ABSTRACT

An ideal of sustainability, whether global or local, helps to determine what is unsustainable. General conceptions of sustainability risk losing usefulness as normative ideals; what works in one socio-cultural and ecological context might be irrelevant in another. Unlike Stephen Lansing's automated subaks, however, real subaks make their decisions through a system of deliberation and egalitarian consensus, bringing us to the second dimension of tri hita karana (THK), the relationship between humans. Just as Lansing's computer model showed that the application of simple cropping principles can transmit data across the irrigation system, affecting farmers who might never meet face-to-face, so too can the ritual life of the subaks be seen as connecting each individual field within the dense matrix of Balinese cosmology. UNESCO's goal is to preserve the subaks values and technical features while enabling the farmers to eat, whether it is the rice they grow or goods they buy with the proceeds of tourism.