Memperbaiki Dunia: Earth Day 2013

April 22, 2013 started much like any other Monday for most of us in Lumajang. The local mosque came alive with prayer, the sun rose, and the roosters crooned “ku kuru kuru kuuu…” School was unexceptional down to the final bomb-siren “bell” blaring at 2:00 pm. At least that’s the norm here. And like clockwork students filed into English Club. “What’s our lesson today, Mr. Matt?” Asked one. “Today is Earth Day.” I replied. “And you all will decide what we will do to celebrate.”

For the next hour we spoke about the environment, our neighborhoods, and what our responsibilities might be to both. Javanese culture has a long and rich history of working communally; pulling together to raise funds and building houses, health centers, and places of worship. For more analysis see Gotong Rojong by Koentjaraningrat and Claire Holt. During our meeting, my students first identified different environmental problems in our community and then proposed solutions. Each student presented their idea in front of the class (in English!) and we planned to implement a solution the next week.

The most popular idea was littering so we organized a trash pick-up with the school’s Biology Club for next week at Town Square. Granted, a trash pick-up may not be the most impactive or sustainable solution to littering but the idea was a student-led initiative. The motivation was to provide the students with a real-world problem and guide them through the process of problem solving and critical thinking to organizing and implementing action. They debated amongst themselves before agreeing littering is a pressing issue. These youth were happy to volunteer their time and together we collected 55 pounds of trash. Again, the environmental impact may be marginal but I’m hoping they will remember this day.

See below for an environment themed vocabulary list. The concept of recycling is broken down linguistically into various forms. More research is in store!


Earth – Bumi
world – dunia
land – tanah
tree – pohon
forrest – utan
river – sungai
lake – telaga
sea – laut
trash – sampah
environment – lingkungan
nature – alam
habitat – habitat
animal – hewan
polusi – pollution
karbon dioksida – carbon dioxide


memperbaiki – to improve / repair
membuang sampah – to litter
membakar pohon – to burn down trees
mencemari – to pollute / contaminate
memulihkan – to restore


menduar ulang – “to recycle”
memakai lagi – “to reuse”
memakai untuk tujuan lain – “to use again for a new purpose” (to repurpose)
mengembalikan sesuatu untuk dipakai lagi – “to restore something for reuse”


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