Risk and the Sacred: Environment, Media and Public Opinion in Bali



This exploration of controversies over environmental regulation in the Indonesian province of Bali traces the relationship between the media, environmental attitudes and Balinese identity, focusing on the religious dimension of that identity and the ways in which this has become bound up with conceptions of environmental imbalance and a popular critique of capitalist development on the island. The fusion of cultural and environmental metaphors of ‘erosion’ and ‘preservation’ in public discourse is striking in the Balinese case, since sites of great spiritual significance are also attractive to investors for their aesthetic appeal and heritage value (Verschuuren et al. 2010). From the earliest emergence of environmental conflict on the island, the emotive power of cultural identity became intimately connected with environmental politics. This article traces several of the pervasive and interconnected dichotomies - sacred and profane, cultural value and economic interest, environmental preservation and use (exploitation), certainty and uncertainty (risk) - that characterise debates surrounding environmental regulation and development on the island.