Not many public figures are involved in environmental protection movements. But Nadine Chandrawinata is one that is committed to protect the environment through calls and actions. The woman who represented Indonesia in the 2006 Miss Universe pageant realized that protecting the environment is an important aspect in life amidst the climate crisis threat that is becoming increasingly real.
Through #Seasoldier, an environmental NGO she founded, Nadine invites the community to get involved in real actions to protect the environment. Starting from cleaning up trash on the beach and sea, protecting mangroves, planting trees, to protesting traveling dolphin circuses. For Nadine, protecting the environment is a calling.
To learn more about how Nadine views the environment as an attitude of life that is rooted in her, The Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) interviewed the former Ambassador of Human Rights in the field of Environment for the National Commission of Human Rights, on Friday, 15 October 2021.
How did you interest in environmental issues start?
Concern for the environment has been introduced by my parents since I was in elementary school. At that time my family often had road trips to Jember, our hometown. We were taught to be close to society and nature. That helped build my awareness that the beauty of nature cannot survive if we do not take care of it.
After being selected as Puteri Indonesia, I had more opportunities to be involved in environmental issues. Like going to remote areas that are difficult to reach, and being a TV host for a traveling program. I was very lucky to be able to enjoy the beauty of nature in various places. However, I was also concerned to see some areas with damaged environmental conditions, because they could still be saved.
Why are you interested in environmental issues?
For years I have realized this is a calling. Every time I see a pile of garbage, I always feel uncomfortable. That encouraged me to do something useful and work with others who share the same passion. Something I can give before being called by God.
The entertainment industry becomes a media to educate the public about the environment because much of what I do is related with this industry. In the past I was active in environmental organisations such as WWF and Greanpeace, which led me to forming the #Seasoldier Foundation. I realised it is not easy to develop a people power movement, so all my activities, may that be in entertainment and the foundation, are all related.
As a public figure with millions of followers on social media, what have been the challenges in campaigning environmental issues?
Actually not too different with other environmental NGOs and communities, of course the were resistance to what we do. The environment is not just for ourselves, it’s also for others.
Everyone has to have their own reason why they need to protect the environment. A small example is throwing garbage in its place, we have been taught to do this since we were little and yet we still litter. That’s an example of moral message that applies throughout our life. I only help to echo such messages.
Despite resistance, we marched on because what we are voicing is the truth. Even more today when the impact of climate crisis is increasingly real, threatening our life.
Have you ever experienced a direct rejection to your movement?
Yes. We received rejection from the public as the policy on using your own shopping bags wsa not set by the government. At that time we were campaigning on swapping plastic bag to cloth bag, but many were not on board. We tried different approaches, one of them is by engaging plastic bag users in a 2-5 minutes conversations about the threats of plastic waste. lowly, many were willing to swap their bags.
I also once received rejection from the government when I was asked to promote tourism. My presentation on underwater conditions was not approved. Showing polluted sea condition was considered to be damaging to the image of tourism. While my goal was to motivate local communities to protect their area from environmental degradation. Even though my proposal was accepted, such rejection continue to happen to this day.
You run a tourism business in Raja Ampat, West Papua. How do you combine passion in environmental sector and sustainable business concept?
We try to implement the Eco-tourism concept, even though not 100 percent yet. Starting with separating organic and non-organic waste, using solar panels to power the business, utilizing empty areas to plant trees. We try to reduce the carbon footprint in the lodging areas.
Those concepts can actually be implemented by many business provided they have a good CSR team. Another concept is developing Eco-living style, by reducing use of plastic and Styrofoam.
Why are we not seeing many public figures involved in environmental movements? They are important figures in bringing about change as they have many followers.
ctually I have many friends in the entertainment industry who care for the environment, but they have different ways. For example they bring their own food from home using environmentally friendly container to their shooting location. While I have the opportunity to take these actions to the streets and social media platforms. I respect their choices they make.
What are your efforts in raising awareness about the impacts of climate crisis that are increasingly threatening human life?
I try to translate environmental issues into digestible information. For example a house scale education about separating waste, gardening and making compost from food leftovers. Unfortunately, there are still many people who refuse to do those simple things.
How did you start the #Seasoldier foundation and what are your activities?
I was driven by my anxiety about environmental conditions. #Seasoldier has four national programs; clean up my shop, say no to the traveling dolphin circus, preserve mangroves, and fight the extinction of animals and plants.
We packaged those four programs according to the culture of each region. #Seasoldier has offices in five cities and our actions cannot be separated from local wisdom. Many thinks culture is all about dances, customary clothing, or traditional food. It doesn’t stop there, culture is thinking pattern and behavior formed in each region.
We take the cultural approach to invite the community to care for their environment, so they don’t feel like they were forced to protect the environment. For example, the beach cleaning activity. We need to make then understand the cleaning the beach is not just the job of NGOs, but it’s an obligation of all stake holders, especially the community living in and whose life depend on the ocean.
Has any movements initiated by #Seasoldier received any attention from the government?
Yes. One of them is the say no to traveling dolphin circus. A similar movement has been done by other NGO, but the movement by #Seasoldier with the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) in 2018 attracted the government’s attention. We developed an MoU with Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, to issue a regulation banning traveling dolphin circus. In 2020, traveling dolphin circus was officially banned.
You are also campaigning against marine waste. Can you tell us a little more about this?
To me, protecting the environment is an obligation, not an option. Many news coverage on waste in the ocean, but many still are not aware the degree of waste that is now threatening life underwater including fishes and coral reefs. Lately, social media has been helpful in building awareness about Indonesia’s seas that are not doing well.
Environmental protection movements cannot be separated from the government’s role. We must push for policies that will prevent practices that are destroying the environment.
Ecological disasters are increasingly recurring in Indonesia due to decreasing environmental supporting capacity. Your thoughts on this?
What we can do right now is to maintain the environmental balance to slow down the rate of climate crisis, thus preventing natural disasters. The impacts of climate crisis is detrimental to us humans, like the loss of beauty of nature, extinction of flora and fauna, and the absence of forest and fertile land to provide for our needs.
On the other hand, the government must device strict regulations to stop environmental exploitation from continuously happening. Business must get involved so they are not just focused on making profit. We can only serve as a reminder to the government, to continuously make our voices heard and carry out concrete actions on the ground.
Speak about youth, how can we invite them to be actively involved in tackling climate crisis?
Cross-generational collaboration needs to be done. Meanwhile, the millennial generation needs to be open in wanting to learn more. This is the foundational work in learning more about the environmental condition and in the end building awareness about protecting the environment.
How long will you speak about environmental protection?
For environmental issues, it looks like I will be doing it for the rest of my life. It’s so selfish to enjoy what nature has provided for you without taking care of it. I believe when we take care of the environment, then the environment will take care of us.
When we do something for the environment, do it selflessly. Not to create a certain image on social media or just joining the bandwagon. If we take part in environmental protection consistently, we will reap the benefit.