Conservation is traditionally associated with left-wing politics.
The distinction between left and right dates back to the days of the French revolution when those supporting radical changes in society where seated on the left side of parliament. Left-wing politics tend to strive for a more egalitarian society, achieved through cooperative, mutually respectful collaboration.Right-wing politics may see social and economic hierarchies as natural or normal.
Left-wing economic politics are often characterized by extensive government intervention. On the right side of politics, or at least the center-right, capitalism, private property rights, and the market economy with limited government regulation are more valued.
Looking at conservation in Indonesia, I wonder where, in the political spectrum, conservation fits in best. Here conservation is seen as a government duty, and for decades the standard approaches to conservation were built on collaboration between NGOs and governments. Unfortunately there has been limited success.
Many protected area in Indonesia are in a very bad shape. The majority of nature and wildlife reserves have no on the ground management. And outside protected areas, the loss of forest, freshwater and marine resources is even more rapid.
Indonesia’s private sector, both its big and small-holder industries, are a major driving factor behind these losses. But they are also the biggest hope for solutions.
Many companies in the timber, fibre, oil palm, and mining industries create conservation set asides which they themselves aim to manage. If this trend continues, we may soon find that the private sector plays a much bigger role in conservation than the government. This reflects the situation in North America and Europe where many conservation lands are privately owned and managed.
I wonder whether this is leading to a political shift in conservation. Is the increased integration of conservation in market economies, green thinking in companies, and the commodization of environmental services (think carbon ,water etc.) shifting conservation to the right? Is this green-tinged liberalism the future of conservation? If it is, would it be a good thing?
I wouldn’t mind less government meddling in conservation. Let the government govern, but leave the conservation implementation to others. Privatize national parks that the government has not been able to manage. But hold the new managers accountable. Make conservation pay for itself.
In rapidly developing economies like Indonesia, with a large natural resources sector, the private sector, not the government is the main factor determining the future of conservation.