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A veteran journalist's take on such diverse subjects as religion and religious violence, democracy, freedom of expression, sociology, journalism, criticism, travel, philosophy, Southeast Asia, politics,economics, and even parenthood, the supernatural, film criticism, and cooking. Please don't hesitate to participate by starting a comment thread if you have an interest in any of these subjects...or anything else, for that matter... p.write@gmail.com

What If…

 

The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made On

Pagun

(VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA) In my last column I proposed an answer to the question of what exactly is motivating Donald Trump to run for the presidency of the United States. I deliberately left out one of the possible answers to that question because it is not at all impossible that it is the correct one, and if it is, the repercussions would be almost unthinkable.

As Trump himself might put it, “Lots of people are saying…” that Trump is, quite simply, an old school fascist with ambitions to place himself at the head of the most powerful country in human history and rule it and, by extension, the world with an iron hand. The notion isn’t as far fetched as one might hope. His campaign so far appears to have been modeled (at least insofar as it has had any conscious planning) on the paths of the 20th Centuries two best known populist fascist demagogues. Both Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini appealed to the fears and hatreds of their electorates. The were rabid populists who identified other, inferior races as both the cause of their countries’ problems and as the biggest threat to the nation. They painted dismal pictures of the conditions of their countries and offered themselves as the only solution to those problems.

They were both strongmen who were quite prepared to whip their followers into a frenzy and then turn them loose to do violence to their opponents and to the minorities they had designated as scapegoats. They both demanded loyalty and basked in the adulation of the massed crowds. They both were clinical narcissists and were convinced that they were superior to ordinary people and were destined for historical greatness. They both managed to parlay their fanatical minority support into political power and then took control of their governments and systematically eliminated any opposition until they were the unquestioned seat of all political power; they made themselves dictators.

Adolph on lies

Sounds very familiar

Significantly, from the perspective of decades later and a better understanding of the mechanics of the usurpation of political power, when we watch old newsreel films of the two fascist dictators, they are comical in a morbid kind of way. Hitler, foaming at the mouth and contorting his face and body in passionate paroxysms while in full rhetorical flight would be laugh-out-loud hilarious if we didn’t know what followed from those hate rallies. Mussolini, in his comic opera persona Il Duce, lapped up the cheers and chanting of the crowds below while he puffed out his chest and preened and postured. If we weren’t Benito_Mussolini_in_Yugoslavia_croppedfamiliar with mid 20th Century history, he too would be a source of mirth. Charlie Chaplin satirised both demagogues in his brilliant and hilarious The Great Dictator. So transparently buffoonish were those two populist fascist leaders that a good many reasonable people couldn’t really take them seriously at first; when they realised that they had succeeded in their power grabs, it was too late.

Trump is clearly cut from the same cloth. He talks the same law and order game; he paints a false but horrifying picture of the nation’s condition; he tells his loser followers that they are not to blame for their failure to thrive; he points to “others” as the real cause of the problems he exaggerates; he offers himself as the only solution to the problems he inflates; he encourages his followers to commit violent acts against anyone who doesn’t chant his name with sufficient fervour. He doesn’t offer policy specifics. He simply persuades his followers that what is needed is his strong hand on the tiller of the ship of state, and someone like him with the courage to face up to reality and eschew the lily-livered weak kneed, politically correct failures who have reduced the nation to its current deplorable state. He is every bit as narcissistic as the Fuhrer and Il Duce and, like them, his favoured interaction with the people is at extravagantly organised and choreographed rallies where he can bask in the worship of the faithful.the-great-dictator-1940-wallpapers-9

But Donald Trump is not a carbon copy of the two European fascists. He differs in a way that might be very significant. He is lazy and he is not very smart.

He is virtually a savant when it comes to media manipulation. In fact, that may well be his only real talent. He has been demonstrated to be a particularly lousy business man; his multiple bankruptcies and the level of debt that he has been shown to be carrying all testify to that. His ignorance of anything donald-trump-face-outside of his short-fingered immediate reach, from history and geography to economics and constitutional law is breathtaking. His refusal to bone up on subjects that are indispensable to a head of state is a clear testament to his laziness. In fact, it has been widely reported that, while he was desperately searching for a politician willing to tank his own career by accepting the vice-presidential nod, he tried to sell some prospects on the job by promising them complete control over domestic and foreign affairs, leaving him to be a figurehead doing little more than taking credit for successes and addressing the rallies that he thrives on.

Whether that was the deal he cut with his VP ticket partner, Mike Spence, isn’t clear, but it does seem likely. And that’s why Trump as a strong man leader with anything approaching a mandate in November would be such a nightmare. Trump, for all his bluster, is a weak man. He is a bully and his wealth has always insulated him from any consequences; but his inability to absorb criticism, his instinct to lash out at any perceived slight, and his tissue paper thin skin demonstrate his fundamental fragility. As long as his ego is fed, he would be easily manipulated by someone stronger, smarter, and willing to work behind the scenes. Dick Cheney’s control of American domestic and foreign policy while George Dubya vacationed at his ranch for over 850 days of his presidency demonstrates that such an arrangement wouldn’t even be unique in presidential history.

But where it gets really frightening is not the concern that Mike Spence would really be running the show during a Trump presidency. Spence is a far right conservative who ticks all the boxes: anti LGBTQ; pro-life; trickle down believer; climate change denier; etc. etc. If given any genuine power, his impact could set the United States back decades and his Supreme Court nominations would be hair-raising. Nevertheless, the real fear of some eminence grise employing Machiavellian tactics behind the scenes of a Trump regime has more to do with Vladimir Putin and the crush that Trump has on him.

bromance-between-trump-and-putin

Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his admiration for Putin and has regularly expressed a desire to get closer to the Russian dictator. Given Trump’s aversion to doing the actual work of governing, given his intellectual vacuity, and given his vulnerability to ego-stroking, he would be an absolutely perfect candidate for manipulation by the right person. And that person, were Trump to be elected, could very well be Vladimir Putin.

We are very fortunate that, as things stand, Trump is unlikely as hell to be elected. The foregoing doomsday scenario has very little chance of playing out. But think about it. If anybody thinks that not voting for Hillary Clinton is a good idea, consider the possibility. Then try to sleep at night.

ENDITEM…

Paying the bill

The enemy within (Part II)

Pagun

VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA – One political assumption that really needs to be challenged is the one that suggests that a nation is analogous to a business. That assumption is one to which the Republican Party of the United States is particularly attached; they persist in nominating candidates who believe that their background as business leaders in the private sector somehow prepares them for the entirely different function of representing all of the people as their head of government and the entire country as its head of state.

Among the differences between the two functions is that a corporation’s mission is to make a profit; a government’s is not. A government is there to ensure the wellbeing of all stakeholders and do things that individual citizens and profit-driven entities cannot or will not do; things like create educational standards, provide a social safety net, create and implement domestic and foreign policy, protect the citizens in time of war, support minority rights, and regulate the economy for everyone’s benefit. In none of these functions is corporate success an even vaguely appropriate resume item.

One overlooked yet crucial distinction between the corporate worldview and the perspective required of a political leader is that a corporate leader looks at a business plan that is broken down into quarterly financial statements, while a genuine statesman has to consider the impact of his decisions on many generations to come. A corporate board of directors with a long-term view looks at annual profits; a particularly visionary director might consider profits and bonuses as far into the future as the duration of his tenure. Meanwhile, his governmental counterpart has to take an historic view; the creation of national parks, for example, is a legacy for generations long after the passing of any individual leader. And nowhere is this difference between perspectives more glaring than in the creation of energy policy.

Oil company directors and CEOs have to maximise the profits of the companies they helm; that’s their duty and that duty extends to the end of their term as director. They have no vested interest in the survival of the company in the long term; today’s business paradigm is to grow fast, make windfall profits and liquidate the assets at the end of the first rush of success. In the oil business that translates into making as much money as they can while the oil lasts and then cut and run when it’s gone. Will our planet be liveable? Will society survive the collapse if there is no viable energy source to replace fossil fuels? Not their problem. The individuals will have lived their lives and died wealthy, and the corporation simply doesn’t care…it’s not human and it has no interest in human affairs.

This explains the otherwise bewildering refusal of the wealthiest and most profitable corporations in the history of civilisation to consider seriously working on the development of alternative fuels. It even explains their apparently suicidal policy of suppressing alternatives and more fuel efficient technology: keep competition down and prices up; the classic short term business paradigm. And that’s where government comes in.

Government’s function is to do what individuals and profit-motivated entities can’t or won’t do. Governments can force oil companies to develop alternative fuels that will quite literally save the world. At the moment, because of the Republican congress’s debt to the oil lobby for campaign contributions, these vastly successful corporations are the recipients of the greatest corporate welfare handouts in history. It isn’t realistic to expect politicians to stop dispensing pork to their contributors, but neither is it unreasonable to add a few strings to the roast suckling pig upon which the oil companies feast.

The handouts being given to oil companies should be tied to the development of alternative energy sources. Exxon, Shell, and the rest all have extensive R & D departments and they employ scientists and researchers of all sorts; the infrastructure for a concerted effort to develop a new non-oil-based economy is already in place. If these companies together or individually put the billions of dollars of free cash the people of the United States are handing them to work on such a project, nobody seriously doubts that they would be successful.

The effort would require some outside-of-the-box thinking on the part of the corporations; admittedly not their strong point, but if the terms of the grants include the hiring of outside consultants with a track record in alternative energy R & D, the fresh blood will inspire some new approaches. Benchmarks and success payments can also be built into the grant disbursements; those of us familiar with NGO grant work are very familiar with these not unreasonable requirements for ongoing funding.

One of the first things they’ll realise – and I’ll give them this one for free right now – is that the solution won’t be a single energy source analogous to oil. That is to say, we won’t be looking at a new paradigm in which a single energy source and its supporting infrastructure will simply replace fossil fuels. Any solution we find is going to include a mix of energy sources, all of which will pour power into the grid to be tapped into.

Naysayers point out that if you live, as I do, on North America’s wet coast, solar power isn’t the best answer to our energy crisis; winters are typically overcast, rainy, and the days are short and the nights are long. Sunshine is a precious commodity. While some passive solar collection eases the demands on the existing grid, it won’t replace non-renewables. However, the same region is located on the Pacific “ring of fire”, suggesting the exploration of geothermal energy; the ocean is right there with tidal power to be harnessed; wave power can be looked into, and this area is where some of the seminal prototypes of hydrogen engines were developed.

The prairies are ripe for wind farms, the deserts for solar arrays, the tropics for biomass harvesting; each region is suited to the exploitation of one or more alternative energy sources while the roads, airways and seas between them can be populated by vehicles burning hydrogen, who’s only by product of combustion is pure H2O. A worldwide grid would permit permanent solar arrays at both poles, each operating for half of the year, while inaccessible and hostile mountain plateaus could provide us with wind generated energy, and virtually anywhere on earth where there is volcanic activity has geothermal potential. With an investment equivalent to the amount that is just being handed to the oil corporations, we can solve the energy crisis before we run out of oil, and incidentally work on slowing, stopping, and ultimately reversing climate change.

But that takes government. That takes political will. And that takes the efficiency and ingenuity of the corporations who got us into this mess in the first place. Clearly they will never do it voluntarily; they have demonstrated that by their recalcitrance and obdurate refusal to do anything but “drill, baby, drill!” Nevertheless, they can be forced to save this planet. They are, after all, as addicted to government handouts as we are to their oil. Perhaps it’s time we applied harm reduction principles to our mutual dependencies.

I would be very grateful for your comments. I know this is just a sketch with some broad stroke ideas…this is a conversation that needs to happen.

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Living on our children’s credit card

The enemy within

Pagun

 VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA – A lot of ink and bandwidth is wasted on the fringe elements who argue that global warming or human-caused climate change is a myth. The fact is that we live in a post-environment-debate world. The Earth’s climate is changing. Every genuine climatologist acknowledges that, just as every respected and legitimate scientist agrees that the root cause of the change is human impact. Those conspiracy theorists who deny this scientific reality are buffoons who fly their ignorance like a team banner and revel in the role of village idiot; they don’t really expect to be taken seriously and they enjoy pushing the buttons of the rational people who are profoundly concerned about the condition of this planet. It’s time we stopped taking their inane claims seriously just as wise parents learn to ignore children who are being deliberately annoying in a bid for attention. 

Despite those troglodytes, tremendous strides have been made in the environmental movement.

Here in the west, to a greater or lesser extent, everyone is an environmentalist. Some of the things we do as a matter of day-to-day habit were unheard of in my parents lifetimes, and, if seen through the eyes of someone 40 years ago, would have been considered crackpot environmental extremism. Composting of kitchen waste, which is a service provided for those who don’t have backyard composters in the town where I live, was something only farmers did, and then only because they already had tons of livestock manure composting for fertiliser. When I was a child we had two garbage pickups a week and each family in our suburban Montreal neighbourhood had two or three metal garbage cans at the curb each Tuesday and Friday. Today, in my suburban Vancouver Island neighbourhood, we have one fortnightly garbage pickup and we don’t always have a full can for them. We also have a fortnightly recycling pickup for which we usually have a full blue box, and a weekly compost pickup which we use if our backyard composter is full or it’s too miserable outside to use.

Pretty much everyone recycles jars, paper, aluminum cans, cardboard, plastic, and nearly everything that isn’t compostable or used to end up in landfills. Most people diligently make a weekly trip to a recycling depot to return bottles and other containers for the deposit, and it’s not entirely for the money; our depot has a box where one can contribute their deposit refund to a local food bank, and at least half the people seem to leave their refund money there. This all seems second nature to us now, but in my childhood, those kinds of behaviours were unheard of.

It’s not just in our manner of dealing with waste that our standards have evolved.

We don’t burn leaves in our backyard as we did in years past; we actively seek out ways to reduce the amount of energy we use; we don’t litter; we reuse wherever possible and reduce our use of non-recyclables like plastics; we insulate our homes more efficiently. Smoking isn’t permitted in buses, bars, restaurants, offices, or any enclosed public space – I can remember flying across the Atlantic on a plane in which virtually every adult lit up as soon as the seatbelt/no smoking lights shut off. Today, you’d be arrested and charged with air piracy for doing that. In all of these ways, the world is much better than it used to be and getting better still every day.

Nevertheless, we are losing the fight against the climate change that we have caused because we still just don’t get it. 

I go into my little boy’s playroom and I can’t help but note that half the toys he has in there need batteries; cars, trains, his Buzz Lightyear language computer, talking Barney, even the clock on the wall. Certainly each of these things is vastly more energy efficient than comparable toys were when I was his age, but in aggregate, they use much more battery power than all of my toys did. But that’s only the beginning. I bought a pack of “AA” batteries today and was once again struck by how much packaging was necessary to enclose a few items, each smaller than my little finger; paper labels and cardboard packaging that come from trees that no longer live to scrub our atmosphere, and stiff plastic packaging that will still be somewhere, entirely unchanged when my son’s great grandchildren’ grandchildren visit him on his 200th birthday.

I was in a Boeing 777 recently and I was aware as we gained altitude that the plane I was in burned more fossil fuel and belched out more ozone-destroying emissions on takeoff than do both of my cars in an entire year. That’s right…this environmentally conscious commentator owns two cars. To be sure, both are far more fuel efficient than any family car my father had when I was a child – one is a Smart Car that runs on diesel and gets about 75 miles to the gallon – but, still, that’s two cars along with all the various fluids and replacement parts needed to maintain them. My father’s father never had a car; he travelled primarily by electric streetcar in Quebec City until he died in the 1980s. Certainly I use the more efficient fluorescent coils rather than bulbs, but I probably have ten times as many light sources in my house as my grandparents did, even when electricity replaced their kerosene lamps. Fridge, stove, freezer, two microwaves, smoke detectors, dishwasher, five light sources, and a radio all draw power in only one room of the house; some of those draw power twenty four hours a day. That’s not even mentioning the heat pump, water heater, WiFi, and night lights that perpetually draw small amounts of electricity from the grid and contribute to light and heat pollution.

And I am firmly on the conservationist side of the bell curve.

Clearly, worrying about it and doing the politically correct things – separating recyclables, going on a family bike ride in place of a Sunday drive, turning the thermostat down at night, choosing low-wattage Christmas lights – isn’t enough. The problems caused by our human footprint on Planet Earth are getting worse and they’re getting worse at an increasing rate. So where do we go from here?

Obviously we have to step up our efforts to minimise our energy consumption. Nevertheless our energy requirements will continue to grow; no matter how assiduously we try to reduce the amount of energy we use daily, the demand will continue to increase with technological advances and population growth. And this is happening at the same time as we are beginning to see the end of the oil supply coming at us with increasing velocity.

So while, as Pogo so clearly saw it, the enemy is most certainly us, there are other villains at whom we need to keep a vigilant eye squinted. The enemy is us, because we just cannot seem to wean ourselves off dependence on fossil fuels. But lurking behind our addiction is the greatest enabler of them all…our suppliers. Like all suppliers of powerfully addictive substances, oil companies have a vested interest in ensuring that we remain reliant on their product as long as they have some to sell. And bewilderingly, despite the fact that these same companies are more profitable now than they have ever been, the right wing insists on providing them with billions and billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies each year. They scoff at any attempt to address environmental issues and regard any investment in alternative energy sources to be an indulgent waste of money.

What is absolutely, unquestionably, crystal clear is that we will run out of oil. If our civilisation is to survive we must have alternative sources of clean, renewable energy; our society will collapse when the oil runs out if there is nothing to replace it, and the earth will undergo catastrophic climate disruptions if we were to continue to use a fuel as damaging to the planet as fossil fuels.

This first in a series of pieces on environmental issues will leave the topic for now with just one recommendation. Since our oil companies are as addicted to public largesse as we are to its oil, it is unlikely that the enormous grants and subsidies will end any time soon. With that in mind, what ought to happen is that those subsidies need to come with a very simple string attached: 50% of the corporate welfare must be dedicated to R & D of alternative energy sources. The oil companies could even keep all patents and profits from the results of such research and development. How could big oil object? They would create a new revenue stream to replace the old obsolescent one; they would ensure their own survival for the ages.

An alternative, and frankly one I would prefer, would be to take those same billions of dollars and fund individuals and small research groups and companies engaged in alternative energy development. With that kind of funding and the native ingenuity of the human race in the face of a crisis, I have no doubt that the race might survive. Whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen.

More soon.

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The naked city has 495,682 stories. Approximately.

Weird scenes not far from the goldmine
Patrick Guntensperger
Manado, NorthSulawesi, Indonesia
Manado is the provincial capital of North Sulawesi, part of the island chain formerly known as the Celebes. The city of Manado has a population of around half a million people, the majorityof whom are Christian with a Muslim minority, making this town a bit of an anomaly here in predominantly Muslim Indonesia. Although everyone here must identify himself or herself as being an adherent to one of the six (Islam, Protestant, Catholic,Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian) religions recognised in the constitution, these formal religions are a more or less thin overlay of conformity on top of ancient traditions of animism and pantheistic worship. Nevertheless, this partof Indonesia has long been relatively free of outright sectarian violence. The area continues to be populated by people of Minihasan descent.
Beautiful Buyat Bay on North Sulawesi
If Minihasa sounds familiar, it may be because eighty miles south of here is Minihasa Raya, the enormous open-pit  gold mine run by the Denver Colorado based giant resource extractor, Newmont.In 2004, Newmont was accused of polluting the spectacularly beautiful surrounding waters of Buyat Bay and, after a long-running trial for some 133 million dollars in damages sought by the Indonesian government and the people of the area,  a 30 some odd million dollar settlement was reached. There is little realistic question that this entailed a multimillion dollar under-the-table payment to the officials who negotiated the deal on behalf of Indonesia. Billionaire financierand then-chief economics minister Aburizal Bakrie led the Indonesian negotiators.
Aburizal  Bakrie, ‘Ical’ to his friends;
‘Jaws’ to the rest of us
Rick Ness, Newmont’s
man on the firing line
I knew Rick Ness, the presidentof Newmont Indonesia at the time, and I could see how strong the Indonesian positionwas. Forget whether there was genuine ecological damage done; Rick maintains it was all bullshit. Disregard the conflicting environmental assessments done by various scientific research teams representing and funded by differentinterests. Indonesia held a good hand. They had placed Rick under city arrest and he was to be tried in one of Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt courts and face a twenty-plus year jail sentence if some agreement wasn’t reached. Now that’s a negotiating posture.
***
When I first moved here for the year or so I expect to be in Indonesia, I thought that this small, provincial citywould be dull and lacking in any interest after the climate, food, and thediving had been covered; as a journalist, I should have known better.
http://www.youtube.com/get_player
Please forgive this video…I accidentally hit the record button
 on my camera while I was lining up the shot below.
I’ll leave it here just for the hell of it, but I’ll do better in the future.
Just yesterday as I was negotiating the price of a new laptop at a computer show, I noticed groups of teenage girls walking around the mall and the streets dressed in white wedding dresses.In groups of three, four, ten or more, they were everywhere. I finally got the answer. According to a security guard at one of the many waterfront malls, there was going to be a mass wedding ceremony later that day at the provincial museum; there were over two thousand couples registered and they were going for a Guinness world record. Apparently Guinness is pronounced “gwy’nis” in Indonesia.
Their special day 
***

Even more intriguingly, later that same day, I ran across a story out of Manado that resonated because of myexperience having taught journalism.

This dog-owner lost face
because of his cruelty to animals
It is, or used to be, an axiom among reporters that “dog bites man” is not newsworthy whereas “man bites dog” on the other hand might have some publication potential. Not here in the    Sulawesis. Here the story was definitely a “dog bites man” story. It seems thata Manado man went away for two weeks, leaving his collection of dogs without food or water. When he returned, he was apparently devoured by the famished animals. They had paid particular attention to his head, it is reported; theskull was found in a different room from the remainder of his body, stripped of   flesh.
The leftovers
In a town where the people  routinely eat dogs, and where they can be bought either dressed and butchered,or alive in most markets, there seems to be something faintly equitable about this story, as well as proving the exception to the journalistic rule. The dogs after all were almost certainly being kept for food; it’s a virtual certainty that they weren’t pets.
***
The naked city has half a million stories and these have just been a few of them; it leads me to suspect that there will always be something of interest here. So the time I spend between travelling on assignments and my personal business in Jakarta might not be as stultifying aspreviously feared; I’ll keep my ear to the ground.
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Getting rid of the garbage

In the last few years, both corruption and environmental issues have achieved a higher priority in Indonesia. That is, people are talking more about these twin evils. Nobody is doing much about either yet, and despite all the rhetoric, there is no discernible difference. Nevertheless, on the glass is half-full side of the equation, at least talking about these things is a step in the right direction. Who knows, maybe we’ll progress to actually walking the walk.

 

Published in The Jakarta Post (http://www.thejakartapost.com)

Environmental crime and graft: Evil twins

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Wed, 06/09/2004 9:25 AM Opinion

Patrick Guntensperger

Jakarta

 

If you ask any group of reasonably intelligent people to list the gravest problems in the world today, several perennial favorites can usually be predicted to show up on the list. Along with terrorism, corruption and poverty, the environment can usually be counted upon to make the top ten, with the flavors of the week and issues of special interest rounding out the contenders.

Schools today, in developed nations as well as Third World countries, teach their students about environmental issues. Many major daily newspapers have a section devoted to the topic and most run at least a regular column and frequent features on it. It is fair to say that the destruction of this planet’s environment is known to be in crisis by pretty much everyone who breathes occasionally.

And yet, observation of any large city in the world impresses us with the indifference displayed by people over their contributions to this crisis. It’s not a lack of awareness; everyone knows we have a problem. It’s not a lack of scientific understanding of the details of the problem; you don’t have to be rocket scientist to know that plastic wrappings thrown in the street are going to stay there until someone takes them away.

So why do people who know they are polluting, who know that pollution is killing us and who can see the effects of pollution on their immediate environment continue to act as though there is nothing to worry about?

The answer is that it isn’t an awareness problem or even a knowledge problem any more. At this point in history, the early 21st Century, the problem is a moral one. Polluting is a sin against humanity.

And that’s why it is so hard to cope with. Immoral behavior, particularly when it carries financial benefits, is virtually impossible to eliminate and extraordinarily unresponsive to persuasion.

Criminalizing specific behavior is a step in the right direction; it doesn’t eliminate the behavior but it gives us a tool to help control it. Just as laws against crimes like theft and murder have not and never will eliminate those acts from humanity’s vast repertoire of reprehensible behavior, laws against willful or negligent environmental assaults can’t stop all eco-criminals, but they do put them clearly outside of the pale of respectable society.

Corporations lobby governments to refrain from passing laws prohibiting such behavior and whine when the existing laws are enforced. Or they simply find ways to circumvent the laws when it is considered too expensive to comply with them. Corporations, to put it baldly, kill people because to refrain from doing so would reduce their profits. More precisely, those individual human beings who make the corporate decision to pollute rather than treat their waste are murderers. And they murder for money.

This is not a failure to be aware of environmental issues. This is not a gap in their scientific understanding. This is a moral failure. This is sociopathic behavior. This failure of the moral compass to kick in and guide people away from knowingly committing acts that kill fellow human beings is a result of the most banal motive for crime: Greed.

On the large scale it is that simple; non-polluting measures cost money. The corporate bosses want to keep that money for themselves, so they pollute. They kill people in order to have more money.

And that is why it is so hard to stop. And, as a corollary to that problem, that is why corruption, collusion and nepotism continue to exist unabated in Indonesia. The callous, short term, profit oriented criminals find it cheaper and therefore more personally profitable to engage in acts of corruption, so they won’t clean up their acts; why on earth should they?

Corruption will continue to be a source of shame to the people of Indonesia, just like pollution, as long as a climate exists that not only allows those antisocial acts to be profitable but also permits the worst offenders to hold their heads up publicly. A corrupt official, just like a polluter, should not be acceptable to members of the community he betrays.

Environmental crime, like corruption in government, exists because people are greedy and self-serving. And it is not just the official who demands or accepts the bribe who is guilty…the private citizen who pays a bribe contributes to the crime. We allow bribery to exist because we are too lazy to do things legally.

We allow pollution to exist because we are too lazy or too greedy to spend the extra time or money it costs to dispose of our waste safely. Because they reflect the same kind of thinking, the level of environmental pollution is a fairly reliable gauge of the level of corruption in a country. Has anyone noticed the garbage in the streets of our country lately? Both kinds of garbage?

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