By Sebastien Blanc
NUSA DUA ~ Hindu priests in Bali, where the world’s nations are gathered to come up with an answer for global warming, think they have one solution – a day of silence.
The proposal harks back to a traditional Balinese festival when everything is switched off and shut down for 24 hours, to try to persuade demons that the island is uninhabited and thus without fresh souls for them to steal.
“We learn from our ancestors to respect the wishes of nature,” said Bhagawandwija, a 63-year-old priest who has been handing out leaflets outside the international climate change conference taking place here.
“Imagine if all the countries in the world observed one day of silence!”
Tourism Minister Jero Wacik said many locals on this resort island, which has long attracted visitors from around the globe, believe the world should copy the festival’s silence.
“Many people in Bali propose that if possible the world has a silent day – not working, all electricity off,” he told reporters. “We save one day.”
In the island’s rich Hindu heritage, the Nyepi festival is the time when evil spirits return to Earth. To persuade them there are no souls left to haunt, Bali shuts down almost entirely.
All restaurants and discos close, to the great annoyance of tourists, who do not realize they are being protected from malignant forces.
Airliners are grounded and the roads are deserted. It is forbidden to turn on lights, make a fire – or even make a noise.
If that seems too drastic a measure to take, local newspapers have been stressing to conference delegates the concept of “Tri Hita Karana,” or the need for harmony with the environment.
According to another Balinese custom, anyone who cuts down one tree is obliged to re-plant 10, said Ida Pedanda Gede Ketut Sebali Tianyar Arimbawa, president of Indonesia’s highest Hindu authority.
He too is convinced that ancestral traditions can provide solutions to the woes of global warming – and points to the subaks or traditional irrigation systems that have watered Bali’s rice terraces for centuries.
The 1,200 subaks in Bali allow water, which comes mainly from four high-level lakes, to flow gently downhill between paddy fields laid in terraces and bordered by irrigation channels.
“The subak is the best irrigation system in the world,” he says.
And even after our lives have ended, we can still make a difference.
Cremation, he says, is simply “the best way of returning to nature.”