NWCCI participant Jaya Gulo graced the cover of Edmonds Community College’s website last week. In case you missed it, we wanted to share the story with you. In the article, Carrie Simpson, the NWCCI advisor at Edmonds followed up with Gulo about his recent trip to Thailand for training as Indonesia’s Youth Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
As a young boy in a North Sumatran village, Jaya Setiawan Gulo would often go to the market with his mother to buy fresh vegetables and fish. He noticed that even if they only bought one onion, it would be placed in a separate plastic bag. When they returned from the market and unloaded their groceries, a pile of bags remained. A common practice in his village, these bags were then burned in their backyard. Gulo still remembers the harshness of breathing in that smoke.
Fast forward twenty years later to Gulo, who is studying Project Management at Edmonds Community College on a U.S. Department of State scholarship through the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI). He opens a message in his inbox: “On behalf of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), we are pleased to inform you that your application to be a participant in the 4 Billion Dreams lifestyle campaign in Asia and the Pacific has been approved.” Gulo has been selected to be one of 25 UNEP Asia-Pacific Sustainable Consumption and Production Youth Ambassadors. He is thrilled!
Since arriving at Edmonds Community College in August 2015, Gulo has been participating in classes and activities related to sustainability. During Winter Quarter, Gulo took MGMT 110 Sustainable Business, with its focus on U.S. practices. He was particularly surprised to learn that Washington state pays to send trainloads of garbage all the way to the Columbia Ridge landfill in Oregon, that consuming beef regularly kills more trees than using one year’s worth of paper, and how it’s easier to plant more trees than educate people to change their eating habits. Gulo also participated in several tours and activities related to climate change through the NWCCI program. He toured the Bullitt Center which was designed to produce more energy than it consumes, and he participated in a tour of Theo Chocolate where he learned about this local organic chocolate company’s use of sustainable and fair-trade business practices.
Now he will serve as a youth ambassador for Indonesia in the campaign, “4 Billion Dreams.” The campaign’s name is derived from there being 7 billion dreams (people) on Earth, 4 billion of which are in Asia. Global consumption and production is and will be largely shaped by this region. The sponsoring organization, SWITCH-Asia Program, was launched by the European Commission in 2008 to help Asian consumers and businesses become more sustainable. They aim to promote economic prosperity and help reduce poverty while encouraging sustainable growth with low environmental impact.
On April 18th, as Indonesia’s newest youth ambassador, Gulo took off for a three-day training in Bangkok to learn about sustainable consumption and production and videography. The aim? Gulo and the other 24 ambassadors, aged 18-30, will explore diverse lifestyles in the Asia-Pacific and create an interactive mosaic video which will open up conversation about sustainable practices in this region.
Gulo arrived in Bangkok after several days and layovers to find himself in the company of many inspirational peers. One youth ambassador’s story particularly struck him. The young man from Afghanistan shared a story of being shot by the Taliban, then rescued by locals. He survived 15 days of hiding before returning to his family, and is now serving his country through the 4 Billion Dreams Campaign- clearly an individual with true grit! Gulo initially felt so lucky to have been selected as he was the only one who did not have a graduate-level diploma. Now he believes his accomplishments in social media made him an attractive applicant, reinforcing that experience often speaks louder than education level.
Though Gulo has won an award for his photography (the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum Photo Competition), during his three days in Bangkok he learned many new things about videography. He was impressed by the Maldives ambassador’s visual composition techniques such as framing and camera placement. He also learned techniques for making interviewees feel comfortable. You can find many things about a country’s general lifestyle patterns through google research, Gulo said. However, to learn about individuals’ lives at a deeper level, interviewers need to make jokes, find things in common with the interviewee, and move from generalities to specifics in a suave manner. Gulo was able to practice these skills on the second day when he was assigned to interview someone on the streets of Bangkok. He was able to interview a Swedish tourist and learned about the man’s lifestyle- what he eats, what kind of home he lives in, what kind of energy he uses, etc.
Gulo also learned about other Asian countries’ production and consumption practices, some more inspiring than others. In Nepal, if someone cuts a tree, he must plant 100 more. In China, carbon emission is thought of as a kind of revenue. Since manufacturers have to pay a fee to the government in proportion to their carbon emission, the more money stockholders invest in a company, the more CO2 they can emit and products they can manufacture. Gulo was hit with the harsh reality of China’s air pollution problem when he stopped in Beijing for a 12-hour layover on his return. He could literally see particles floating in the air, and dust covering everything- the cars, tables, chairs. He was shocked by how many people wore facemasks, and he himself couldn’t breathe properly, a reminder of the burning bags in his backyard, and of the work lying ahead of him.
After Gulo completes the NWCCI program at Edmonds Community College, he will take these lessons learned in Edmonds and Bangkok back to Indonesia. He feels his country has a lot to learn about waste management and consumptive habits. He would like to start education projects in rural areas where children cannot afford the cost of tuition or books and have to work for their parents instead of attending school. If he had a million dollars, he would provide scholarships for these children, bring in more qualified teachers, repair schools to be functional, and train teachers and volunteers on how to motivate rural students. He feels his own story would inspire these children, as he also grew up in a village with similar practices, but has since learned there are healthier ways to consume. In addition, he would like to impart on these children an entrepreneur’s mindset, so that they can start their own small businesses taking into consideration how their products impact the earth. He feels that change can be introduced incrementally within his parents’ generation, but more quickly by reaching the next generation.
Where will Gulo be ten years from now? He hopes to be living and working in Belgium, with a Masters of Public Policy from Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. In Belgium, he will be Indonesia’s representative for the World Customs Organization, helping to create trade agreements that encourage sustainable growth and low environmental impact. These are big dreams! But after being selected as a UNEP Youth Ambassador, Gulo has learned that “first we have to dream our dreams with eyes closed,” and imagine that anything is possible. Then, by observing and learning from those who have come before us, “we have to make our dreams into reality with eyes open.”
By Carrie Simpson, NWCCI Program Advisor
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.