Knee-jerk environmentalism

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Knee-jerk environmentalism

Mountain-climbers are advised to watch their step when they hike Mt. Cheonsung as puddles are peppered with the eggs of local species of salamanders and red frogs.

Forest life is still in healthy shape even after the construction of a tunnel through the heart of the mountain and daily traffic of up to 57 bullet trains going through it.

All the clamor and hunger strikes by the so-called friends of amphibian species - Monk Jiyul and civilian environmental groups - to protest at the construction of the tunnel and the entire high-speed railroad project on environmental and biodiversity concerns proved to be for nought. How much did such bitter fighting cost our society simply because human beings underestimated the resilience of Mother Nature?

Many public infrastructure projects suffered from similar complaints due to opposition from environmentalists often using non-scientific and tenaciously one-sided logic.

The same uproar persisted throughout the construction of the Incheon International Airport, the tunnel at Mt. Sapae along the Seoul ring road, and the Saemangeum reclamation project.

These projects all stirred strong protests from activists, but in the end, they didn’t take a heavy toll on the environment but, instead, extracted a hefty price in social strife - and wasted public funds due to delays in construction.

Infrastructure development projects are obviously harmful to nature. Authorities must be extra scrupulous to minimize environmental damage through preliminary feasibility studies and a vigilant watch on our precious environment.

It is our obligation to future generation, for we are transforming the environment that they will have to live with. But knee-jerk opposition to development plans by environmental fundamentalists does no good for society.

Shelving or delaying major state projects that have society’s consensus wastes money. Taxpayers pay the extra costs due to delays. Authorities should explain and campaign aggressively to gain a consensus from the public and once a plan has broad support, activists must not resort to blind protests. Waste can be avoided if both supporting and opposing groups maintain reason and seek the best possible solution that can add comfort and boost the economy without jeopardizing the natural habitat.

Courts should also decide on judicial challenges to development projects as quickly as possible.
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