“If we see that the land, water and air around us are our friends, we are not going kill our friends.
“I would like to go deeper into spirituality, into what is called kalyanamitra [spiritual friend] in Bali, as
a very relevant concept for us here in Phuket.”
Dr Chamniern, who is Senior Director of the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), was a keynote speaker, along with Dr Pakamas Thinphanga, project manager at TEI, at the workshop on “Climate Change and Development of Phuket”, held at Thanyapura Retreat on Friday February 17.
“Previously I believed that policies and action plans can change people’s behaviour. But I no longer believe so,” said Dr Chamniern.
“Instead the changes need to come from deep within, from our mind and spirit. Science and technology alone can not accomplish these much needed changes.
He said the main task facing bureaucracy and other environmental stakeholders is to somehow transcend the dividing walls that self-interest has built around each of us, that prevents us from working together for the environment.
He cited the example of his own, ultimately successful 16-year effort to gather support to conserve the Sino-Portuguese heritage in the old town of Phuket, as illustrating how change can come from within.
Because the conservation of this heritage is felt to be an essential part of the “personal cultural entity” of key people, such as Mayoress Somjai Suwannasupana, the conservation project eventually found success.
“The question is whether in Phuket, the Thais, farangs and Burmese who have resided here for a long time can share the same spiritual need for a sustainable island.”
That was just one of the questions some 30 people who attended the workshop, held appropriately perhaps in the monastic environment of Thanyapura Retreat near the green hills of Thalang, set themselves to answer.
Led by Dr Pakamas, and joined by the founders of the SEEK local activist environmental network, Sean Panton and Nick Anthony, the participants broke into groups to work out ways.
Ahead of these pioneers are formidable barriers of greed, selfishness, apathy and ignorance. Nevertheless the workshop seemed full of hope, and determination.