By Puspita Insan Kamil
Plastic Waste along our Waterways Research Project: The Homecoming (3)
Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.
In her book “Escape from the Ivory Tower”, Nancy Baron argues that scientists have an ethical obligation to, beyond communicating their science, communicate the truth. This principle emboldened us to transform our results in the field into communication tools for everyone.
Being a scientist is a lifetime decision. With this title, we are expected to be an all-in-one person: able to generate ideas, pitch the ideas, write a grant proposal to fund the ideas, test ideas with ideal methodology, report the results of idea testing, write (again) a compelling results report, encourage governments to make policy based on the report, and lastly: communicate to general public audiences. Above all, scientists have to take full responsibility for their research. Because of other responsibilities as a human being (a mother, a wife, a child, and others), I am not surprised that the scientific profession is not perceived as an ideal job, especially in developing countries. Researchers deal with the daily threat of burnout, and for me, the public dissemination of results is always a personal cure to this problem. This is something that I always look forward to after data analysis.
After four months of field work to collect water debris and conduct psychological experiments in seven villages, we were ready to communicate our results to the public. Just like a marketer in any corporation, our top question was: who is our audience? To find the answer, we dived deep into our data. We decided to go to places which produce high amounts of water debris, but where people are on their way towards a solution. Two potential places came up: Batu and Denpasar.
Batu is a highland located in East Java and governed by a City Mayor. In the past decade, Batu has vastly developed its tourism industry. Since 2017, a movement called Sabers Pungli (Sapu Bersih Nyemplung Kali) has been established by some local heroes to invite local people for regular clean ups in the Brantas upstream in their area. We were blessed to find this community when we collected psychological data in Batu and in September, they invited us to present our results to celebrate their 100th clean-up on 12 October 2019. This event also proved that this community is very serious about the waste issue, as they served all the food and beverages without single-use plastic.
Our team worked so hard for this first public dissemination – from preparing a video to showcase our field sites, to designing eight posters that would communicate the message easily for local people, logistics handling, and also preparing official letters we needed. We also sent a hardcopy of the posters to all the villages that we visited for data collection. Fortunately all went well; more than 200 people got our messages and showed appreciation for the posters we designed. People from Sabers Pungli also asked our permission to use the designs for their upcoming educational events to encourage people not to litter alongside the river.
We were all so proud that we could communicate our science to the communities living where we had carried out the research. The joy in sharing our work more than compensated all the hardships that we had experienced earlier in this project. As French biologist Louis Pasteur put it, “science knows no country, and knowledge belongs to humanity.”
Up next, we will organize the final public dissemination in the area that contributes water debris the most in Ayung river stream, Denpasar. We invite you to come to this event, joining us in a fascinating discussion on how psychology variables relate to water debris that we produce. Mark your calendar: Taman Baca Kesiman, 29 November 2019, 17.00-19.00 WITA. Be the part of my life commitment to be a scientist, and support a greater good for the environment.