22 Februari 2010

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Natural resource exploitation is a short way

As reported by the media, coal mining activities in Kalimantan have created complex environmental and social problems. Green forests have become dry lands. Chemicals have contaminated rice fields and residential areas have been flooded.

In Sidoarjo, the mud problem in East Java has not been fully resolved.

However, those human induced tragedies have not made us more aware of the problems. The over-exploitation of natural resources continues. Is this a sign of the end of the world?

 “We see the signs. Harmony is broken. The good are outnumbered. There is more injustice, exploitation, corruption, pollution. We are facing it [the world’s end] now,” said Abdülhamid Çakmut, a Turkish Sufi master, as quoted by Alan Weisman (2007).

The over-exploitation of natural resources is a real picture of human greed. Greed has destroyed our environment. That is fact! We might think the world is created to serve us humans. We are the most honorable of all creatures on earth, but then we become selfish.

Ecological sustainability is the main foundation of human life continuing on earth. Nonetheless, this principle seems powerless in the face of economics because short-term financial benefits are generally more attractive. Hence why considering the environment in economic activities is just lip service that results in eco-hypocrisy.

While the government expressed its commitment to reducing domestic carbon emissions by 26 percent, new Cabinet ministers were allocated new luxurious cars that emit carbon dioxide.

The government’s emission reduction commitment seems to be no more than a joke. We need a role model.

The government has also stated its commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions from the forestry sector by declaring war against deforestation and intensifying forest rehabilitation. Tree planting has been encouraged by the “One Man One Tree” program. Then again, we see the government is powerless to take action against mining companies that have conducted bad mining practices and destroyed forests illegally.

The rehabilitation rate is slower than the rate of destruction. New mining concessions and permits continue to be issued. Forest logging and mining moratoriums are a long way from being taken into consideration.

The latest news also reported that villas belonging to government officials and political figures occupy the area of Gunung Halimun Salak National Park. What an irony! Aren’t we hypocrites?

This nation also loves shortcuts. Natural resource exploitation is indeed a short way to generate income. With more authority, regional governments invite more investors that turn out to be exploiters. There is no problem if these exploitations are based on comprehensive planning.

However, some indicators show there is no good will. Proposals to convert preserved and threatened ecosystems, for example, are real examples of how sustainable development principles have been neglected.

This results in government dualism. On the one hand, the government seems to have a strong commitment to saving the country’s threatened ecosystems. On the other hand, ecological considerations are always abandoned in developmental activities.

  There is a value gap. Ideal values exist only on paper without practical benefits. Sadly, this has been happening in all sectors. Thus, we are already a nation of hypocrites.

Morality is then jailed. We always try to find shortcuts for everything: In economical aspects as well as in politics. The people also do the same. If the government issues permits for companies to exploit forest resources so easily, it is no wonder people continue to contribute to the damage through illegal occupation or logging preserved forests.

If environmental commitment is only lip service, without any doubt, environmental impact assessments (Amdal) are just dead letters with no real value. Ecological consequences will never be taken into proper consideration. Or, is it really impossible to save our environment?

 As Thom Yorke, a Radiohead vocalist involved in a charity for Friends of the Earth, said, “You technically can’t make it happen [to ensure no damage is inflicted on the environment]. That stresses me out, because I am a hypocrite. As we all are.”

When the harmony (of nature) has been broken, said Çakmut, it is a sign of the end of the world. But, the process might be able to be slowed down.

“We take care of our bodies to live a longer life. We should do the same for the world. If we cherish it, make it last as long as possible, we can postpone judgment day.” Can we take more effort to take care of our only planet? The answer is up to us.

Yansen, The writer is an ecologist at the University of Bengkulu and an Australian Leadership Awards fellow.

Opini The Jakarta Post 23 Februari 2010