Save the planet: fly to Java, “Garden of the East”

For much of the time teaching Appraising Landscapes and Sustainable Technology to the current first year students, I have been banging my drum about the global climate emergency, advocating some of the founding principles of the Extinction Rebellion movement and articulated by Greta Thunberg. I’ve been promoting more tree planting in Cheltenham but are these just words, not actions? So searching for a justification for me to actually plant some in my own garden, I checked out carbon offsetting and, using an online calculation, found I need to fly 7000 miles in order to plant 14 trees. That’ll do for me, so suitably vindicated I spent a few weeks over Christmas in Bali, Indonesia.

I must admit a second, more substantive, reason for going. I’d previously visited the island of Flores, east of Java, home of the komodo dragon. This place lies immediately east of the so-called Wallace line, east of Bali. Named after the 19th century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who along with Charles Darwin, is credited with first developing evolutionary theories. Wallace, in his eight years in the region, had observed species characteristics based on a source region, either the Asian landmass or Australasia. He speculated that in past geologic times when sea levels were lower, there were land bridges except for a very deep oceanic trench which effectively divided the area into two biogeographic zones. Subsequently the route of this trench was given the name the Wallace Line. I wanted to see this for myself and as a newcomer investigate the animals and plants on either side that so captivated Wallace.

The accompanying photographs show a range of plants and animals I was able to observe on Bali. I am not (yet) an expert and as far as I know comprehensive floras and faunas have not been published. But it’s so interesting this whole notion of plant and animal variation in a matter of 15 kilometres from Bali to the island of Lombok then on to Flores. Wallace’s findings and explanations were initially presented (by and in collaboration with Darwin) at a meeting of the London Linnean Society in 1858. There’s another famous name (taxonomist Carl Linnaeus) and I felt I could almost imagine myself as Wallace when he first saw and was amazed by the incredible wildlife and tropical landscapes. So this piece is just a taster for anyone with an  urge to travel to Indonesia. Do it. Wallace called Java the “Garden of the East” and I would encourage anyone to visit.

I’ll get round to planting those 14 trees when it gets a bit warmer in Gloucester!

Bob Moore 12th January 2020

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