Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Irony...and just who is to blame?

From today's paper (The Star, p12) : Malaysians are due for another hazy spell unless the Indonesians tackle the hundreds of forest fires raging in various parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan...

Er, did anyone read my blog yesterday? Whose forest is burning?

And then, on p.19: Nomadic shifting cultivators in Sarawak's deep interiors have started large-scale post-harvest burning on hill slopes...

Someone evidently forgot to tell the paper that Sarawak is a state in Malaysia, not Indonesia. How dare we blame Indonesia for our haze when we can't get our own act together?

I'm a farmer's daughter. An old-fashioned farmer, what's more. My dad was born in 1890. He was out milking cows - by hand - before he went to school, back in 1900. He would have welcomed a milking machine, believe me. As a young man, he ploughed using a team of horses. And switched to a tractor as soon as they were a viable option and he could afford it.

And you can't tell me that farmers trying desperately to eke a living out of tropical, rain-leeched soils on steep hillslopes, wouldn't welcome an easier way of doing things - like a way not to have to start all over again every three years. If only someone would explain it to them and make it a viable economic alternative for them.

Malaysia is a moderately well-to-do nation. Our infant mortality is lower than that of the United States. Our graduates are top-notch in many fields. We've had people doing Ph.Ds in agriculture both here and overseas for decades. Can anyone honestly tell me that none of them can work out a way for farmers to keep using the same land again and again and thus avoid destroying our rainforest so wantonly?

We are in the 21st century, and we can't work out a better way of doing this? Of course we can, and in fact doubtless have. (I'll admit I know nothing about what's available out there - but I have faith in Malaysian ingenuity.)

So why is the burning continuing?

Could it possibly be lack of leadership from politicians, intent only on the next election - and not on the wellbeing of our land twenty years from now? Could it be that it is easier to let farmers do the traditional thing rather than risk upsetting a voter by enforcing new methods? Is it because truly visionary leadership at a regional level is non-existent?

Shame on those leaders who have don't love this land enough to keep it from being washed away to the sea.
Shame on those leaders who don't care enough for the poorest people of the mountain slopes.
Shame on those leaders who don't care enough for the health of our children to protect our air and water quality, but who allow the burning to continue, who allow the streams to become mudflows.
Shame on those who don't recognise the grimness of our future because they won't acknowledge the environmental disaster they are creating by their neglect.

If you have another explanation, please tell me. Because I find all this unbelievable. Just what century are we living in again?

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