Scholastic F Ray Popo, SJ
The scholastic formation house at Pulo Nangka (Puna Unit) in East Jakarta, Indonesia provides opportunities for resident scholastics to cultivate eco-friendly habits. And as Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si’, “An awareness of the gravity of today’s cultural and ecological crisis must be translated into new habits.” (LS 209) The word “habits” thus illustrate that caring for the environment can never be done as a one-day program or a one-year project. The common thread needed to overcome environmental challenges is a new lifestyle or a new way of proceeding that is continuous.
Puna Unit is one of five units at the Hermanum College and community and there are currently nine scholastics living in this unit (five from Indonesia, two from Thailand, and two from Myanmar) and two Indonesia Jesuits. The scholastics are studying philosophy at STF Driyarkara (Driyarkara School of Philosophy). A unit is an independent formation house and so each unit has its own way of proceeding regarding the residents’ daily life such as the time of daily mass, community hours, policies, among others. This is their way to exercise communal discernment as a community.
As the resident scholastics, we try to apply eco-friendly policies in our daily lives that are outputs from our reflection and communal discernment on concerns that need attention in our common home at Puna Unit.
One example is our habit of using the air conditioner. At Puna Unit, every scholastic’s bedroom has an air conditioner installed which is different from the other four scholastics’ formation houses in Jakarta.
An air conditioner is certainly a convenient facility especially in a place like Jakarta which has a warm and humid climate. We are left with two choices: to use the air conditioner as long as we like or to use it with an eco-friendly awareness. We agreed to use the air conditioner sparingly and the habit we decided to cultivate is to turn the air conditioner off when the room is cool, usually after an hour. This is a simple daily habit anyone can do.
Turning off the air conditioner is sometimes considered similar to turning off lights when not in use. But it is different because turning off the air conditioner when we still need it to overcome the heat is a form of sacrifice, a “selfless ecological commitment” as the Pope puts it (LS 154). We reduce our tendency to satisfy our comfort as we think of those who live without any air conditioner at all.
There is also a garden in our unit that we managed to reorganize recently. The place used to be full of various potted plants that were overcrowded and all over the garden. We inherited those plants from previous scholastics who previously planted or bought plants.
Each community member has a responsibility for the garden even though it is mainly the beadle’s duty. The decision to reorganize our garden was made together as a community after an open discussion. We considered the garden as a solid comparison to Earth that we inherited from our ancestors (in our case, the previous scholastics living at Puna). Furthermore, we also started to think about what we will bequeath for the future members of the Society who will reside at Puna. Surely, a serene garden is not a bad idea.
Caring for the garden allows us pay regular attention to creation. We learn to be mindful of which plant needs cutting, new soil, a bigger pot, watering, among others. We also learn to appreciate nature and seeing how plants grow each day, watching a new leaf open by itself, and looking at colorful butterflies fluttering their wings among the flowers are rare sights in Jakarta.
Having a garden is a privilege in an urban context and caring for a garden is a job maybe better left with gardeners, not experiencing the hidden journey of a seed growing into a huge tree. Being in direct touch with creation helps us to relate and to realize that we, as creation ourselves, are connected to the same Creator.
Our next commitment is to purchase traditional local fruits rather than imported ones from supermarkets. After our last discussion, we agreed to change our habit and buy fruits from the traditional market vendors. The purpose is not just for economic reasons as local fruits are cheaper but by returning to the traditional markets, we acknowledge local fruits and support the local economy and local farmers.
These are some examples and experiences of the eco-friendly habits that we are starting to practice as scholastics at Puna Unit. Unlike programs or projects that end after a certain period of time, habits that come in the form of daily ways of proceeding are sustained and they become practices.
It would be good to know how other formation house communities cultivate their eco-friendly habits.
F. Frederick Ray Popo, SJ is a first-year scholastic of the Indonesian Province of the Society of Jesus and he shared this story with Ecojesuit. He may be reached through his email poporayf(at)gmail.com.