I have been in Bali now for the past six weeks and when we visit here it always feels like home. The people are welcoming and friendly, the climate is warm and comfortable, the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. Over two weeks ago, the threat of Mount Agung erupting began to rise and media jumped on the story in a hurry, always referencing that it was some seventy kilometres from the tourist hotspot of Kuta. This tends to be the focus of the media; what an impact it's going to have on tourists and their travel plans during the school break in Australia. Should they cancel their trip? Hurry! Buy travel insurance to protect yourself from flight cancelations. Of course, that’s always a good idea, but is that REALLY what the focus should be?
Kuta, the armpit of Bali in my opinion, is nowhere near any “threat of life”. The only thing tourists tend to think about is themselves and how it’s going to impact their precious tanning time. Please, #firstworldproblems. The media loves to sensationalize current events in order to sell you their products. They neglect the impact of doing so when there is in actuality very little threat to tourists and travellers coming to Bali. I don’t doubt the scientists' predictions. They have been observing these events collectively for decades and all of the predictions, for the most part, have come true. Just look at what we have seen recently. Hurricanes completely devastating the Caribbean Islands and the southern United States. Three separate earthquakes killing hundreds in Mexico. The largest typhoon on record in Vietnam. The flooding in the Himalayas. And now, the threat of an eruption from a sleeping giant that hasn’t popped off in over 50 years. Am I hinting enough at the issue here?
Cue the scientists in unison; climate change, anyone?
No, no, there’s still not enough proof, according to the disgrace in the White House. Look, I am utterly against organized religion but whatever “God” you believe in, I think we can all agree that Mother Nature is sending us a clear message. She’s had enough and is fighting back. Hard. Now with that being said, I am getting a little bit off the topic of my initial rant, so let me get back to the utter threat of impending doom to tourists in Bali.
Absolutely ZERO threat. Do you know why? When the Indonesian government first raised the alert, they suspended all trekking to Mount Agung. Placing tourists, adventurists, climbers, and thrill seekers ahead of their own people in terms of priority. Before any evacuations began, they wanted to make sure the tourists were safe. The last time Mount Agung erupted, it killed more than a thousand people and lava flowed about nine kilometers down the mountain. This time, the government set up an exclusion perimeter of roughly twelve kilometres just to be safe. Where is Kuta? Oh yeah, I said that already. SEVENTY KILOMETRES AWAY. Don’t get me wrong, when I first heard the news I was in a bit of a panic myself. I was born in Toronto and I have never been exposed to any kind of major natural disaster. Ever. So, it was kind of a big deal for me. I still don’t know what to expect.
However, as the days went on, I witnessed people go about their daily life. It's not like they had any alternative. I listened to the thoughts of the Balinese, whose first concern was the impact the negative publicity would have on tourism for the island. Seriously, that’s what they are worried about. Their livelihood depends on it. Most of the development in Bali has been for the pleasure and comfort of tourists and travellers like me. I read the media reports and watched Youtube videos, looking for any evidence as to when it was going to happen. My immediate concern was what if it’s going to be worse than they say it is? Should we leave Bali? As I would think about this, I would see people going about their routines. Construction still boomed. Teenagers laughed in the streets. Children played together. Women made their way to temples, presenting offerings to the Gods. Life goes on. So fuck it, we stayed.
The reality is, even if Mount Agung doesn’t erupt, the damage to the industry has already been done in my eyes. Sure, people will still come here but there is already a noticeable decline. I read the other day that 30% of flights into Bali had been cancelled since the news broke about Mount Agung. It could just be for the short term, but quite possibly longer, depending on the severity of the eruption. In the end, the people who will suffer the most are those who were more or less neglected from the beginning. Passed over by the threat to the precious tourists. Farmers who had to leave their livestock behind. Families with children who had to leave the only home they ever knew just to be crammed into shelters like sardines with a lack of clean water and facilities.
This is the true threat of Mount Agung. This is the tragedy here. Now, go enjoy your cocktail on the beach while you flip through your mobile and read about the next natural disaster heading your way. The reality is that there will be something next week, next month, or next year, and it will be the worst thing imaginable. But don't worry. It won't impact you. You can just cancel your plans and go somewhere else or better yet, stay at home with all the comforts you've come to take for granted. Just remember: The people who always suffer tend to be the ones who are least responsible.