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 among many— 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 it is one of Polis, of the city, of citizenship, of the body of citizens. 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 with the natural or cultural heritage what they want They are the appointed, temporary 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 continues — 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 organizations 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.
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Bio: Trained as a development economist, Eric Britton is a public entrepreneur specializing in the field of sustainability and social justice. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest work focuses on the subject of equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions -- and in the process, find practical solutions to urgent climate, mobility, life quality and job creation issues. More at: http://wp.me/PsKUY-2p7
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