My Jakarta: Heiner von Luepke, Advocate for the Environment

In the smoggy streets of Jakarta, Heiner von Luepke is an advocate for the environment. The six-foot-tall expat from Germany begins with his own life choices, like riding a bike to work every day, but he’s also trying to clean up the country at large.

As a climate change adviser for the German NGO GIZ, von Luepke is working to curb global warming in Indonesia, which is in the top-five list of developing countries with the highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions. Here, he discusses his work with the Indonesian government, his passion for distance running and a few simple ways that everyone can live a more eco-friendly life.

What kind of projects are you working on in Indonesia? 

I work for GIZ, a company that’s partly owned by the German government. I’m currently focusing on the climate change negotiations between the Indonesian government and the German government, which is what brought me here originally.

Do you work with a particular Indonesian organization? 

I work closely with the National Development Planning Agency [Bappenas], which is my main counterpart. It’s responsible for developing the action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

Why did you decide to focus on climate change in Indonesia? 

Years ago, there was an NGO study financed by the World Bank and a report by the British government, and they showed how Indonesia has really high rate of gas emissions, just behind the US and China. So the topic came up at the 2007 Climate Change Conference in Bali.

Nobody was really expecting Indonesia to be mentioned like that in the reports. It was controversial because of the uncertainty. For example, palm oil plantations emit a lot of greenhouse gas, but it’s hard to know how much.

How do you measure greenhouse gas emissions?

You can estimate it, but it’s hard to measure exactly because Indonesia is so diverse with so many ecosystems, from Sumatra to Papua. But from my experience in East Kalimantan, I know deforestation led to a higher per capita emissions rate there than in the US or China.

What’s it like to work with Indonesians? 

I really appreciate what they do, though I can’t say that there is one type of Indonesian. Stereotypically, Germans are direct people, straight to the point. But working with Indonesians helps us get the job done and go places that otherwise would be closed.

Part of my job is bringing people together and finding a common interest.

In Jakarta, is traffic still the major cause of emissions? 

It’s obviously a significant cause of pollution here. The government has to regulate, maybe by restricting cars and motorcycles to 20 liters of fuel or to 100 kilometers of driving every week. It can also build greener office buildings, apartments and malls, even starting with lighting and window designs. Unless Jakarta reduces traffic, provides a good mass public transportation system and improves its waste management, it will never be a green city.

Do you enjoy living in Jakarta? 

Within moments of arriving in a city, I can usually tell whether I’ll like it. When I first came to Jakarta, I felt like I was able to find my niche immediately.

In the beginning, I lived in Kemang, then I moved to Menteng, Mega Kuningan and finally an apartment in Sudirman. I think what I need is a place where I can run in the early morning with humane temperatures and not much traffic, which I can do on [Jalan] Sudirman on Sundays. Four and a half years later, here I am.

So, you’re a runner ? 

Yes, I’m a runner, and it’s a challenge to be one in Jakarta. I usually run from my apartment to Gelora Bung Karno. I’ve joined several marathon competitions in the city over the years. When you run in the morning and you’re still sleepy, you have to be really careful and watch the road, especially crossing Casablanca. It’s quiet dangerous, seriously! [Laughs]

What steps do you take in your own life to be greener? 

To reduce my own carbon footprint, I use a bicycle. The only downside is getting sweaty before meetings [laughs]. I really like the idea of Bike to Work [bicycle community], people can enjoy the outdoors.

The biggest thing that I feel guilty about is a trip I took between Europe and Indonesia because the flight emissions are so high.

Where do you go to relax in this busy city? 

I play sports to keep my mind balanced. I also listen to punk music, so sometimes I watch live bands at a bar in Menteng, and I also enjoy eating out or getting drinks at Die Stube, a German pub and restaurant in Kemang.

Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?

Not just an environmentalist, but actually also a professional forester. I started working on climate change when there were still ongoing negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed to fight global warming and deforestation.

A climate change forester isn’t a career that many people know about, but I take it as a challenge to be on the front lines, trying to find new solutions and implementing a climate program on behalf of the German government.

Heiner von Luepke was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Heiner von Luepke, Advocate for the Environment

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My Jakarta: June Luhulima, Diver and Doctor

Being both a doctor of physiology and a diver, June Luhulima’s journey of exploration is never ending. Today she talks about her experience as a participant in the world diving record set at Sail Bunaken 2009, understanding how our bodies work and her recent volunteer work in Padang.

What did you study and what exactly do you do for a living? 

I learned physiology; it’s the logic of life, understanding how your body works. I earned my degree from Christian University of Indonesia (UKI). I enjoy learning about how the body works while exercising, diving or being exposed to hot or cold weather. Today, I consult and teach, specifically in relation to diving. I was a consultant for a Kempo martial arts team when it won two National Games’ [PON] competitions. I worked with the trainers to enhance the performance of athletes by giving them accurate calculations for their training programs, workouts and nutrition.

What organizations are you involved in? 

I’m a member of the Association of Maritime Doctors [Perdok-LA], an organization that focuses on the condition of people that live and work near the sea, such as fisherman or divers, and also the All-Indonesia Sport Diving Association [Possi], as chairman of its research and development commission. The two associations collaborate to teach the proper way to dive and the dangers, and I’m involved with both organizations.

How long have you been diving? 

Since 1976. It’s my hobby and I’ve always been interested in learning what happens to our bodies underwater. I was a dive instructor before I got my degree, that’s why I focused on underwater physiology at school.

Where have you dived, and where is your favorite place? 

In the Banda Sea, Manado, Thousand Islands, Kalimantan, Bali, Ambon, Lombok and many other places. The Banda Sea is my favorite because there’s a straight drop off a cliff face and the fish are much more beautiful than any other place I’ve been to.

The world diving record was broken at Sail Bunaken 2009, and you were a part of that. Tell us about it. 

We planned it in 2008 and it became an event for everyone, including the Navy, tourists and dive clubs. Our marine territory in Indonesia is vast and we were concerned because that there weren’t as many divers as before. Our mission was to attract a younger generation of divers and have them consider jobs related to the ocean and underwater themes. We had 2,486 divers and zero accidents.

What are the benefits of diving? 

Well for me personally, going underwater really helps me to be more creative, clear my head and fuel my imagination. So if you are stressed, I really recommend it. Also, when you’re breathing underwater from a tank, you’re breathing six times more oxygen than on land. It’s good for your skin and it helps you to look younger [laughs].

When and where is the next big diving event? 

Sail Banda Sea is coming up in 2010. This time we’re aiming to get instructors involved. However, in nearby Ambon we’re going to have other activities and competitions like underwater photography and underwater orientation, so everyone can join in.

Is there anything that you take from the ocean and adapt to your everyday life? 

Yes, the way I dress. The color coordination of my clothes is inspired by the sea. Like the fish in the ocean, if its white and grey with a yellow tail, I try to wear the same colors. For example, I would wear a white blouse, with a black skirt, yellow scarf and a grey belt.

Can you compare the human body and the ocean? 

Well, the fact is that the body is a universe in itself. Sometimes, when I teach, I show two different pictures, one taken underwater and one of a human body under the microscope. My students can’t tell the difference.

You just came back from Padang, how was that experience? 

I went with friends from the Global Rescue Network two days after the earthquake. I was chosen because they had medicine but no doctors. We were sent to Padang Pariaman, since the bigger cities were already provided for. When we arrived there was no rescue station, no leadership and conditions were bad. The central government was not there to organize and there were no specific instructions. The other rescue teams just went in and out of the area, dropping off food. But what the people really needed was to restore the water supply and construct toilets and a public kitchen. That’s what we did and we stayed with the locals until everything was ready.

Did the money from Jakarta get distributed properly? 

There is more than one door. For example, one of the TV stations provided food and medicine with donations from viewers, but I didn’t see anyone coordinating the distribution properly. They just gave everything away as they traveled for good photo opportunities. The government should assign each organization to focus on one area to rebuild schools, mosques and build basic facilities.

How do you feel about living in Jakarta? 

I like the rhythm, everything is at a fast pace. But it no longer suits me because I have asthma. Travelling abroad or going out of town is like servicing your car every couple of months, I do it to recharge my batteries whenever I’ve had enough of the city. And when I return, I’m motivated, I have new ideas.

June was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: June Luhulima, Diver and Doctor

Picture Courtesy of June Luhulima