On the third anniversary of his inauguration, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) gave a speech centered on the theme of “generational justice.” Ma said that in addition to working hard for the present generation, the government must also lay a foundation for the prosperity of the next generation.
To this end, he promised to apply the principle of generational justice when carrying out his duties that relate to sovereignty, human rights and environmental rights.
On the one hand, let’s be glad that Taiwan’s leader seems to have chosen an admirable strategy for the last quarter of this term in office, and let’s also be thankful that he seems to be willing to engage with world trends and respond to the expectations of the public at large. At the same time, it’s difficult to wholly believe that Ma’s speech is more than a collection of slogans, and that he is doing more than simply paying lip service to these concepts in a bid to boost his support ahead of the next election.
The concept of “generational justice” is actually not a new one. Back in 1987, the UN World Commission on Environment and Development published Our Common Future, which is commonly referred to as the Brundtland Report.
The report says: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
This definition clearly shows that at the time the report was published, “generational justice” had been accepted as a fundamental value and precondition in the search for development. Still, we have to think about the fact that fairness and justice between generations can only be attained when economic, social and environmental--ecological aspects are given equal weight, and when the forecast needs of the next generation are always taken into consideration.
What makes people anxious about the policy directions taken by the Ma administration over the past three years is that the government has overemphasized economic development and given too much weight to big business interests. It has tried too hard to pursue figures that make its achievements visible in the here and now.
In other words, the environment is too often sacrificed for the sake of economic development, while farmers and industrial workers are not treated fairly. The worst thing is that the next generation is left out of policy considerations in the race to achieve impressive numbers in the present.
The rough treatment of farmland in the third and fourth-phase expansion projects of the Taiwan Central Science Park, the way policy decisions have been made in the cases of the proposed Kuokuang Petrochemical plant and Suao-Hualien Freeway (蘇花高) and the threat of destruction posed by the Taiwan Provincial Highway No. 26 improvement plan to Taiwan’s last remaining stretch of natural coast and the Alangyi Historical Trail (阿塱壹古道) are all evidence of this mind-set.
Not long ago, a string of industrial and environmental accidents occurred at Formosa Plastics Corp’s Sixth Naphtha Cracker complex. One would expect the government to propose strategies to prevent future accidents, while demanding that the company quickly remedy the situation. Instead, however, all we saw was the Environmental Protection Administration minister and local government blaming each other.