Saturday 2 November 2013

Blogging From Busan - In a Breathtaking Wetland, Reflections on Ecology, Economics and Development

Upo Wetland, near Busan in South Korea.

Today, delegates had 16 exposure visits to choose from and Lungi and I chose the BUSAN-ecology option. We travelled about 115 km by bus from BUSAN and, although long and uncomfortable, it was a scenic journey through the hills and valleys and thick forestation of this part of South Korea.

It was, however, disturbed by evidence of excessive development and the obvious disturbance of this beauty and tranquillity by a lack of integrity in the nature of the development. What we saw today can be summed up as the dichotomy of ecology and economics: though in Greek both have the same root, ecos, household, they did not seem to have an orderly coexistence in the area we travelled to. There was a clear wedge driven between the wetlands and the agricultural area, and the use of the river for power production resulted in a dearth of plants, birds and other fauna.

There were these massively tall buildings overshadowing the beauty of the streams and ravines. The pace of development for me as a stranger and visitor seemed too excessive and not sustainable. Because there is fast-paced development, there will be greater demand for energy and food, in the long run fomenting divisions between the people of this place. I am always cautious about predictions, and especially sensitive to the charge that when developing countries succeed there is always scepticism about it, but in this situation I am cautious about the fast pace of development everywhere I went. With big economies struggling, I hope this one will manage.

The Upo wetland, which has existed for centuries, was breathtaking with all sorts of bird life and plants, and surrounded by mountains. We experienced great generosity from a house church, called Disciples Church, as they invited us to pray with them and provided a meal for all of us in the bus. The 12-year-old girl of the house played the violin and a Korean instrument beautifully during lunch. She played a piece from the film, The Mission, which was so appropriate, as in this humble house church between two mountains we were surrounded by forest and thick vegetation; appropriate because in the film Jesuit missionaries were martyred protecting the indigenous heritage and context such as the one we were in.

I wondered as she played, what will become of this forest when development is so rapid in the next couple of years. This 12-year-old wished to work with the UN possibly to influence policies that affect her communities. It is my prayer that she attains this vision and that we join in encouraging development only if it's sustainable and serves the common good. Currently, development serves the few richest individuals of our world and this order is maintained by our economic policies which in fact should be declared obsolete or, like apartheid, evil.

These are my reflections on ecology and economics or development. What do you think of these reflections? What is your view, about southern Africa or your own country? Who is benefiting from your local and national economic prosperity? Does this augur well for peace and justice?

Tomorrow, we go to the local churches and have a Korean evening.

God bless