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Bali: Green Essence

Bali: Green Essence

Story and Photos by David Pu'u

In the past few years, it seems that everyone has turned toward green. In fact, the color has become a necessary branding indicator for everything from chain stores to politicians, and sometimes one with little significance. It is certainly a pity that the green movement has come to this, but here is why. In the hard light of day, people are what matter. We are one of the few entities on this spinning ball with the power to mitigate our effect. But where does one begin?

Look in the mirror. It must begin with the individual. The Laws of Exponentiality and the tenet of Ephemeralization, which was expounded on by Buckminster Fuller in 1938, basically say that we ought to be able to do more with less. This really is the key to going green. Unfortunately, it is the polar opposite of capitalist commerce and most political systems of governance.

That is what made the trip to Bali by Donna Von Hoesslin, owner of Betty B’s in Ventura and my girlfriend, and some of the women on her team a fascinating concept. Here you had a capitalist—a businesswoman—determined to create some positive change by being truly green. She resolved to invest in socially sustainable projects in a developing country that would supply her company with ethically made, yet price-competitive products.

We had met David Booth, a former British civil engineer with the World Bank, a few years back. Booth basically retired to Bali, where he founded and developed an NGO called the East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP).

The group of us embarked on the trip to Bali in an effort to give back and to explore additional methods of bringing commerce to the people Booth had literally dedicated his remaining years of life to saving and putting on the path to an economically, culturally and ecologically sustainable future.

This particular morning we rolled down the gravel drive of Villa Gayatri (our palatial trip headquarters) in Ubud with Gusti at the wheel. Thanks to planning, hope and circumstance, we were joined by four of Von Hoesslin’s company icons-ambassadors and filmmaker Aaron Marcellino for the two-hour drive into the mountains of East Bali.

We had been invited to attend a festival where most of the children who had been educated through the project would be participating in one great big party of sorts. It was part of a celebration of Balinese Independence Day.
In 1998 Booth set out specifically to find the poorest people on Bali. He figured that he should begin his plan by putting it to the most difficult of tests. He had heard rumors of a lost tribe, a group cut off from Balinese society by a volcano eruption and the ensuing simple fact that no one thought to ever look for them. Hiking deep into the mountainous country of Eastern Bali with a guide, he found them. They were a lost and dying tribe—people who, as Booth observed, never smiled.

Most who travel Bali have experienced the cultural blessing of the Balinese smile. It is a renowned national asset. The people smile—it is how they are set spiritually. But that wasn’t the case for the long-lost tribe. They had lost their smiles and much more. Booth saw them as a test case for world cultural development. He began to develop a plan to restore them one person at a time. He would do it through the children.

No one is exactly sure where the tribe came from originally, but Booth suspected that maybe it had been Lombok, due to a strong resemblance to those who reside on that island.

The eruption, poor diet, a persistent problem with goiter, and a few other environmentally related issues had combined to provide a lack of real history due to memory loss. In effect, these people were the tribe that the world had forgotten and who, literally,  had no real knowledge of their own history. Imagine that, not knowing where your family had come from or your town.

In terms of Western understanding, that is true loss and deprivation—not having a history. No connection to anything. They were a people who had lost almost all aspects of everything vital and necessary for human existence. They were failing.

I met and interacted with the children and had a hard time keeping back the tears because I understood that now these children have hope. A future now exists for them, where only death and oblivion had loomed prior.
The short of it is that the tribe is back. And in their return, Booth has shown us a way that we can transform our own society potentially. It is a great story that will make the world smile. We all need hope. No matter what our lot in life.

Hate, division and separation are odd and common bedfellows. Love is a better way, and it is much stronger. We saw the effects of it our entire trip.

It was a great gift, and we learned in the process of surfing, communicating, planning and working with Betty B’s affiliates in Bali (yes, this is somewhat ironic) what “green” and “sustainability” ought to look like: health and happiness. Pursue that. We have the world and the oceans to gain.

On the back end of all of this, one of my favorite organizations, 1% for the Planet, which was conceived by Patagonia’s Yvonne Chouinard, had at Von Hoesslin’s behest and efforts, put the EBPP on its donor list as an environmental cause. I was impressed by this because it illustrated to me that some people in charge really do understand that the key to a green world is in affecting people. It left me with a dose of hope.
To learn more about the EBPP visit www.eastbalipovertyproject.org/tag/david-booth.

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