sábado, 24 de octubre de 2015

Politics, Politicians and the Environment

Politics is the central process to access power and public resources.  As the principal instrument in a democracy, politics is also the only way to control people and to oversight of public administration, its services and its resources.  

Politicians are the people that make a vocation out of politics.  They rise to political leadership because they see themselves as capable of managing public resources.  It´s a matter of their personal convictions, often a dangerous and mistaken one, but that´s how things work.  There are all types of politicians, good or bad, corrupt or just, while some take crude advantage of a bankrupt political system, as in our country. 

The environment is what makes life possible.  Without a healthy environment our quality of life diminishes. Lacking mechanisms, knowledge and technical know-how a community will suffer the consequences of mismanagement of its natural resources. 

Sadly, we lack environmental politics in Las Terrenas.  It means that past politicians, as well as current ones, have not demonstrated relevant knowledge or technical know-how for sustainable environmental management.  That inadequacy is tragic for the future of Las Terrenas which creates the need for urgent change.  

Recent efforts to incorporate the environment into city planning became cheap politicking as they did not become part of any established, funded or permanent efforts.  It looked good on paper, that´s all.  The current city management is the pinnacle of ineffective environmental management, revealing not only ignorance, but also insolence in its dire and purposeful incapacity.  There´s no worst politician than the proudly ignorant, because no one is born knowing it all, hence the need to seek out help, support and technical know-how.   Presently, City Hall has chosen to be purposefully blind and ignorant as well as manipulative.    

The current electoral process offers new opportunities to increase awareness, to motívate and to instill in candidates the basic know-how about protecting the environment, and not just rhetorically.  Where shall we start?

Firstly, the best way to commit is to put a dollar sign next to it.  The environment must be an integral part of the allocation of municipal resources.  There are far more resources in external funders, so the city needs to learn how to acquire human and financial resources from outside its limited budget.  The other undesirable way of getting resources is taxing those who can pay.

Secondly, we need a change of culture, we need to abandon the pervasive slothfulness and make of the environment a visible and permanent feature of city government.  If the environment becomes a vital and urgent initiative for the city we will increase awareness and action in high enough measures as to mitigate the damages from the past and prevent the same from occurring in the future. 

Thirdly, politicians need to embrace the idea that protecting the environment is the first step for a sustainable and marketable tourism industry.  If Las Terrenas were cleaner and more sustainable, with a tourism offer to match, we might duplicate the economic impact of tourism.  To make of Las Terrenas a “green” destination is a formidable challenge, but also its best assurance for a sustainable future. 

Fourthly, that sustainable future is endangered by complex factors such as global warming, beach erosion, the tragic disappearance of wetlands, contamination of underground water, pollution in rivers and creeks and the ongoing disasters in sewage and solid waste management.  Local politicians have displayed an awful inefficacy in dealing with those factors, which makes the more urgent the need for profound and systemic changes. 

Finally, if the community ignores the basic tenets of a sustainable environmental future it will not demand a change of the status quo from the politicians.  Ignorance engenders ignorance, so one may say that the community deserves the politicians it has.  It is the community that allows political clientelism and the cheap and manipulative politicking so well-known to us.  But the community itself should be the one to throw out of its belly the sour politicians commonly dressed like fighting roosters.  They lack gut and are more like vanes, moving in the direction of the convenient, not the expedient.  We, common citizens, are part of the problem, as are also the business people and investors that have taken cruel advantage of forests, rives, wetlands, beaches and the fragile and corrupt political system.  If we had a different class of politicians it wouldn´t be possible, hence the gargantuan need to change the current political culture. 

Politics continue to be the only way for macro action, but it is still the greatest menace if those aspiring to elected positions and administration pay no heed to existing environmental conditions, and if they lack the necessary know-how to change things for the better.  

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