The Rainbow Warrior arrives in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia. The Rainbow Warrior arrives in Jayapura. The Greenpeace ship is in Indonesia to document one of the world’s most biodiverse, and threatened, environments.

Rainbow Warrior III, Greenpeace’s iconic campaigning ship has traveled across the globe to fight against environmental violations and send a message of hope. Sailing for securing the future of our planet, the Rainbow Warrior arrived in Jayapura, Indonesia on May 9, 2013.

 The ship is here to document Indonesia’s rich biodiversity and forests.  It will travel to Jayapura, Manokwari, Raja Ampat, Bali and Jakarta. Having encountered the rich biodiversity of the forests in the country recently, I was more than ready to experience the exquisite life in the waters of Indonesia.

In any country, a sea-port is a place where one can see the endless rows of cargo that reflects the age of over consumption that we live in. The mechanical nature of the cargo ships, port authorities and goods is a testimony to the fact that man has reduced the value of the oceans for selfish endeavors, with little regard for the environment or for the living beings in the water.

However, on the arrival of Rainbow Warrior, the port of Jayapura transformed itself into a space that celebrates the coming together of cultures, people and nature. It was overwhelming to see the welcoming spirit and pride in the people of Jayapura.  It was also hard to believe that on October 25 2010, the Rainbow Warrior II was denied entry into Indonesian waters after the government refused to permit the ship to dock in Jakarta.

Papuan traditional dancers poses on board the Rainbow Warrior in Jayapura, Papua, Indoneisa. Papuan traditional dancers pose on board the Rainbow Warrior in Jayapura, Papua, Indoneisa.

The festivity of its arrival this time around only echoes the credible work Greenpeace Indonesia has done to safeguard the biodiversity and forests in the country and also of thousands of Indonesians who support Greenpeace Indonesia in their pursuit for environmental justice.

A traditional welcome dance from the native Papuan dancers for the Rainbow Warrior III was a tribute that I shall not forget in a long time. There was joy in the air of homecoming. I say homecoming because, the atmosphere and the people around spoke about their wait and longing for the Rainbow Warrior which had finally come to an end.

The dancers, just like other visitors were inquisitive about the nature of the vessel and what the ship meant to do for Indonesia’s biodiversity. Greenpeace Indonesia had done a very good job of setting up a photo exhibition on the port. The photo exhibition enlightened the visitors on the documentation the ship has been doing around the world and how serious the issue of protecting biodiversity is to Greenpeace and the Rainbow Warrior. I caught a group of children having a serious discussion about one of the photos documenting the decreasing forest cover of Jayapura, their city.

And it was not just the people of Jayapura who were thrilled for the Rainbow Warrior III’s arrival but also the crew who sang a song titled, ‘ Nga Iwi e’, to return the favour of such a warm welcome. The song Nga Iwi e was written by a Maori activist in New Zealand and is generally sung to support the speakers at any event.

Papuan traditional dancers, perform on board the Rainbow Warrior in Jayapura.Papuan traditional dancers, perform on board the Rainbow Warrior.

The fusion of the native Papuan dance and the Maori song at the Rainbow’s arrival pointed towards the collective human conscience and its connection with the nature. It is worth pondering that if we can sing and dance together to celebrate cultures and nature; we can work together to protect the environment too. All we need is a collective conscience.

Greenpeace Indonesia took the celebration to another level when they held a formal press conference on the port. The press conference was attended by prominent government and civil society officials from the state of Papua, Indonesia.

The highlight of the event was when the Papuan governor’s representative, Mr. Noah Kapissa commented that ‘protecting the biodiversity and forests of Indonesia is not just the responsibility of the government but also of the people around the world and dedicated environmental organizations like Greenpeace.’

The captain of the Rainbow Warrior III, Pete Willcox also reminded the people at the press conference that the fight for environmental justice cannot be just about Greenpeace or governments and that people’s power comes first. He also expressed his regret on how the governments across the planet are doing very little to protect the biodiversity and recognise the urgency in the voices of millions of people who have been campaigning tirelessly to save the planet from environmental destruction.

Captain onboard the Rainbow Warrior, Peter Willcox is greeted by Nicholas Yoe, Kayu Pulau Community LeaderThe Captain of the Rainbow Warrior, Peter Willcox is greeted by Nicholas Yoe, Kayu Pulau Community Leader.

Along with the Press conference, Greenpeace Indonesia also conducted a public consultation for promoting solutions and protecting the biodiversity in Papua. The consultation saw the coming together of stakeholders who are committed to develop a critical pathway of biodiversity protection in the state.

One of the key recommendations from the consultation was that the Indonesian government must extend and strengthen the existing moratorium on protecting the forests in Indonesia. The other recommendations also shed light on important perspectives that can go a long way in protecting the biodiversity of Papua.  One of the other important recommendations was that given the conflict between the Indonesian state and Papua, the special autonomy law can be used as a political tool for the management of natural resources, especially in reducing deforestation.

The consultation concluded that increasing the involvement of indigenous communities in the sustainable management of forests can indeed be useful and the Indonesian government must be compelled in writing and in action to reduce carbon emissions by 26% by 2020.

A Papuan traditional dancer poses in front of the Rainbow WarriorA Papuan traditional dancer in front of the Rainbow Warrior.

The day progressed with the ship being opened to visitors and at the day’s closing, one of the dancers came up to me and told me how important the seas are to the Indonesian people. He said, “The seas are rich with life and we depend so much on them for our everyday needs.  The Indonesians would be very insignificant without the treasures of the ocean. I am happy that the Rainbow Warrior is taking the lead to protect our seas.”

There was earnestness in his words and it makes us wonder if we will always be able to appreciate and celebrate the biodiversity the way it is or if we will lose the celebration for mourning if we falter to work on the solutions for environmental injustice.

Pari Trivedi is a Media Officer with Greenpeace India.