We all should be thankful for the dedicated work of those environmentalists who created Taiwan’s first environmental trust, which now protects 1.8 hectares of restored land (“Building trust,” Aug. 5, page 12).
However, even Wu Je-fon (吳杰峰), one of the trust’s founders, said that “1.3 hectares of land is too small if we really want to protect species.”
Therefore, to protect species and ecosystems in a sustainable and long-term manner, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need to complement each other.
While NGOs have a vital role to play in environmental education and lobbying, they will never be able to raise the money to protect the large tracts of land needed for predators such as the Formosan black bear (“Black bear program to continue: group,” July 5, 2012, page 5).
NGOs can buy small tracts of land, especially near urban areas, which might otherwise be developed. This can protect small, but valuable ecosystems that can be used for recreation and education.
Such schemes have had success in many parts of the world. However, the protection of large ecosystems is a vital role of government and will remain so, despite all the neoliberal hogwash about the need to privatize everything.
How would an NGO raise the money to buy the land required to establish a large national park? It is impossible. It is unethical to leave large-scale environment protection to NGOs, because it is the government’s role to ensure such things as a healthy environment.
Another vital role of government is demonstrated by the current rabies scare (Editorial, Aug. 5, page 8). How could a private company possibly protect the public from rabies, or any other contagious disease? While people with sufficient money may protect themselves and their pets by buying rabies shots, poor people may decide it is not worth their scarce financial resources.
As a result, vaccination would never reach the levels required to vanquish the disease. More than 90 percent of the total population needs to be vaccinated to eliminate rabies. Therefore, the government needs to coordinate and finance matters of urgent public health concern to ensure the job is completed.
Governments are often inefficient, corrupt and incompetent, which is why we need independent NGOs and media to ensure that government officials are doing their jobs. However, there are large-scale issues where the government involvement is absolutely essential because private business could never fill the government’s role.