Friday, December 30, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
One of the most conspicuous aspects of the Balinese landscape is the ubiquitous temple. If they seem to be everywhere it's because they are; in 1983 Stephen Lansing estimated there to be upwards of 20,000 temples on the TK square kilometer island. The Hindu temples (pura) are one of the things that make Bali what it is. They are also one of the main attractions responsible for the hoards of unwashed backpackers laden with Lonely Planets, pastel sets, and Bintang t-shirts that clog up the roads. But as we'll see in this post, the function of Balinese temples are not limited to the spiritual realm; they are also an important pillar of civil society. The temples also are aspects of a uniquely Balinese time-space geography.
Temples Temples Temples
A Balinese temple is best understood as a place where several cycles periodically coincide--cycles that connect the Upper, Middle, and Lower worlds. Many of the most powerful forces at work in the Middle world originate outside it. For life to continue in the Middle World, these forces must be accomodated--Lansing 1983:55.
|Balinese Plintangan calendar from here.|
Villages in Bali have three main types of temples:
- Pura Pusah--These are dedicated to Vishnu and are considered to be the "highest" temples. They deal with the realm of water.
- Pura Desa--These are dedicated to Brahma and deal with the realm of fire.
- Pura Dalam--These are considered to be the "lowest" temples and deal with matters of "black and white", or cosmic balance.
Subaks and Water Management
One often-cited example of a temple network that transcended the petty principalities is the system of puras that regulates irrigation across Bali. As you know by now, rice is the staple crop of most of Indonesia and Southeast Asia in general. Rice is more than just food, though. It's the foundation of society. Think of it this way: in order to have a state or government, you need to be able to produce a surplus of rice, because you have to support people that don't work in the rice fields. The production of agricultural surplus is probably the most important enabling factor in the rise of "civilization". Wet rice is a good crop for producing surplus, because you can grow a lot of it in a relatively small area. But in order to produce a surplus of rice, it's important to be able to control the flow of water, because wet rice is a fairly complex crop to grow. Wet rice needs dry periods, but it also needs to be flooded for a good portion of the growing season. So you have to be able to inundate and later drain the fields, and you can't always rely on the seasons for this. Irrigation is really important but irrigation works take the cooperation and coordination of a lot of people to build and maintain. So although it's hard to know for certain, here in Bali (and in many other places across Southeast Asia), people organized themselves to build irrigation works and terraces, and later complex government apparatuses grew out of this.
|Diagram from Lansing, 1983; see references|
- Seka numbeg: provides labor for land preparation
- Seka tandur does rice transplanting
- Seka mejukut does weeding
- Seka merana does pest control
- Seka manyi does harvesting
- Seka gebros does rice selection
- Seka sambang monitors water consumption.
|Juwuk Manis Subak Map|
(1) This is something of a simplification.
(2) In the Balinese conception of the cosmos, "devils" and "gods" aren't good or bad. Rather they represent natural forces that are part of the larger cycle of existence. According to this world view everything goes through a natural cycle of growth and decay. The upper world represents the growth part of the cycle, whereas the lower realm represents the decay part of the cycle.
(3) Since Bali is very close to the equator, there isn't a lot of seasonal variation other than the monsoons. This means that you can grow rice year-round.
References and For Further Reading
Geertz, Clifford. 1980. Organization of the Balinese Subak. In Irrigation and Agricultural Development in Asia, Coward, E. Walter, ed. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press. 384pp.
Lansing, J Stephen. 1983. The Three Worlds of Bali. NY:Praeger. 170pp.
Suradisastra, Kedi, Wahyuning Sejati, Yana Supriatna, and Deri Hidayat. 2002. Institutional Description of the Balinese Subak. Jurnal Litbang Pertanian, 21:1 pp11:19
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The Spread of Ideas in Time and Space
|Map from Peter Loud's Website|
Expansion diffusion: this happens when an idea, practice, good, etc spreads across an area like a fire across a field. In most cases the fire doesn't hop from place to place; it moves from areas that have already been burned. Expansion diffusion happens when one person tells another; thus it an idea eventually makes its way through an entire area or population. Hierarchical diffusion and contagious diffusion (below) are often described as subcategories of expansion diffusion.
Contagious diffusion: When we hear the word "contagious", we usually think of diseases, which are spread from person to person via various vectors. Contagious diffusion refers to the spread of an idea directly from person to person. The best example of contagious diffusion here I can think of is the spread of Facebook. When I first came here 5 years ago there were only two internet places in town, and they were both painfully slow. However, something happened between 2007 and 2010 that lead to the mushrooming of internet "cafes" in Sungai Penuh and surrounding towns (1). The proliferation of these establishments has made the internet available to a large segment of the population, and one of the first things people discover when the get online is Facebook. It's become quite common for people, even small children, to ask me for my Facebook address when they see me around town. Contagious diffusion is often likened to a wave of innovation passing through a region; in this case the internet and Facebook would definitely fit the bill.
|Map from here.|
Other barriers are reflectors which alter the course of diffusion processes. One of the classic examples of a reflection barrier is the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Like all growing cities, over the past century and a half Chicago has expanded its borders. However, since people can't live on water, the presence of the large lake has caused the city's expansion to move around the lake. Have a look at the map and you'll get the idea. In Kerinci valley Kerinci Seblat National Park functions as a reflecting barrier. We can see this in the way that villages have expanded in certain parts of the valley. Instead of opening up new land inside the park (2), village expansion has tended to follow the fringe of the park.
Some barriers act as filters, letting some things spread but slowing or completely stopping other things. Political boundaries are a good example of this. It's difficult to completely seal off a border; for instance you can't completely shut out communication transmitted through the air, but you can stop the flow of goods and people over land. And even when borders are very permeable, sometimes other factors, like language, slow the process of diffusion. There are also enabling factors, like technology. One good example of this is cellular towers. Handphones are pretty much useless if you can't get a signal, and you can't get a signal if you are too far from the tower. The construction of cell towers in nearly every corner of the valley has enabled the rapid spread of handphones, and now nearly everyone has one. You can see another example of an enabling technology in the picture to the right. I've already mentioned the notion of "distance decay"; in the case of frozen or perishable goods this actually takes a literally meaning. The advent of freezers in the minimarts of Sungai Penuh has allowed merchants to sell frozen goods, like "chicken" nuggets. According to my tiger-chasing buddy, who has lived here for nearly 20 years, these ice boxes are really starting to change the diet here, for better or worse.
Thus we can see how the geography of an area is related to the rate at which new ideas are introduced. For a long time the mountains functioned as a barrier protecting the people of Kerinci valley, but now the mountains have become an obstacle, limiting the rate at which new goods come to the people of Kerinci. As we've seen in previous posts, this is also related to conservation, as the national park which surrounds the valley has become a barrier as well since its protected status prevents the construction of new roads, which would presumably increase the rate of diffusion because they would make it easier to access the valley. For my part I'm eagerly awaiting the diffusion of Pizza Hut to the valley, as the one in Padang insists that my house is outside their delivery radius, and so they refuse to have a driver make the seven-hour trip to bring me a cheese-stuffed double pepperoni.
(1) I'm referring to "warnets", which are shacks that have a bunch of computers hooked up to the internet. Generally the connection is relatively fast, and you pay 20-40 cents an hour to use the internet.
(2) As we know from previous posts, the existence of the park certainly hasn't stopped illegal encroachment and cultivation, but it definitely changes the predominant direction of expansion.
Monday, December 12, 2011
|Photo from The Health Success Site|
A time-space web model, in the sense of a flow of life-paths controlled by given capabilities and moving through a system of outside constraints, which together yield certain probability distributions of situations for individuals, should, in principle, be applicable to all aspects of biology, from plants to animals to men. Torstein Hagerstraand, 1970.
Whenever I come to Indonesia I end up losing weight....a lot of weight. Generally during the course of a three month stay I lose about 20 lbs, which, upon my return to Hawai'i, I quickly gain back. Normally the weight loss is caused by a change in diet; I eat a lot of food from street vendors and places that would make your average health inspector descend into a cataleptic trance. The food is good and somewhat nourishing, but frequently it comes with a post-meal bonus that is often euphemistically referred to as "Montezuma's Revenge". This time however I've lost a bit more than that; so much that I had to cut a new hole in the belt I've been wearing for the past 10 years. The "normal" symptoms, which I'm used to dealing with, turned into an debilitating 2-week long trial which sapped my energy and motivation to work. I'm not a big fan of scatological humor, but to make a long story short, my intestines were leaking like the old Polish navy.
"Dysentery? That's AWESOME! I was hoping I'd get dysentery or beri-beri or something like that."
"What's awesome about it? Dysentery has killed thousands of people over the years", she cautioned.
"Yeah but do you know how much field cred you get for tropical diseases? It's almost as cool as surviving a tiger attack. I can brag about it to all the lab researchers when I get back home".
"Yeah but it could damage your liver pretty severely," she warned.
"Liver, schmiver. I can get a new one of those. David Crosby did it three times".
Nevertheless, she recommended that I seek medical treatment. The next working day I made my way down to the "hospital" to talk to a doctor and check out the nurses. As I sat in the consultation room discussing the intimate inner-workings of my intestines, I noticed a number of non-medical people peering in the windows and doors, including the parking attendant, a young man around 18 years of age. I realized that soon everyone in Kerinci Valley was going to know about me and my "problem", and that I'd be subject to the potty-themed taunts of ojek drivers for the next 8 months unless I asserted myself.
"What are all these people doing here?" I asked the nurse.
"Oh, you're a foreigner, so they are curious about you."
"Don't my insides work the same as yours?" I asked somewhat rhetorically. Then I turned to the guy peering in the window: "Scram, you little bastard. This is between me and the nurses".
After a while the doctor arrived on the scene. Dealing with all the "curious parties" put me in something of a persnickety mood, and so my carefully concealed wiseass American nature emerged from within. The doctor examined me and then gave me some nutritional advice.
"Usually problems like this are caused by diet".
"That's a real revelation, Doc".
"You need to eat three meals a day..."
"What a novel concept..."
"And avoid Indomie (instant noodles)..."
"Well what am I going to eat then, Doc?"
"I suggest rice..."
"Where am I going to find rice around here?"
I left the hospital with four types of medication: Tyran (ranitidine), Diadium (loperanide), Lapikot (trimethoprim and sufamethoxazole), and Scopamin Plus (hyoscine-n-butylbromide and paracetamol). I'm happy to report that after a week my innerds are functioning like clockwork, and I've got a lot more energy. I don't know if I had amoebic dysentery or not since I didn't get any labwork done, but I did get to ruminating on the applications of geographic theory to the squirts.
A Pioneer in Time-Space Geography....
It was primitive economics to assume that banks should worry about the identity of coins. Is it advanced or primitive social science to disregard the identity of people over time in the same fashion? This is what we do in most cases when we treat a population as a mass of particles almost freely interchangeable and divisible-- Thorsten Hagerstraand, 1970.
The more I thought about my gastrointestinal challenges, the more I realized that it is an quintessentially geographic problem, because my debilitated condition created not only a spatial constraint, but a temporal one as well. Most people realize that geographers are interested in how things are arranged on the landscape, but we are also interested in the temporal dimension as well. I thought back to the work of the legendary Thorstein Hagerstraand, a brilliant Norwegian geographer who is regarded as one of the pioneers of incorporating time into geographic theory and analysis. Hagerstraand's body of work is expansive, but in his 1970 presidential address to the European Congress of the Regional Science Association, he unveiled the seminal concept of time-space prisms.
Within the prism we encounter obstacles or limitations. Hagerstraand identified 3 types of constraints:
- Capability constraints: "Those which limit the activities of the individual because of his biological construction and/or the tools he can command" (12). Sleeping and eating are examples that affect all of us.
- Coupling constraints: These are obligations or other requirements that limit our freedom in traversing the prism. Going to work, going to school, appointments, and other set-time events are coupling constraints, because you have to be as a certain place at a certain time. Hagerstraad refers to groupings of several individual paths as "bundles". You can think of these as organized activities. For example, the functioning of a factory depends on a lot of people being in specific places doing specific things.
- Authority constraints: Hagerstraand uses the terms "domain" and "control areas" to refer to places that have limited access. For example, you can only go to the bank during certain hours; outside of those hours the space of the bank would be an inaccessible gray area on your time-space prism (unless, of course, you are a burglar).
Each of these three constraints comes together in our own personal time-space prisms. Below you can see a diagram I took from Hagerstraand's original article; it isn't as descriptive as it could be but you can probably get the idea. The whole point of the article, though, is that planners need to take these constraints, as well as individual capabilities, into consideration when building public spaces or deciding how cities should be laid out. As we'll see in a moment, this framework of analysis is quite useful for understanding dysentery and other nasty ailments.
The Geography of Montezuma's Revenge...
So once again we see how geography can enlighten our lives and help us make sense of the chaos around us. The main lesson here is watch what you eat, and bring your own toilet.
References and For Further Reading
References and For Further Reading
Hagerstraand, Torsten. 1970. What About People In Regional Science? Ninth European Congress of the Regional Science Association.
This article is really worth reading, but you won't be able to access it unless your library has a subscription to one of Wiley's overpriced digital repositories (or unless your library has the actual print version). UH has back issues of this particular journal, but not in the electronic format. Since I'm in Indonesia, it's not very convenient for me to go over to Sinclair library. I tried to find it on line, but it turns out that Wiley is holding the article hostage, and you can only look at it if you pay 35 euros. Fortunately, however, the gods of scholarship smiled upon me and the article somehow emerged out of the ether. If you want to read the article and can't find it, it might emerge out of the ether for you too, if you were creative enough to track down and email someone that might be willing to help you in your quest.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
|Photo from Yayasan Mandiri|
Kami sampaikan bahwa listrik yang kini menerangi rumah mereka itu sangat bergantung pada air. Sedangkan air sangat bergantung pada hutan. Jika masyarakat senang dengan adanya listrik dan ingin terus menyala, mereka harus menyayangi hutan. Suriani, head of the Kelompok Simpan Pinjam Meratus Indah cooperative, quoted in Kompas 12/8/11
|Graphic from microhydropower.net|
The Kompas article describes how a remote village had adopted mikrohidro. This particular project generates about 8,000 watts, which is shared among 42 households at 200 watts/house. They use the electricity from 5pm until 7am unless there is some sort of special activity. The members of the community have regulations on what they can use the electricity for; lights and televisions are okay, but ice boxes and washing machines are prohibited. The idea, according to the head of the cooperative, is to conserve the electricity while discouraging "consumerism" in the village. Each household pays 40,000 (US$4.70) rupiah per month which pays for upkeep and maintenance. To be eligible to receive electricity the members have to sign a written agreement that they will help take care of the water catchment area.
|Drawing from here.|
The trees are protected because they help ensure a stable water supply, without which the turbine wouldn't work. Trees are an important part of the hydrological cycle because when it rains trees keep the water from entering the stream all at once. In addition to slowing the water down with their leaves, trees absorb thousands of gallons of water into their roots. Water is carried up through the tree and is evaporated directly out of the tree's leaves (transpiration), and is released back into the air. Eventually this makes it rain. If you cut down all the trees, not only does the water flow more quickly into the stream, you lose the storage capacity of the forest as well as the rain-generating aspects, and so you undermine your steady and dependable supply of water.
Benefits and Potential of Mikrohidro...
Water is an abundant resource in Indonesia. The UNDP estimates that the country has hydropower potential as high as 62.2 gigawatts, including 458 megawatts of mikrohidro. Thus far, though, only around 5 megawatts have been installed in rural areas, and it's estimated that only about 1 megawatt of this is being used. At the same time, about 40% of Indonesian households lack electricity, and over the next two decades electricity consumption is expected to grow by 450%. Though the state-owned electricity monopoly (PLN) has greatly increased its capacity (growing from less than 800 megawatts in the mid-1970s to around 21 gigawatts by the end of 2002), it has difficulties expanding the national grid for a number of reasons. A big limitation is the cost of the infrastructure required to deliver electricity from a large power plant to rural villages. Another problem is the company's finances; they are deeply in debt, which was exacerbated by the 1997 financial crisis. During the crisis the value of the rupiah declined sharply versus the dollar, which had the effect of greatly increasing the value of PLN's debt. At the same time PLN has to buy fuel and spare parts on the world market, and so a weaker rupiah makes these things more expensive.
|Renewable energy potential in Indonesia|
Mikrohidro also avoids many of the adverse environmental impacts of larger hydropower projects. Big dams lead to the inundation of large areas, which takes land out of production and often leads to the relocation of people (3). In addition big dams can hamper or all together stop fish migrations on rivers. Dams alter streamflow characteristics like velocity and volume, and thus have sometimes deleterious downstream effects. Many dams also eventually become useless due to the accumulation of sediment behind the dam; when a stream enters a reservoir the water current slows down, and so it loses its capacity for sediment transport. The sediment settles to the bottom of the reservoir, making it shallower and shallower over time. Mikrohidro projects use the existing water flow to generate power, so no dam has to be built.
But starting a mikrohidro project is not as easy as it seems. The gear is expensive, ranging from US$1,000 to $700,000, depending on generating capacity. Access to this kind of money is often beyond the reach of villagers, and so foundations, non-governmental organizations, and multi-lateral lenders provide funds, but demand is far greater than supply in terms of donors. In addition, Indonesia is still working to create a conducive business environment for mikrohidro. Though the government passed a law in 1995 to allow small power producers to sell electricity to PLN, it took a long time for the law to be implemented. New regulations were created in 2002 to make it feasible for independent producers to sell power to the grid. This makes mikrohidro attractive to investors. And the more investment you have, the greater the demand for equipment, which can spawn a domestic industry catering especially to the mikrohidro market. Still, a UNDP study indicates that even when mikrohidro projects go online in Indonesia, they frequently perform under capacity or don't function at all. It's estimated that one-third of all mikrohidro projects fall into this category. There are many factors contributing to this problem: in many cases local people lack the capacity to operate and maintain the equipment. In other cases spare parts are too expensive or just aren't available. That's where IBEKA comes in.
A Mikrohidro Crusader...
|Map from IBEKA|
Mikrohidro, and community development projects in general, are about empowerment. IBEKA has learned the valuable lesson that community participation is an essential ingredient in fostering a sense of local ownership. Mikrohidro projects help people make the connection between sustainable livelihoods and environmental well-being. Since people more immediately feel the effects of environmentally destructive practices, like cutting down trees in water catchment areas, they tend to think twice, and in many cases they create systems to regulate the resource and sanction people that break the rules. These are lessons that we should all learn.
(1) Kompas 12/8/11: Menjaga Alam Dengan Mikrohidro. Unfortunately Kompas doesn't allow you to read certain articles online without paying a premium.
(2) I got these numbers from a micro-hydro guidebook; I'm a bit dubious about the 90% figure. The point, however, is that hydroelectric power is much more efficient than systems that rely on fossil fuel.
(3) There is a rich literature on the human costs of large hydropower projects; during its 6 decades of work the World Bank has often been criticized for supporting these types of projects because of the impacts they often have on local communities.
REFERENCES AND FOR FURTHER READING
Christian Science Monitor Story on Tri Mumpuni, coincidentally written by a young lady that once screwed me out of a story when I was writing for the Asia Times, can be found here.
IBEKA's website (mostly "under construction") can be found here.
Friday, December 2, 2011
|Photo from here|
Even today the government seems incapable of providing an infrastructure to support the population, too distracted as it is with maintaining an outmoded feudalism whose intention is to protect dynastic wealth and privilege at the expense of social progress. Yohannes Sulaiman and Philip Turnbull, Jakarta Globe 12/1/11
Saya kira ini akhir hidup saya. Yaya, a victim of the Kartanegara bridge collapse, Kompas 11/28/11
At approximately 4.15 pm on Saturday, November 26 a primary cable supporting the Kartanegara suspension bridge in Tenggarong, East Kalimantan snapped (1). As a result of this catastrophic material failure the bridge collapsed, dumping the road along with all its traffic into the Mahakam River 40 meters below. By Tuesday, November 29 the death toll had reached 18 and another 22 people were still missing. The search for bodies has been hindered by the depth of the river and the speed of the current.
|Picture from here|
|Photo from USA Today|
The collapse of the Kartanegara bridge is a visible symbol of many of the problems associated with construction projects in
. While it is too early to draw certain conclusions, there are suggestions that materials used in the bridge's construction were substandard. In addition it has been reported that an independent inspection of the bridge in 2006 revealed structural problems, including the fact that one of the support pillars had sunk 50 centimeters in 5 years. Moreover it was found that some of the anchor blocks for another of the bridge's pillars had shifted by 18 inches. The firm responsible for the inspection recommended 23 billion rupiah (US$2.7 million) in repairs, but only 1.6 billion rupiah (US$118,235) were budgeted. Between 2008 and 2010 no money was budgeted for repair and maintenance of structure. Experts say that the key to the safety of suspension bridges is regular maintenance, but in this case as well as many others across the country, the government has failed to provide adequate resources for infrastructural upkeep. Indonesia
The company that built the bridge, Hutama Karya, insists that it is only responsible for problems that arise within the first half year of the bridge's opening. When told about the shifting pillars and blocks, the director of this LARGE ENGINEERING COMPANY responsible for MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR PROJECTS said he wasn't aware of the movement. He further stated that "as far as we know, it doesn't matter if it's shifting. As long as the bridge is still working, then it's fine....Besides, no one ever complained about the shifting". In other words, the construction company guarantees its work for no more than six months and maintains that significant shifts in structures like bridges are nothing to worry about.
|Graphic from Indonesia Media|
In a country perpetually ranked among the most corrupt in the world the construction industry stands out as one of the most egregious offenders. Indonesians refer to public service positions dealing with development projects as "wet places" (tempat basah), meaning that there are ample opportunities for graft (places where the bribes aren't as lucrative are "dry places", or tempat kering). Part of this stems from the amount of money spent on infrastructure projects (for example,
2011-2025 development plan calls for nearly half-a-trillion dollars in
investment), but it is also due to the close relationship between developers
and politicians. Project budgets are
generally inflated as politicians receive kickbacks for awarding contracts to
favored companies, often run by cronies or even family members. Procurement of materials and equipment
provide opportunities for bribery, and lack of oversight enables construction
companies to skimp on materials. For
example, a favorite tactic in road construction is to increase the amount of
filler (like sand) used in concrete and asphalt mixtures. This lowers the cost so the contractor can
pocket the difference, but it also drastically decreases the quality of the
road. Anyone that has traveled in Indonesia
is familiar with the results; roads pockmarked with holes that are in some
cases impassible in the rainy season. Indonesia
Maintenance of roads, bridges, and infrastructure are neglected because upkeep doesn't offer the same opportunities for graft as does construction. In addition, politicians love new infrastructure. Campaigns are built around promises of new facilities, and politicians point to the number of new roads and bridges built under their watch as proof of their performance. Infrastructure is a visible symbol of "economic development", and this connection is backed up to a large degree by orthodox economic thinking, which holds that countries need to invest in infrastructure to develop. Thus roads are not only good politics, but they make economic sense as well.
What Does This Have to Do With Geography?
Roads are the backbone of transportation and distribution networks, which are a key interest of geographers. In addition, economic geographers are concerned with the level of infrastructure in a given country as this provides clues as to economic potential. In contrast to economists, though, geographers are more concerned with the processes behind infrastructure development (selection of locations, routes, and specific projects) as well as the effects of new development (anything ranging from how the project changes patterns of movement and flows of goods to conflicts arising from the construction project). Roads are inherently political in that they tend to be advocated by certain groups for certain ends. The choice of location often involves prioritizing one group or interest over others, and by studying these processes geographers can understand informal structures of power as well as "politics of identification".
Despite large "investments" in infrastructure,
Indonesia's freight-transport network is ranked
among Asia's worst. ( Globe 12/1). This makes international and domestic
shipping more expensive, which raises the costs of everything from raw
materials to finished consumer goods. This obviously affect the economic progress of the nation. The question is, how can this problem be addressed. Corruption in construction is part of doing business here, and it can be seen at every level of government. For example, in an impressive study of 608 village road projects "missing expenditures" were found to account for an average of 24% of project costs. "Missing expenditures" refers to money skimmed from wages, materials, and other accounting irregularities. One of the more interesting findings of the study was that the guarantee of a government audit (3) only reduced the average "missing expenditures" by 8 percentage points, which suggests that the government's auditing agency is not very effective in detecting corruption. Thus it seems the whole system is broken, from the tendering process to implementation on through to monitoring and auditing. Jakarta
It's uncertain what the impact of the catastrophe will be. Plans are already being drawn to construct a new bridge at a cost of US$33 million. Cynical Indonesian commenters are convinced that it will be business as usual, but as an outside observer I hope that the terrible loss of life causes Indonesia's political leadership to re-examine the way infrastructure is developed here (4). There's more than enough blame to go around as this episode represents a complete failure of governance. The victims of the tragedy and their families deserve a complete inquiry into the case, but no amount of investigation or reform will compensate them for their loss. Hopefully they will not be forgotten. The bupati of Kutai Kartanegara, for her part, has proposed a unique way of remembering the victims: she says that debris from the bridge will be left as a memorial to the tragedy that occurred there. Evidently the cleanup industry isn't as "wet" as the construction industry.
(1) More recent reports suggest that it was the failure of a clamp, rather than a cable, that led to the collapse of the structure.
(2) The KPK is not able to investigate the construction of the bridge because it predates the agency's mandate.
(3) The goal of the study was to gauge the effectiveness of several methods of reducing corruption. In a number of the cases project organizers were told with certainty that an audit would be conducted on completion of the project. According to the author of the study, the baseline audit rate is about 4% of all projects, so this assurance raised the certainty to 100%. Audits were in fact carried out in each of these cases, but the study revealed that even when there were missing expenditures, the auditors had a hard time finding conclusive evidence that would enable them to prosecute the culprits. The study is available online and can be found in the references below.
(4) To see some of these comments click on the story links below and read the reader comments. They are quite revealing.
References and For Further Reading
Bridge Firms Deny Blame as Bakrie Link Emerges. Jakarta Globe 12/1
Indonesia's Construction Plans Create Bonanza. Jakarta Globe 12/1
Possible Corruption Suspected in Bridge Collapse. Jakarta Globe 11/28
Olken, Benjamin A. 2007. Monitoring Corruption: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia Journal of Political Economy 115:2, pp200-249.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
|Picture of Von Thunen from Wikipedia|
Von Thűnen's Rings
Geographers have long been interested in the relationship between distance to market and agricultural production. One of the earliest and best known models was developed by Johann Heinrich von Thűnen, a German land owner and geographer active in the early 19th century. Von Thűnenwas interested in why farmers decide to grow certain crops in certain places. His model, known vernacularly as "Von Thűnen's Rings", was published in his "Isolated State" in 1826. Von Thunen argued that there are three key variables that affect crop choices: land rent (or production costs), market price, and transport costs. Von Thűnen's Isolated State has several conditions:
- There is a centrally located market town...
- The land is an isotropic plane, meaning there is no topographical variation
- Farmers are rational decision makers
- Farmers are able to transport goods directly to the market.
According to Von Thűnen's calculations, there is a pretty significant distance decay for agricultural products. This causes the emergence of several discrete zones of production radiating out from the central market town. Since farmers on the isotropic plane don't need to worry about roads, these zones take the form of concentric rings, as shown in the diagram. Von Thunen's model is pretty simple and basic (and contrived), but it is instructive. Let's take a look at an example. Below I have some hypothetical production and market data. We can use this to figure out how profitable each crop will be in various locations, which is all the "rational" farmer needs to know to make his/her decision.
Milk Forest Extensive Field Crops Ranching
Market Price 180 140 105 60
Cost of Production 60 45 32 20
Transport Cost/km 25 15 8 4
Based on this data we can make some simple calculations. Milk goes bad fast and it has to be refrigerated or brought to market quickly, which contributes to its costs of production. Ranching, on the other hand, costs much less because the cows, lambs, goats, etc that you raise can transport themselves to market by walking. Let's calculate the productivity per distance. Below you can see the simple spreadsheet I made for profitability. At each distance I highlighted the most profitable crop in green. As you can see, Up to somewhere between 2-3 km, milk is the most profitable, so that's what farmers will produce. But as you move farther away from the market the crop choice changed, until finally farmers choose ranching!
When we start to make the model more realistic, it becomes much more useful. Have a look at the graphic I lifted from Hofstra (who lifted it from a couple of well-known geographers). On the left you see the very basic model applied to the US in the 19th century. It's not very accurate. However the second model adds climate factors, which are really important in agricultural decision making. With the addition of this consideration, the model corresponds much more closely to actual conditions.
So as we've seen, one strategy for dealing with distance to market is to change crop choices. There is another strategy, though: add value. Many agricultural commodities are time-sensitive; that is, they will go bad if they aren't consumed quickly enough. This was a big problem in the frontier grain producing areas of the US in the 18th and 19th century, before the increase in western urban areas and the advent of railway and refrigeration technology. So farmers figured out that in order to make a living, they needed to add value to the grain they produced. The solution was simple: distillation. Farmers on the frontier, far from markets, started making whiskey from grain since whiskey keeps for a long time. It's also much more valuable per unit volume, and so the transport costs decrease for whiskey.
|Cartoon from here.|
These pioneering whiskeymen might have been forgotten to the world if it weren't for a tax levied on corn in the form of hooch levied by the fledgling US government in the 1790s. The Pennsylvania distillers refused to pay the tax and even took up arms against the federal government. Then president George Washington raised an army and marched to Western Pennsylvania, but by the time he arrived the rebels had already dispersed. The "Whiskey Rebellion" ended up without a shot being fired, but it did demonstrate the willingness of the new nation's government to enforce its laws. It also provided an outstanding example for generations of geographers to use when discussing distance to markets.
|Picture from here|
|Picture from here|
1) If you already know where I'm going with this, give yourself 10 bonus points.