And the biggest success will be when everyone in Indonesia says, “No more single-use plastic!”
“I was feeling that I wanted to see other oceans, other places,” Mora explains during a Regenerative Futures’ Zoom conversation.
Her passion for the environment — specifically for the eradication of single-use plastic — was prefaced with an innate curiosity and desire to learn. That curiosity led her to a documentary, which led her to MUDFISH NO PLASTIC, where she uses curiosity and creativity to educate children and young adults on the environment. Through song, dance, and arts and crafts, she and her team engage students on topics such as the beauty of the Indonesian landscape and the damaging effects of single-use plastic, and provide them with the critical information and tools to become future environmental educators and activists.
Despite Mora’s current role as an educator and activist, she wasn’t always this way. In fact, it was only a few years ago that she herself became educated on the environmental impact of single-use plastic and decided to dedicate her life to the fight against it. Because, while Mora matter of factly states that she does not always feel heard, she understands the importance of the future, and specifically the young people who will shape it:
“If we cannot save now, let’s save the future. The children who are now living, they will be the role models. So we do not really care about the adults, like my generation, I will die in the next few years. But the youth, those are our key participants. That’s who we want to put the encouragement, the curiosity, the excitement. So I will still do this. I don’t care. I will do this because I have nothing to lose.”
— Remi Riordan
Watch Regenerative Futures’ video profile here.
Regenerative Futures: Hello! What’s your name?
Mora Prima Siregar: My name is Mora Prima Siregar. The name Mora in the language of my people means “rich” and in the Indonesian language Prima means “healthy, good, fit.” My parents gave me those names in the hope that I would grow up to be rich in both pocket and heart. Well, at least I’m sure about the “heart.”
RF: How are you feeling right now?
MPS: I am feeling good and “healthy” and also very excited about having a chance that The Regenerative List will consider my MUDFISH NO PLASTIC project worthy of support. But whether or not I am accepted, I will continue to live my life excited and curious about where my journey will take me.
RF: What’s a secret your search history can tell us about you?
MPS: I’m afraid that I have to disappoint you. My search history will not reveal any secrets. Most of my time is spent working on MUDFISH NO PLASTIC projects in an attempt to reduce the terrible amount of pollution that is doing so much damage to my beautiful country — Indonesia. So when I go on the internet, my searches all have to do with the problem of plastic pollution, and alternatives to the use of single-use plastic, and ways to recycle plastic — probably sounds pretty boring to most people. Of course, I don’t only research plastic. I also spend time on finding out lots of other exciting stuff — like how to make compost, and how to do fundraising and strategies for engaging people in my project. I also watch videos about animations, arts and crafts, to get more ideas for our workshops. I need to update my brain with creativity, because I need to bring something fun and attractive, but educational to my participants.
Oh, here is a secret, a really, really small one. I was on the internet, and I came across a profile of Greta Thunberg. I was interested in her projects, so I decided to write her a letter. But, while I was writing it, I saw a mention in the article about the Regenerative List. I clicked on the link and saw what you were doing, and thought to myself, “Hey, I can do this! Why not give it a shot!” So my only secret is that it is your fault that because I am applying for support from you I never wrote my letter to Greta!
RF: What are you reading/learning about at the moment?
MPS: I am now reading articles about burning plastic since many people burn plastic in small villages. And, also I am reading many articles on topics ranging from the environment to the arts, because I need to create my own narratives and understanding first, so when I go to the children and community, it is easier for me to engage and bring up any related topics.
I am currently reading the stories of Flannery O’Connor in an attempt to improve my writing skills. In my spare time, I am making stop-motion animations, and enjoying live music with my friends. Recently, I watched The Fisherman’s Son, a documentary of a Chilean surfer who took himself from nowhere to make a name for himself in the surfing community. He is now an activist to save the waves of his hometown by protecting the area.
RF: Who is your favorite human and why?
MPS: For 20 years, I lived with a woman who had a very big heart. She was equal parts patience and stubbornness. She only graduated from high school, but her outlook on life was bigger and smarter than any university degree. She married at a young age and lived a hard life, working to put food on the table for five children. She was dedicated to providing for her children with the goal of having them all go to university. Her strength is a constant reminder to me that a woman should be independent both economically and mentally, that a woman needs to have a good job and not rely on a man. She is a beautiful, hard-working woman, who never ceases to want to learn, who always listens, and who trusts her children. She is cool and easy going, and her cooking is fantastic. She smells good and has beautiful eyes. Maybe she is growing older and a bit more cranky, but it doesn’t matter she is my favorite human: My Mom.
RF: Which key moment inspired you to start your project?
MPS: It was a small thing. I was watching a documentary, A Plastic Ocean, and there is a scene in the film where they opened a dead bird’s stomach, and it was full of plastic. That was the turning point for me. It hurts me to imagine these birds flying so freely and carelessly, eating what they think is food, only to end up with their stomachs full of plastic or choking them to death. They do not know that what they are happily eating is something that will kill them. I realized that it is the same way for humans. It hurts me to see that so many people do not know that what they are doing is killing nature and themselves. I want people to have the information and understanding that what we use has the power to be good or bad, depending on our behavior. For people to know that we have an option to choose what is best for us, but that first, we need to understand what is bad for us. After that moment there were many more real-life experiences that became clear to me. Seeing a father burning plastic while holding his babies, seeing rivers full of plastic packaging, cleaning up rice fields of the never-ending stream of discarded plastic. Suddenly, I was able to see how bad the plastic pollution was that had always been in front of me. Like most people, I simply had not been aware of it, and then one day, I understood the problem, could see the pollution, and knew that I had to do something about it.
RF: In two years time, what would your project’s success look like?
MPS: If you put the keyword phrase “mudfish no plastic” in your search engine you will see our MUDFISH NO PLASTIC posts on social media that show our workshops, our clean-up efforts, children singing and dancing, and some creative videos, all of which is to let people know about our efforts to combine art, fun activities, and a solid education about plastic pollution and recycling to bring to remote and isolated villages and schools in Indonesia. What would success look in two years? Well, of course, I would hope that the children that we have been teaching in two years have grown, both in years and wisdom, and that they have become role models for their parents and the people in their villages.
But real success, for our project, would be the creation of a comprehensive training program that trains teenagers and young adults, in the villages we visit, in how to independently run on-going workshops for the children as well as overseeing community recycling projects. Success would be that when MUDFISH NO PLASTIC has left a village, there are local people who are: 1. Continuing our work; 2. Encouraging the people to stop using single-use plastic; 3. Convincing the people to stop getting rid of plastic by burning it; 4. Making sure that everyone is using a reusable bottle and tote bag; 5. Operating a proper recycling system. Our project is already a small success, but it will be a much bigger one if we train local people to run workshops and can reach out to many more unprivileged people and children in remote areas, and spread our fun, and songs, and information. And the biggest success will be when everyone in Indonesia says, “No more single-use plastic!”
RF: If you could focus a large percentage of government funding on one industry or project for the next five to ten years, which would you choose and why?
MPS: I would like the government to create a Special Task Force comprised of people who are committed to solving the problem of plastic pollution in Indonesia. People who have discovered or invented alternatives to single-use plastic. People who are working on the ground with communities to put proper plastic disposal and recycling systems in place. This Task Force of inventors and activists would collaborate to share their ideas and tools and to gather more research and to create new products that are safe for nature and humans and animals, replacing single-use plastic. A group dedicated to ending the use of plastic packaging, single-use plastic bottles, single-use plastic bags.
RF: What are the best and the worst things about the education system in your country?
MPS: Worst: Schools are too focused on grades, on what is inside the textbook, and on how good you remember facts. Also, many teachers become teachers only because of social pressure and money, reducing the quality of education. And, because educational standards differ from one place to another, the quality is not equal; it depends too much on where you live.
Best: We can choose whatever majors that we want to study. The teachers do not say things like, “You cannot be a mathematician because your math skills are bad.” The Indonesian education system is far from perfect, but slowly the standards are getting higher. At least, it is trying to improve itself based on trial and error.
RF: Do you have a message for anyone your age living in the year 2060?
MPS: “Hello…. I hope you are doing well.
How are the oceans where you live?
How are the rice fields?
I am really curious about how things look in 2060.
Hopefully, you can swim and enjoy the rice fields as I did in the past.
I hope you are not drinking water in plastic bottles and have to see plastic waste lying on the ground and floating in the water.
I hope you can eat seafood while enjoying the view without sniffing burned plastics.
You should know that in 2020 some of us were doing our best to save the planet. But unfortunately, many people, a lot of them in power, do not get the message. I hope our concerned minority wins, and you are drinking water that is not from a plastic bottle. But if somehow in 2060, nature is still struggling to regenerate and become healthy, and things are as bad or worse than in 2020… please… pull yourself together, and don’t take this situation for granted. Stop using single-use plastic, and work with your community to protect nature. Be strong! And, good luck.”
RF: What inspires or frightens you most about the future?
MPS: Inspiring: It is possible that through our work today, we will see people living in a world that is free of single-use plastic, and there is less poverty in our small villages.
Frightening: That there are no more oceans where it is safe to swim. No more rice fields to enjoy. That people are still ignorant and uncaring. That children are still breathing burnt plastic. That the fish are dead, the animals suffering, and humans still ignorant.
RF: Regeneration is…
MPS: Nature, you and me.
To learn more about Regenerative List finalist Mora Prima Siregar, click here.