the continuation of nature, as the end of nature means the end of human beings as part of nature. Natural disasters are not seen in the same way as in the Western model, where human beings must prevail against nature and no risk is taken. Natural disasters are dangerous, but they are part of the cycle of life, and in life people have to take risks. So it is a clash between different worldviews. Here it is proposed that a dialogue between these different worldviews should be taken, and perhaps Christian communities who live close to nature can contribute theologically to the development of a Christian theology of creation, which does not place in antithesis, nature and human beings, and even nature and God.

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