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: Tineke, Veteran Athlete

Take a long, hard look at that picture. Tineke will be 80 years old in June. She’s won so many medals over the years that she’s simply stopped counting them. She’s been running, sprinting and jumping since the Sukarno era and she’s still got gas in the tank. Tineke’s life is action-packed and she shows no signs of slowing down, either on or off the track. 

Which athletic events do you usually compete in?

Jumping, sprints and relay. I’m good at the long jump, triple jump, 100- and 200-meter sprint, and relay races; in 1988 I broke the 4 x 100-meter relay world record in Taiwan at the Fifth Asian Association of Veteran Athletes Games. 

How many medals have you won over the years?

I’ve lost count. Well over 200 gold, silver and bronze medals from both national and international competitions. 

That’s quite an achievement. How often do you win? 

I always guarantee to bring back a medal in every competition that I compete in. Sometimes, I can win between three and five medals in one meet. 

Which was the most memorable competition? 

Hard to say. I have enjoyed every single one of them and they all mean something, but the most memorable one was the 1995 World Athletic Veterans’ Games in Buffalo, New York. 

What made it so special? 

My family was living there at the time and they got to see me compete. Also, it was a big deal because it was my only tournament in the United States. Even though I only won two bronze medals for the long jump and triple jump, the Indonesian Embassy recognized my achievement and awarded me a free trip around the United States. 

Where else have you represented Indonesia? 

Everywhere. I’ve been to Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Brunei, Malaysia, South Africa, Japan, England, Finland, the United States and many more. I’ve been around the world for free. 

When is your next competition? 

The next one will be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in December 2010. 

How long have you been running? 

I’ve been running since I was old enough to have a boyfriend [laughs]. I was 17 when I started training. 

How old are you now? 

This coming June I will be 80 years old. 

When was your first big competition? 

It was 1951 at the Second National Games in Jakarta. I won a gold medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay race. 

What age category are you in today? Do you often compete with the same people? 

I compete in the age group for 75–80 year olds and I often see familiar faces, like competitors from Japan and India. When you don’t see them any more, they’re usually dead [laughs]. 

How do you feel when you represent Indonesia at the international level, win a gold medal and hear “Indonesia Raya” [the national anthem] being played for everyone? 

I’m moved, of course. I feel proud to represent my country, but that doesn’t mean that I love the system and the government. 

What else do you do besides participate in athletics? 

Sports are pretty much my life. But I was also a physical education teacher at the Santa Ursula school. I started that when I was 22. 

Do you still teach? 

No, I stopped teaching in 2003. Nowadays, I only give private swimming lessons. I don’t receive a pension for being a veteran athlete or a retired teacher. 

What other sports do you like? 

I enjoy swimming and hiking, but I don’t hike any more; the last time I did that was when I was 70. 

What’s your personal message to your students? 

Look at me as an example, you can do and try any sport you like, but just focus on one that you are really good at and go from there. Don’t worry about winning, but maximize your training, and it’s important to know your limits. If you don’t win a competition, it’s not the end. 

Do you follow a strict diet? 

I used to watch what I ate when I was younger, but as I get older, sometimes my mouth and stomach demand good food. Nowadays, I just eat anything I like, but I also take vitamins. 

What will you do when you get too old to run? 

I’m going to participate in race walking. 

Do you race walk around Jakarta for practice? 

I enjoy using public transportation. I still get around by motorcycle taxi, bus or public minivan. I only walk when there’s a traffic jam. But nowadays I really have to be careful not to get hit by a car or motorcycle [laughs]. 

What do you do for fun? 

I like to watch movies, go to music concerts and plays and readings at TIM [Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center ]. I’m just enjoying my life.


Tineke was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Tineke, Veteran Athlete

Picture courtesy of Tineke