The Jakarta Post
Back to nature: Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar (second right), Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti (second left), musicians Kaka (right) and Ridho (left) join the “Helping Nature with your Smartphone” discussion during the Headliners Photo Exhibition at Lotte Shopping Avenue in Jakarta on Thursday. The exhibition will run until Sunday. (JP/P.J. Leo)
Smartphones put the world at users’ fingertips, along with the capability to wreak havoc or do something good at the tap of the screen.
Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar noted that smartphone owners also served as bearers of news.
“The most important thing we can gain from smartphones is that they strengthen public participation,” Siti said during a workshop on Thursday organized alongside an exhibition held to celebrate The Jakarta Post’s 35th anniversary.
The exhibition runs until Sunday at Lotte Shopping Avenue mall in South Jakarta. Put forward by the paper’s photography team, it displays 100 photographs taken throughout the years.
At Thursday’s workshop, the Post brought up the role of smartphones and their users in highlighting environmental issues — whether through capturing important images to record nature’s beauty or its plight, or simply by sharing hashtags to raise awareness on environment causes.
The workshop also featured several illustrious figures as speakers, from Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti to EcoNusa Foundation founder and chairman Bustar Mait.
Also present were Akhadi Wira Satriaji (Kaka) and Mohammad Ridwan Hafiedz (Ridho), respectively the vocalist and guitarist of legendary rock band Slank, who are environmental activists in their own right.
In the discussion, Siti highlighted the ubiquitous use of smartphones at her ministry, citing the use of the phones to monitor and control forest fire hotspots by detecting air quality and other issues.
She said smartphone users could report issues affecting them to relevant ministries, recalling an event when someone reported the sale of protected animals via her Facebook account.
“We at the ministry require strong accuracy and validity of information, so photos can greatly help, as they provide tangible and authentic evidence to follow up on.”
The important role of smartphones in environmental campaigns was also highlighted by Susi, who on Wednesday forwarded a WhatsApp message on alleged illegal fishing practices to National Police chief Tito Karnavian, which resulted in the confiscation of 50 tons of explosives in Selayar Islands, South Sulawesi, by the police on Thursday.
“This [example] shows the importance of public sharing of vital information through smartphones. I receive nearly 50 percent of the information on current issues via WhatsApp or Twitter. We then ask regional representatives of the ministry to follow up on the reports,” Susi said, adding that most of the reports were true, as opposed to being hoaxes.
The minister also stressed the importance of photos as a means to convey information, saying pictures could visualize things more effectively than words could.
“I have been looking at a photo [at the exhibition] of garbage buildup at sea, and it makes me sick to my stomach. The sea is like a second home to me, and it makes me angry just looking at the photo,” Susi said.
For Kaka, the smartphone is a trusted tool to capture breathtaking scenery and to record both the good and the bad concerning the environment. “We should train our sensitivity to nature. For example, a picture of a lone horse in a scenic desert should have the same importance as a picture of a garbage pile in the same desert,” Kaka said.
Smartphones are also powerful tools to share positive and useful information, Kaka’s bandmate Ridho found. “Whenever I want to post a picture, I always think of memorable words, so that my followers like it. This can be used to highlight environmental issues, such as plastic waste, for example,” Ridho said.
The Post’s chief editor Nezar Patria concluded the discussion, pointing out that smartphones had become an effective medium of communication.
“Smartphones could also stand to gain from mainstream media outlets like The Jakarta Post, for example. The traditional media could help spread the word around, and The Jakarta Post is ready to help.” (jlm)
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