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Allan Lasser

back in the saddle

Whole Earth Discipline

“Perfect order” is how anthropologist Stephen Lansing describes it in his talks and books analyzing the Balinese water temple system. The elaborate array of ninth-century tunnels and rice paddy terraces in steep volcanic mountains is managed from the bottom up through a system of what are called subaks. Each subak is a group of men with adjoining rice fields that share a water source. Their meetings are democratic, dispensing with the otherwise powerful caste distinctions of Bali, and subaks are connected to one another through the hierarchic water-temple network. “The Balinese call their religion Agama Tirtha -the religion of water,” says Lansing. “Each village temple controls the water that flows into nearby rice terraces. Regional water temples control the flow into larger areas.”

The Balinese system is similar to what Powell proposed in his western water management plan.