The past few days I've been sick and bound to my bed, gazing out the window. Despite popular Ubudian belief, I'm not having a spiritual crisis, but am chucking my guts up due to a bit of food poisoning, Bali belly as opposed to rebirth! As I look out at the rice fields squashed between buildings my thoughts swim through my surroundings and this post, provoked by Stuart's last post and my own observation is finally getting tapped out. I fear it maybe a bit of a bore of a blog but in a world which has recently altered for me so completely I am becoming acutely aware of my environment. If you will humour the facts I shall endeavour to pen something a bit more tits and ass next time!
Many years ago I lived in Peterborough (UK), where there is a huge multi cultural mix of race and religion. I'd love to report a city full of souls living amongst one another with great grace and human interest. However what I witnessed at that time was a cluster of ghettos bursting with folk, each sticking to their own, not living and communing in a mix. Huge residential areas inhabited by one culture living without the confidence or education into one another's reality, to support blending harmoniously. I'm taking a risk with my next statement! Much to the majority British dismay, original features could be seen torn from period houses, plastic Windows put in, gardens trashed, cramped neighbourhoods becoming a hell hole for English heritage as land and property started to decrease and deteriorate in value in true ghetto fashion. Does this really matter? An insignificant scruffy yard or the symptom of a bigger problem, unconscious living in our environment? Be it aesthetic, social, economic or environmental, it is our responsibility to respect and care about where we live, it's culture and heritage, in order to contribute to living productively.
Here in Bali's 'abundant' spiritual centre Ubud, which translates to medicine I see mainly an abundance of irony, a refuge for enlightenment built in concrete, bliss built on foundations that paralyse the land, thriving spirituality at the cost of thirsty roots, well nourished egos that leave the environment to starve in their wake.
Rapid and unchecked tourism development has resulted in falling water tables, salt water intrusion along the south coast, deteriorating water quality, competition with agriculture for irrigation water, an increase in water-borne disease, conflicts over water resources and severe water shortages. Can I have a Hariom with that please!
There are no check dams in Bali. The volcanic lakes that serve as reservoirs show an alarming decline in depth as more and more water is piped past dry agricultural land to nurture the lawns and fill the swimming pools of Bali’s resorts. Namaste! Many villages near Ubud only get government water a few hours a day. Others are struggling with dry wells and dried-up land, but fuck it lets have one more yoga centre over there whilst we're at it! Sat nam!
A combination of declining water supplies and a late, abbreviated rainy season this year = dry, dry dry. How did we get into this trouble? Too much downward dog, surely not!? Tourism is the main issue. The industry consumes about 65% of Bali’s water, and supports about 75% of the island’s economy.
Tourists use an awful lot of water. The same volume of water that would last 100 rural families for three years is consumed by 100 urban families in two years and 100 tourists in just 55 days, even when served in a trendy 'tidak plastic' vessel! Those showers, swimming pools, spa treatments, spiritual cocoons and freshly laundered mantras come at a huge cost to people's heritage and in thus the lives of the locals. Soul seekers expect to see green lawns, life laced in frangipani trim, and nicely watered cosmic gardens. I’m sure they’re unaware that desperate farmers are selling land that can no longer produce crops because there’s no water. Om shanti.
I understand the pilgrimage that is leaving our habit and travelling to another land In Search of healing. I understand that renewal requires relocation psychically and also geographically sometimes. However here in Ubud, whilst we are living on a diet of green asanas and takeout (from one of the million billion restaurants), ironically that healing comes at quite a cost in this spiritual ghetto! Food security is threatened as the land becomes more and more depleted, one sanctuary at a time. But thankfully Bali Buda has got grub!
Whilst contemplating our naval and aligning our chakras, let's also consider our farmer karma. Please send medicine back to ubud! Let's meditate in and on (Om) the land of the living!
Stuart tells me I should end on a positive note and provide some solutions. I shall leave the solution part to him as he's much cleverer than I am.....
On a positive note since our arrival in Ubud I have met many brave, bold and beautiful souls committed to kindness and being the best version of themselves. Ive been fortunate enough to experience the soft landing that is being surrounded by a genuinely caring community. I've purchased sand that turned into stardust, been blessed by many a coconut and made some truly magical new friends. This blog is not intended to slander, it's merely an observation provoked by this ironic situation.
Perhaps all greatness springs from conflict? Perhaps there is always a price to pay for enlightenment and Ubud was put on this earth to pick up the tab? I know not, for I am no guru, In truth I'm actually more of a consumer. I like all the other fuzzies was called here for a reason - I can hear him stirring ready to be fed. I hope and pray to the Bali Gods that he is always secure enough to eat.
Finally I shall consider the Lotus, rising up through the mud to flower.......