This is a guest post by Prof Emeritus Eric Britton:
What troubles me most about the permissiveness and the ambition of present government policies in so many areas – such as protecting the forest reserves as just one example — is the entire matter of irreversibilities of which there are far too many examples and which do not seem to be taken into consideration.
This is not a matter of party politics but of the importance that democratically elected officials simply do not have the right to give away the natural or cultural heritage of the place in which they have been designated to oversee and protect.
They are not the temporary owners who can do what they want with the natural or cultural heritage. They are custodians, caretakers and responsible not only to the immediate exigencies of their community but also of the future for years to come. And this future, in a working democracy, cannot be given away.
Here is the lesson that I have learned not only from my last three years of active association with the transportation debate in Penang, but experience in a significant number of cities and regions on all continents — including my nation of birth the United States of America, which is all too often far from a beacon of light in these matters: that when government fails, for whatever reason, when the private sector pursues its immediate interest without due regard to the ecological, environmental or social impact of their actions on The Commons, there is only one sector that is prepared and able to step up to the challenge. The Third Force, Civil Society, the organisations and committed individuals who take the long view and, when they have to, are ready to step forward to meet the challenge.
Penang is lucky to have a generous selection of these groups, civil society and NGOs, and all I can hope for is that they band together and protect this delicate pearl. Because without your active, aggressive, unfailing involvement, I fear for the worst. Eternal vigilance.
Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy
Institut Supérieur de Gestion, Paris