Faculty of Forestry
Gadjah Mada University
TOPIC: Is it important to live in democracy?
Have you ever thought about life without freedom?
Sometimes, freedom makes our life aimless. Some people, possibly, have ever thought that freedom will make their goal seems unclear. We also, probably, have ever thought that living in all-have-been-determined-world is much better because we already have a clear goals and predictable outcome. However, living in such forced, inflexible, and frustrating life is not a choice for talkative creature like human. We could say that it is an outdated lifestyle which leads us to seek for another lifestyle, democracy.
We have been knowing about democracy regime for decades. Democracy provides freedom of participation in governmental affairs for each layer of society. All citizens are given the access to participate in governmental affairs and they can even work on policy making. Democracy has been proved to solve various problems in the society. Various policies which have been formulated based on this regime are proved to solve various unsolved issues regarding to governmental affairs. Despite the fact that we have known about democracy since long time ago, some countries still use the old way in ruling their country, communism and autocracy. Autocracy has a very contradicted implementation with democracy. Citizens are unable to speak their words and all policies are made for certain group’s advantage. In autocracy, governmental policies are only made to fulfill elite’s needs in term of power.
Democracy is not only proved to be an ultimate problem solver in humanity issues, but it also has an important role in environmental issues. Because of this regime, environmentalists can speak their concerns on behalf of the earth. Environmentalist groups are able to convey environmental awareness to the society. Therefore, it widens society’s knowledge about environmental issues and they can be more responsive to policy-making. Besides, they also have a chance to participate in policy making about environmental management.
Environmentalists groups can freely inform to the society about environmental issues and organize them to act upon it. They are able to use mass media in conveying their arguments with no worry –as long as they obey the law of news reporting. A transparent and free election is another type of democracy implementation. Thus, environmentalists have a greater chance to participate in the government. Even groups or individuals with various backgrounds are able to be an elite in the government. For an instance, President Joko Widodo whom graduated from Forestry Science at Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. Although influential position in the government doesn’t significantly affect upon solving environmental problems, at least it will encourage environmentalist groups to execute their mission in maintaining environmental sustainability.
Democracy regime is a true liberator for environmentalists to help them in conveying their messages about environmental sustainability. Nevertheless, it is most likely to be a ‘tool’ to appease environmentalists in order to keep their mouth shut. Not all of their arguments are noticed by the government or policy makers. In Indonesia, forest and land fires are most likely to be a never-ending case. It is clearly caused by human activity particularly land expanding for oil palm plantation. Although the suspect has been acknowledged, those ‘law-makers’ seem to close their eyes and ears upon this problem. They throw a nonsense quibbling about how the destroyed forest can be rebuilt ‘easily’. We can’t deny that multi-million dollars industry, such as oil palm, contribute a super-big-bucks to the country. Nevertheless, what is the point of becoming a democratic country when there is no actual democracy implementation and the government only ‘works’ for a certain group?
Despite the advantages of democracy, this regime, to some extent, will also give disadvantages to environmental sustainability. Economic freedom, which is implemented in democratic countries, clearly affects country’s environmental sustainability. Economic freedom indicates that those democratic countries give a very big opportunity for foreign investors to grow their business. It might give a great income to the country. However, it will also increase the risk of environmental degradation. We can’t deny that foreign investors contribute in country’s prosperity and welfare, yet we absolutely can’t sacrifice our natural resources for money. Natural resources and its biodiversity are not to be monetized.
On the other side, democracy regime also plays a major role in population increasing. Democratic country gives no prohibition in marriage or limit the number of children in each family. Although some countries (i.e. Indonesia) suggest a birth plan program on each family in order to control birth rate. Increasing of human population can cause a negative impact on resources availability. It has been a well-known pattern that population increasing and resources availability have a reversed relationship between each other. Population increasing indicates the increasing of resource necessity which might leads toward resource scarcity. As a result, environmental quality keeps degrading while rehabilitation or revegetation rate is much slower.
Environmental democracy has been becoming an interesting issue for researchers. There are dozens of researches related to environmental democracy which have been conducted across the world. Researchers have observed it based on several aspects which are able to affect environmental sustainability, such as effect of GDP upon carbon-monoxide pollution on atmosphere in several countries, transparency and implementation of environmental policies, etc. In 2015, World Resources Institute (WRI) and The Access Initiative (TAI) launched a tool to measure environmental democracy in 70 countries using a certain kind of index. Environmental Democracy Index (EDI) is used by WRI to measure the efficacy of policies implementation regarding to environmental sustainability. It was formulated to support citizens’ rights in environmental management. EDI measures each country according to several aspects in environmental democracy which consist of public participation in environmental decision-making, easiness in seeking for enforcement of environmental laws or compensation for harm, and transparency of any information related to environmental problems and decisions. It is also used to judge every environmental policy which has been arranged. Furthermore, it also provides online platform which is accessible to anyone whom want to know about environmental democracy in several countries. Hopefully, it will intrigue people’s awareness to environmental sustainability.
Environmental democracy has its own complexity because we have to observe every aspect which affects it, either environmental aspects or social problems. Besides, those aspects can provide different impact which might be collided one another. We might not be able to make a suitable and effective policies to perfectly maintain both environmental sustainability and society’s needs. However, the most important thing is the actual implementation of those policies and the government whom always considers society’s voices as judges for every decision they make.