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

For more on GIZ visit http://www.giz.de/en/
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Why DVD Pirates in Kemang are Joyful

The continuing boycott of the Indonesian film market by Hollywood studios has caused no end of grief and disappointment among local movie buffs and cinemas houses. But in one corner of Kemang in a bevy of shops on Jl. Kemang Raya, those selling pirated DVDs of recent Hollywood releases are enjoying a brisk increase in business.

For many Indonesian moviegoers, the past couple of months have been like a never-ending scene from a very bad film.

Back in February, no one would ever have imagined that the standoff between the Indonesian tax authorities and the Motion Picture Association of America over the imposition of a new tax system for imported films would last this long.

As a result of this fiasco, there have been a number of clear losers: Indonesian movie lovers who have been deprived of access to imported films on the big screen; the local cinema industry which has seen a 60 percent drop in income from such screenings; and, of course, foreign studios who have suffered from the negative impact of a 50 percent jump in demand for pirated DVDs since they began their boycott of the Indonesian market.

In the last five months, Indonesia moviegoers have missed the big screen experience of blockbuster Hollywood releases such as Black Swan, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Kung-Fu Panda 2, Fast Five, The Hangover Part 2, X-Man First Class, and much more.

But that hasn’t stopped movie lovers here from enjoying these films in another setting – on pirated DVDs in the comfort of their living rooms.

“Usually, I go to the cinema with my girlfriend every Saturday,” says Martin, a banker who is an avid filmgoer. “Now we stay in my apartment for movies. I just bought new speakers for my entertainment system. I guess I have to stick to pirated DVDs.”

As elsewhere in Indonesia, residents of Kemang are resorting to pirated DVDs to satisfy their need for a new film fix, and pirated DVD vendors here, especially those located within a parade of shops on Jl. Kemang Raya, are enjoying a sharp increase in business, particularly since there are now few goods films available in the cinemas.

Julia (not her real name) works at one of the pirated DVD vendors in Kemang and says demand for new Hollywood releases has gone up since February. “Most of the new movies are sold out, even if they’re not good quality,” she says. “Before, people were somewhat picky in choosing movies, but now they just buy anything that is available.”

Other pirated DVD vendors around Kemang have also reported seeing a boost in sales. They are capitalizing on this opportunity by selling the movies for only Rp 7,000, or less than a dollar, each.

Missing the Silver Screen

Since the boycott, work has been busier than ever. Previously, Julia says she was able to get four days off a month, but now she can only take two days. “Every morning I have to put hundreds of DVDs, along with the cover, in the plastic slip,” she says. “On our busiest days, we can sell more than 1,000 DVDs.”

So far, the authorities have not made any major efforts to halt the distribution of pirated movies. Since the beginning of this year, the Kemang area has not been raided by the police, says Julia.

Moviegoers, meanwhile, say they have no choice but to resort to pirated DVDs. Andrea, an international school student who lives in the Kemang area and usually goes to the cinema two or three times a week, admits that since the boycott she has started buying more pirated movies than she had in the past. “I usually bought pirated DVDs only for movies that I don’t want to watch in the cinema,” she says. “However, every time there are blockbuster movies and new releases that I’m interested, I’m willing to pay five times more for the comfort and thrill of watching it on the big screen.”

Pirated DVDs may be a quick solution to the boycott problem, but they are not without their drawbacks, such as poor quality pictures for movies with great visual animation such as Cars 2 or Rio, or the irritation of having a disk skip in the middle of an action combat scene in a movie such as Thor.

Rina is a secretary and movie lover who works in the Kemang area. Before the boycott, she often went to the cinema with her co-workers after office hours. Now she spends most of her time at cafés or bars. “I really miss watching movies in the cinemas,” she says. “Sometimes I feel it’s a waste to watch good movies on a low quality DVD. I really wish that the boycott would end before they release Harry Potter, because I don’t want to watch the pirated version.”

Iwan Putuhena Reports

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Why DVD Pirates in Kemang are Joyful

Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz