Panel 1 – Environmentalism

PANEL 1 – Environmentalism – Plural Ecologies & Multi-Sociologies

Environmentalists and environmental groups within Southeast Asia almost always adopt a holistic approach to apprehending the environment as well as to resolving environmental issues. In this sense, we encourage a dialogue between presentations that highlight the continuum between environmental, social, cultural, religious, and sanitary issues. In addition, in regards to emerging alternatives that attempt to propose solutions to both ecological and infrastructural crises, the presenters will discuss: 

  • The development of collective mobilizations in front of the land, water, and air pollutions;
  • Conflicting conceptions regarding bio-social symbiosis, the exploitation of natural resources, and human domination over other species;
  • Concrete ways in which the protection of ecological systems intersects with collective reflexivity on diachronic and territorial continuums, as well as the dialogues, arrangements, misunderstandings, and conflicts that this intersection provokes;
  • Knowledge, semiotic, practical, and material resources that are or could be mobilized concerning, for example, the interconnections between biological diversity and social plurality.


Host institution: Diponegoro University

Chairperson: Wijayanto (Diponegoro University/LP3ES)


Muzayin Nazaruddin (University of Tartu, Estonia) – Natural Disasters and the Semiotic Transformations of Culture:  The Case of the Volcanic Eruptions of Mt. Merapi, Indonesia

Abstract: This study examines the entanglements of natural disasters and cultural changes from an eco semiotics point of view. Taking the case of Mt. Merapi’s periodic eruptions and the locals’ interpretations of such constant natural hazards, it is based on empirical data gathered through longitudinal qualitative fieldwork on the local communities surrounding this volcano. In order to adapt to the constant natural hazards in their environment, disaster-prone societies develop unique sign systems binding cultural and natural processes. This study shows that traditionally, unique sensorial-environmental sign systems have formed the basis of communication between humans and the environment, allowing the locals to perceive the eruption as communication involving them and local environmental agencies. Thus, disaster entails possibilities for multi-level significations in different sign systems. It is possible that a natural event that is defined as a disaster by many outsider parties is often not perceived as a disaster, or not merely as a disaster by the locals. Recently, the eruptions have triggered the adoption of new livelihoods of local people, as well as the acceptance of new scientific signs for the interpretation of the activities of the volcano. The latter has been accompanied by significant cultural changes, including the adoption of the idea of progress and the transformation of the previous entanglements of local culture and its natural environment. This change has also created a fundamental dependency of the local culture on the external elements, which will in turn create new vulnerabilities among the locals, especially in the form of possible technological and governmental failures. The study concludes that natural disasters, entangled with ongoing social transformations, may play a fundamental role as triggers of semiotic change in a community. Such semiotic change can in turn modify the interpretation of the natural disaster itself, and in that way shift the way humans perceive and interact with their environment. 

Keywords: eco semiotics, natural disaster, semiotic change, volcanic eruption, Mt. Merapi.

Bio & Contact: Muzayin Nazaruddin is a doctoral student at the Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu. His doctoral project is about the semiotics of natural disasters: the entanglements of environmental and cultural transformations. He is also a lecturer at the Communication Department, Universitas Islam Indonesia. His academic interests include environmental communication, eco semiotics, disaster studies, and cultural memory studies. His recent publications include “Media and visual representation of disaster: analysis of Merapi eruption in 2010”, in R. Djalante et al. (eds.), Disaster Risk Reduction in Indonesia: Progress, Challenges, and Issues. Springer International, 2017; “Social media and alternative discourse on natural hazard: a case study of Facebook Group Info Merapi”, Jurnal Komunikasi: Malaysian Journal of Communication, 36 (1), 2020.;

Video presentation

Sar Mory (Cambodian Youth Network, Cambodia) & Dustin Barter (University of Cambridge, UK) – Contesting Hydropower Hegemony: Civil Society Resistance in Cambodia

Abstract: The pursuit of industrialization and rapid economic growth in Southeast Asia continue to drive demand for large-scale hydropower projects that disregard the cultural and ecological contexts in which they are embedded. Weak institutional arrangements mean hydropower’s commodification of the commons often creates severe, unmitigated ecological and social costs, precipitating significant opposition. These tensions are particularly acute in Cambodia, where hydropower projects planned for rural and remote areas, to power urban centers and neighboring countries, have been met with strong resistance. These opposition efforts find themselves not just confronting predatory domestic elites championing a rapacious development model, but also the expansionist capital of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

This paper will examine how international and domestic civil society has contested hydropower hegemony in Cambodia. Adopting an interdisciplinary framework, the paper embeds this contestation within broader political economy, cultural and ecological analysis. Specific case studies of opposition to the Lower Sesan Two and Areng Valley dams will illustrate the dynamics between and amongst international and domestic civil society actors. The analysis will look beyond dominant academic characterizations of Cambodian civil society as overly formalized and technocratic to instead highlight the emergence of dynamic, grassroots forms of resistance. The paper will suggest that these grassroots movements achieved the greatest results often in spite of, rather than because of, more formal international and domestic civil society actors. This conclusion suggests the need for a major adjustment in how these formal civil society actors contest hydropower hegemony. 

Key Words: Cambodia, civil society, hydropower, dams.

Bio & Contact: Sar Mory is a Co-Founder and former Vice-President of the Cambodian Youth Network. He has a decade of experience campaigning with youth and communities on human rights and environmental issues. Mory is also a human and environmental rights educator, focused on supporting rural, indigenous youth and communities affected by damaging development projects. He holds a Masters in International Human Rights Law from Pannasastra University, Cambodia.; 

Dustin Barter is a John Monash Scholar undertaking a Ph.D. in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge, where he is examining dynamics between international institutions and civil society in Cambodia and Myanmar, with a specific focus on contestations of land and water. He has worked in the aid sector for more than a decade in Asia and Africa with national and international organizations, across the humanitarian, peace, and development sectors. 

Video presentation

Senata Adi Prasetia (Sunan Ampel State Islamic University, Indonesia) – Islamic Ecology and Environmental Literacy in Contemporary Indonesia

Abstract: This article aims to explore Islamic ecology and environmental literacy in contemporary Indonesia. In addition to the outbreak of the Covid pandemic for more than a year, the National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) stated that there have been 372 natural disasters in Indonesia since the beginning of 2021. This condition should be a reflection for us together. Questions to be investigated are: what is the extent of the environmental conservation efforts and have they been applied correctly? Is there any such thing as “Islamic ecology” in Indonesia? How can a blueprint of Islamic ecology and environmental literacy be formulated in the context of Contemporary Indonesia? As a religion designed to encompass all the social activity realms, Islam has a concept of environmental conservation (Islamic ecology) and its literacy. Its analysis shows that the most essential aspect in conserving the environment is the preservation of equilibrium between natural and social environments. This equilibrium can be achieved through raising awareness toward equilibrium principles and avoiding destructive attitudes. Mistake of the environmental management has a fatal impact human life as suggested by Q.S. Al-A’raf [7]: 56 and Q.S. Al-Maidah [5]: 32. Therefore, the convergence of Islamic ecology and environmental literacy may be significant in environmental preservation in Contemporary Indonesia.

Keywords: Islam, ecology, environmental literacy, natural disasters, Indonesia.

Bio & Contact: Senata Adi Prasetia is a master’s student of Tarbiyah Faculty, State Islamic University of Sunan Ampel Indonesia. His areas of expertise are Islamic Studies, Islamic Education, Islamic Thought and Philosophy, Sociology, Quranic Studies.

Video presentation

Nurul Hasfi, Ahsani Taqwim Aminuddin, Bayujati Prakoso, Rachela Belinda Fatharani (Diponegoro University) – Potential of Deliberative Discussion on YouTube:  Online Discussion about the Risks of Environmental Destruction Caused by The Implementation of Omnibus Law

Abstract: Natural disasters such as floods, forest fires, global warming, forest destruction, energy crisis and extinction of animals are evidences of the problematic issues in Indonesian environmental management preservation. Amid the low quality of public trust in President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) administration in his serious implementation of environmental preservation, Jokowi suddenly ratified the Omnibus Law, a law that has the goal to increase investment in Indonesia. However, several environmental activists who protest against the policy argue that the law contains some articles that can trigger further degradation of the Indonesian government’s commitment to environmental preservation. The policy then raised large protests from the Indonesian public. In a situation where the public cannot organize offline protests or demonstrations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, they employed an alternative way to convey opinions by using the internet, especially YouTube. This study identified that the protests were mostly done by NGOs, individual environmental activists, university institutions, journalist organizations and media communities who conduct live streaming dialog and live webinars shared on YouTube. This was not a new tool, however, it was used massively in facilitating political dialog including omnibus law protest during the pandemic. Dominant narrations included the rejection of government legitimation about the economic and developmental purpose of the Omnibus Law, the environmental destruction caused by the removal of Analisis Mengenai Dampak Lingkungan (AMDAL) or the environmental impact assessment and the concern about indigenous people. This study found that YouTube provides more space for developing a higher quality of deliberative discussion, contrary to other platforms such us Twitter, for which some research in Indonesia underlined that it produced undemocratic discussions, such as “click activism” that did not build rational discussion. Moreover, YouTube also facilitates non-mainstream sources (expert, NGO, activist) who provide narrations that counter dominant omnibus law narration produced by mainstream media.

Keywords: YouTube, Public Opinion, Omnibus Law, Environmental Issues, Civil Society.

Bio & Contact: Nurul Hasfi has been working as a lecturer at the Department of Communication Diponegoro University since 2006 and has been teaching Online Journalism and Media Industry Technology ever since. She is listed as a member of the Society of Asian Journalists (SAJ), Ateneo de Manila University, as well as alumni of  Study at United State Institute Program: Media and Journalism conducted at Ohio University, USA (2010). For the last five years, Hasfi has been concerned with issues related to social media, democracy, and online political communication in Indonesia.

Ahsani Taqwim Aminuddin is working as a lecturer at the Department of Communication, Pakuan University, and an adjunct lecturer temporarily at the Department of Islamic Communication, State Islamic Institute of Parepare since 2019 been teaching about the Broadcasting and Electronic Media Industry. He is listed as alumni of Communication Science: Media Policy Studies at Diponegoro University, Indonesia (2018). For the last three years, Taqwim has been concerned with Media Digitisation, Social Media Narratives, and Religion Narratives for Countering Terrorism in Indonesia.

Bayujati Prakoso is a master’s degree student in Communication Science at Diponegoro University. As for publishing his latest articles, Reviewing Gadamer’s Hermeneutics in Communication Studies (2020). He has an area of research interest in critical media studies, hermeneutics, and cultural studies.

Rachela Belinda Fatharani is a student in the Master of Communication Studies Program at Diponegoro University. She has conducted audience research about the audience’s meaning of gender representation in a film. Other researches that have been carried out are media business spatialization in the political economy framework and the exposure of news and political information on social media. Currently, Rachela is interested in social media, news, and cultural studies.

Video presentation