Written by Athanasia Safitri
Amidst the problematic issues of waste disposal in the Special Region of Yogyakarta which have taken place since last July, Yayasan Lembaga Kajian Islam dan Sosial (LKiS) an independent and non-profit organization focusing on more tolerable and transformative social thoughts, hosted a discussion entitled ‘Mengkaji Sampah dan Lingkungan dalam Perspektif Penghayat Kepercayaan’. Streamed online via LKiS Youtube link on July 27, 2023, the event was part of the Forum Kamisan Daring – an online Thursday Forum which is regularly held by Intersectoral Collaboration for Indigenous Religions (ICIR). The discussion confers the social problems that appear as a result of the closing of Regional Landfill TPA Piyungan by the local government from 23 July until 5 September 2023.
The overloaded landfill invites every society member in Yogyakarta to think ahead not only about future waste disposal but more importantly about waste management in Yogyakarta. It triggers the awareness of the urgency to care for the environment and preserve Mother Earth. People are taking time to rethink the possible approach to maintain the cleanliness of the city and to go back to the roots of allowing nature to breathe despite the roughly 250 tons of trash they produce every single day in Yogyakarta. The community of indigenous religions share their thoughts and beliefs in practicing their very spirituality to guard Mother Earth.
Living the idea of ‘Memayu hayuning bawana’
Suroso, the head of Majelis Luhur Kepercayaan Terhadap Tuhan Yang Maha Esa Indonesia (MLKI) Gunung Kidul states that people must not think that waste disposal and management are only issues that need to be managed by the government. We should start by bearing in mind that each individual is a trash producer, meaning that everyone creates waste for the environment. Therefore the problem must be addressed even individually which leads to the smaller scale of community which is family home. He invites all people to put into practice waste sorting at home by providing separate bins for organic and inorganic waste. The self-awareness of waste sorting can be built within a home which enables each person to take part in caring for the environment of the community.
The daily practice of indigenous religion related to the environment starts from the basic concept of their spirituality called ‘memayu hayuning bawana’. It is a Javanese philosophy to maintain the safety, peace, happiness, and well-being of the real world and hereafter. Suroso explains that the believers of indigenous religion translate it into beautifying the beautiful world which also means taking care of nature and the environment. By being self-aware ‘eling lan waspada’, they remind themselves consciously that the earth must be guarded by not throwing waste irresponsibly and even managing waste disposal. Their tradition also follows this idea of guarding the earth by maintaining a peaceful state, not only in society but also with nature. They regularly clean the village, preserve the water they use, and take care of the food waste in order to keep themselves and nature from disasters.
Lasio Purnama, a member of the indigenous religious community Paguyuban Eklasing Budi Murka (PEBM), also confirms the importance of living actively with the concept of ‘memayu hayuning bawana’. His spirituality encourages the members to animate the idea of ‘urip nguripi kanggo panguripan’ which means to live well in order to live the fullest life. They practice the concept by sorting out the organic and inorganic waste since they believe that what belongs to Earth must be given back to the Earth in good condition. They manage the waste by burying organic waste in the ground and producing natural fertilizer, as well as arrange the reuse and recycling of inorganic one in the community. They collaborate with other communities in producing goods such as bags, made from inorganic waste and sell them as souvenirs or handicrafts.
What to do for our future generation
We learn the concept of Anthropocentrism where environmental ethics is a belief that value is always human-centered and that all other beings are only means for human purpose. It ruins the function of nature and damages the preservation of the environment. Heronimus Heron from Jaringan Masyarakat Peduli Iklim (JAMPIKLIM) reminds the participants of the event that this concept needs to be eliminated to restore life for our future generations. Furthermore, he proposes communal awareness for the young people to take part in waste management in order to preserve mother nature. It is evident that harmony among people and the environment, and respect toward nature along with other living creatures, are basic foundations to living everyday life.
Another task left that we all need to take on is the insertion of spiritual values into the awareness about care of the environment. It is not enough to acknowledge the importance of this action for the lasting life of earth, a new way of life-based on religious teachings affects the enforcement of a correct waste disposal and management process. In addition to raising a strong comprehension of environmental care, manuals of this process can also be taught in schools as a compulsory subject for students. Workshops, familiarizations, and projects on environmental care must be included in community meetings as well.
The next step will be a collaboration between citizens, individually and on a family scale, the local government, and organizations not only in practice but also renewment of the regulations that support a better system in regional waste management. Social, economic, and cultural aspects of a society can also be transformed once collective awareness and good relations among these agents are maintained.