Territorial cohesion and bureaucratic (in-) sustainability opinion

A Martian who went down to earth in our country and was able to decipher the legislative body and institutions devoted to the organization of the territory, environmental sustainability, forest management, etc., would surely come to the conclusion that he was in his organizational Property has just landed in an exemplary region and is in the care that is dedicated to its natural and environmental heritage. This would be an image that is in keeping with the beauty of our landscape, especially when viewed from a distance. It is impressive how many institutions and laws are devoted to these areas, from national and international guidelines of the United Nations and the OECD to a plethora of laws and regulations of the Portuguese state that go through the priorities of the European Union.

It is clear that the triumph of Western rationality was a tremendous feat that helped us leave the world of darkness behind and pave the way to the realm of science through religious dogma. The great positivist philosophers (including R. Descartes, I. Kant and A. Comte) showed the strength of logical thinking and planning in the “management of things”. Impersonality, technical specialization of positions, autonomy and division of tasks are prerequisites for effective bureaucratic administration, but these premises have changed fundamentally in the course of the 20th century. In other words, the modern bureaucracy has become a system where those who decide do not know the details of the execution and those who carry it out do not have the power to decide. In this context, the parallel power grows, the games and rituals in which oligarchies germinate, the gray areas of the premises and blind obeisances, etc. According to this perverse logic, the sequence-effectiveness-error-correction no longer works and the status quo tends to to go on indefinitely and add one department to another, rule after rule, when the result is not what was expected.

As the country begins to deploy European bazooka funds, the Covid-19 health and economic crisis and the PRR’s own drafts are calling for democratic institutions to undertake a thorough assessment to identify the mistakes that have been made on various matters, especially in relation to the environment and the territory. If we take the situation at the crossroads where the country is today – even more so with the approach of the next local elections – we need to pause and think. Think and establish the counterpoint between intentions and practice, between existing legislative measures and the actual situation of our natural landscape. There is a need to change the paradigm in responding to widely identified problems such as: B. Territory management, sustainable development, re-industrialization, environmental threats, demographic imbalances, transition to digital, social cohesion, etc. etc. Diagnosis in these and other matters has long been known and most of the solutions can be found in our laws in accordance with international guidelines. Financial support from the EU points in the same direction. It is worth listing some of the priorities that are followed on paper (and translated into law) to better appreciate the contrast between paper and reality. In the area of ​​sustainable development, for example, there are numerous legal provisions and ethical principles at both national and international level. In the framework of the Economic Council for Sustainable Development, which corresponds to the guidelines published by the OECD, the Portuguese delegation (BCSD – Portugal) recently developed a study defining a number of indicators and indices for sustainable development: environmental indicators (72); Economic indicators (29); social indicators (22); and institutional indicators (9).

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), for its part, underlines the need to strengthen social and territorial cohesion ”(Article 174). The European Commission’s guidelines such as the annual strategy for sustainable growth (2020), the European eco-pact and the recent measures to deal with the Covid-19 crisis set out the six priority pillars: ecological transition, digital transformation, smart growth and sustainable growth. social and territorial cohesion, environmental and technology policies for the next generation, entrepreneurship in the digital economy, etc. Both the oldest diagnoses and the current recovery and resilience mechanism consider environmental defense, sustainability, social and territorial cohesion as crucial areas etc.

Portugal has just as much legislation, including the nature conservation and biodiversity legal system (Dec. Law 142/2008 and Dec. Law 242/2015); the Basic Law for Public Land Policy, Spatial Planning and Urban Planning (Law 31/2014); the legal system for territorial management instruments (Dec. Law 80/2015), to name just a few examples. In the area of ​​the regulation of protected areas, there is also an abundant legislative production and a noteworthy network of institutions that address these questions. The Institute for Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF, IP), for example, monitors a number of 25 protected areas, divided into: 1 national park; 13 nature parks; 9 nature reserves and 2 protected landscapes. In the Advisory Ordinance No. 166/2019 (Diário da República, 1st row, No. 103, May 29, 2019) we learn more about the organic complexity of the ICNF and the paraphernalia of the national and regional departments that oversee our territory, including Protected areas and forest parks.

I have no doubt that, even with such a broad division and distribution of responsibilities, local authorities will find it difficult to promote projects that put strategic objectives and environmental heritage before the spit, corporatism and bureaucracy that drives the devices undermine

Nobody doubts the competence or capacity of the many technicians and services dedicated to a sector so important for territorial cohesion (as well as ecological and demographic balance). But those who regularly wander north to south of the country through protected areas and natural parks cannot overlook the deterioration, lack of infrastructure, lack of proper signs, surveillance, abundance of illegal dumps and heaps. Pigsties and structures that damage the environment and the protected landscape. This without forgetting the megalomaniac projects of luxury tourism and golf courses, often with complete disregard for the rich landscape and local communities. It’s not about chasing the culprits. It’s about drawing attention to complex problems that require a strategic vision. Just consider the obvious contradiction between such normative diversity on the one hand and the spread of chaos (without splendor) in protected areas and in the Portuguese forest in general on the other. I have no doubt that, with such a wide range of departments and responsibilities, local authorities themselves (and CIMs) will have difficulty promoting projects based on a governance logic capable of achieving strategic goals and objectives to confront the environmental heritage with spatial problems and corporatism and bureaucracies that undermine devices.

As Max Weber taught us, the meaning of action always lies outside the subjective intention of the actors. In order to grasp the sociological sense of behavior, it is important to identify the contexts into which the action is inserted, knowing that for the protagonists themselves, the meaning of the action is not in the end result, but in the behavior itself and in the immediate benefits (even if they are limited to justifying the positions they occupy). Instead of the usual complaint that always points the accusing finger at Europe as if the country were a raft (made of cork) trying to isolate itself in the middle of the Atlantic, we must take our share of autonomy to respond with imagination to the challenges and threats that we can only face together. And only visionary leaders freed from the bureaucratic corset can face these challenges.

The author writes according to the new orthographic convention

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