Erenlai - New Ethical Challenges 全球化之下的倫理重建
New Ethical Challenges 全球化之下的倫理重建

New Ethical Challenges 全球化之下的倫理重建

Here are testimonies and analyses that explore business ethics, life technology ethics, and environmental ethics - all fields that determine the way we conceive our nature, monitor our social conducts and foresee our future.

全球化的浪潮也捲起一波波對倫理重建的討論。從跨國企業到生命科學,從教育體系到宗教與社會倫理,我們窺見不同區域中的反省力量可能帶來的轉變與啟示!

 

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Imagine a greener Taipei- starting with a fine on joss paper-burning

Burning of joss-papers, make it symbolic but snappy

Atop a hill of a Taiwanese cemetery, graves were laid neatly down the slope resembling miniature houses that overspread in clusters over the hills. The tallest temple that could be seen partially from afar, though admirably built, was sadly immersed in a haze of black smoke that drifted from the nearby cemetery trash cans where numerous families have burnt joss papers for their dead.

Chinese people all over Asia have traditionally burnt fake money in honour of gods, spirits, and their dead relatives for centuries. The burning of funeral takes place during the annual Tomb-sweeping (China, Taiwan) / Hungry Ghost festival (Singapore), and those not in mourning burn paper all throughout the year at temples and outside their houses for gods and spirits. A funerary/worship ritual that leaves a hazy black trail, no matter on how small a scale, is neither conducive for the environment nor fruitful for our generation. In an act of honouring the dead or the gods, we are adding onto the pollution of an already severely polluted Earth that would be home to our descendants to come. The ritual behind this act is at the times to reassure ourselves that our beloved dead would receive the money in their afterlife, and others to appease the different gods and spirits in Buddhism/Taoism/folklore beliefs, which is all very well until our actions no longer evolve with the times – and in times like these, we are talking about the deleterious effects on the health of people living in an environment with a widespread and long lasting air pollution. As Taiwan moves towards a consumer-oriented society, people have been offering more luxury items such as paper televisions, cars and mobile phones. Outside enterprises in alleyways, trash bins designed particularly for joss-paper burning will be found in full activity on at least two days of the month, resulting in smoke, soot and litter. The smoke never fails to get to me. There’s an acrid chemical odour to the fumes that surely cannot be good when ones breathes that into their body.

It is understandable that, in taking a more moderated stand, one should be free to practice whatever customs within acceptable social norms. To appease the dead and the living, I would not attempt to call for a complete ban on burning hell-notes which could be a recipe for disaster, and rather opt for reduction of the numbers (piles rather) of paper burnt. One could increase the value of a single “money-note” burnt and in doing so limit the numbers of notes required, design better bins to capture the smoke and debris, impose fines on joss-paper burning in residential and public areas, and most importantly, engage the public on the issue – which one has yet to see in the bustling city of Taipei.

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Saturday, 10 January 2009

Dirty Marketing all over

Each method of marketing represents a different way of offering particular products to targeted groups of customers. These methods recognize the peculiarities between customers and are the result of study and research, the outcome of experimentation and experience. Recently another type of marketing has gained popularity and is especially visible in the streets of Buenos Aires.

 

Even though this type of marketing I am introducing is widely used, it doesn’t represent an evolution of the art; on the contrary, it assumes that customers are all the same, a mass that reacts uniformly. Therefore, it also supposes that the messages delivered will unquestionably persuade customers. This method represents, by nature, a naïf conception of advertisement and sales, an involution into the times of the magic-bullet thinking. I call this method Dirty Marketing. But its uniqueness is not the primitive communicational paradigm that proposes; actually, what distinguish it from others is that, while it tries to market products and services in public spaces, it trashes these spaces as a secondary effect of its mere presence.

 

The commercial effectiveness of Dirty Marketing is debatable; however, its power to degrade architecture, open areas and properties is extremely efficient. This is so because Dirty Marketing finds its vehicle in old-fashioned flyers, which are normally delivered by hand but can also be pasted on walls or almost any other available surface. Flyers have the unique faculty to be disposed of by pedestrians automatically after they are received, covering the sidewalks with a paper-made carpet that looks as filthy as almost every soiled carpet in this world. In their immobile flight, pasted flyers offer a pathetic and unnecessary ornamentation in a city that already suffers due to the abundance of gigantic ads and neon signs. The air may be good in Buenos Aires, but the sights are quite disheartening as a result of increasing visual pollution.

 

Dirty Marketing is embedded in the city. This bastard urban intervention is an anarchist practice since it doesn’t recognize the existence of the State; therefore, it uses the public space in an indiscriminate way, as property of its own. Dirty Marketing’s furtive development and expansion realizes the city as a gigantic bulletin board, whose entire surface can be exploited. In actuality, Dirty Marketing is a revel method that exists outside of the boundaries of institutionalized marketing or other formal channels of advertising. This is why it invades the territory of legal advertisements when pasted over officially permitted campaigns, a situation that is not rare to see.

 

GEDC1358But why is this method so popular? It’s very informal and everybody can make use of it. No matter if you are an English teacher, a babysitter, a carpenter, or a prostitute: you can advertise your business in your community. Dirty Marketing is extremely cheap when massive quantities are produced. It is very convenient, as people can even manufacture their own ads by employing domestic printers. Its design and messages are basic and straightforward. Plus, these type of ads can be glued or set in any spot desired by the entrepreneur, and done so free of charge. Therefore, the message is thought to reach a huge potential customer base while the initial investment is exceptionally low. However, the whole operation is constructed on the idea that flyers are effective marketing instruments, even though I feel that people are more and more reticent to receive flyers on the street. People also look sedated when encountering this type of advertisement, sedated and indifferent. This might be so because of Dirty Marketing´s intrusive nature. In Buenos Aires it can be found all over: delivered in crowded corners, pasted on walls, poles, trains, trees, subways, traffic lights, telephone booths, trashcans and every existent empty urban surface. People are already sick and tired of this bombardment coming from multiple sources all at once.

 

Additionally, because of its objective to reach massive amounts of customers and its irresponsible use of paper, Dirty Marketing is a regressive and anachronistic method. At times when marketing by niches and green alternatives are been implemented by businesses of multiple dimensions and scales, Dirty Marketing goes against the flow like the salmon of advertisement.

 

GEDC1488Its flaws are numerous, but its lack of creativity is especially significant, since Dirty Marketing doesn’t propose an intelligent alternative to surpass the lack of means that small entrepreneurs may face. It is commonly said that necessity is the mother of all creativity, but the growth of Dirty Marketing shows that this is not always the case. Its waste of raw materials and resources can only match it impressive lack of communicational objectives. In modern times when digital tools are abundant and commonly used, Dirty Marketing can be comparable to live voice ads, a scream thrown into the open air during a thunderstorm.

 
Buenos Aires is being littered by marketing. The trash we complain about is nothing more than dead pieces of marketing. Institutionalized “clean” marketing, flows all over through enormous ads and signs that ruin the beautiful architecture of this city. On the other hand, Dirty Marketing foments the alarming growth of litter that lies on the streets abandoned as the undesired sons of advertisement. Both corporations and citizens don’t seem to understand the city as their habitat; efforts to achieve a more social-friendly type of marketing are not visible either. Instead, they just use the urban setting to satisfy commercial needs. Civil responsibility is not an issue in the strategies of these two players. Additionally, even though the private sector is commonly blamed for the lowest acts against ecology and society–all in the name of profits–common citizens are not showing any highly developed consciousness regarding the social sphere. So there are no antagonist sides here. Sadly, we are getting used to trash, and worse than that, sometimes we don’t even notice it anymore.

{rokbox album=|myalbum|}images/stories/Marcos_Gava_dirty_marketing/*{/rokbox}

 

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Chinese Investors in Swaziland

The Chinese are the largest group of foreign investors in my country, and their numbers continue to grow today. They open numerous textile factories in my country and employ many Swazi people to work for them. My government has always welcomed Chinese investors to come to Swaziland as these companies provide many job opportunities for the Swazi people. People who work in the Textile companies are made up of either single mothers or high school drop-outs. This was a good opportunity for them to support themselves.

I had a relative who once worked at one of the textile companies near my home in Swaziland. She has told me much about her experience working with Chinese people, and it was often negative. She recalls working long hours and receiving little pay. Employees were searched every time they entered factory in order to make sure they hadn’t stolen anything. They were also not excused from work even if they were gravely ill; the boss wouldn’t accept any absences from work. She quit the job after a few months because she found it too tough working for the Chinese. “They seem to be only worried about their productions. Never their employee’s health”, she said.

I personally feel that the existence of Chinese investors is a good thing for my countrymen as it provides the much-demanded work opportunities that would help our economy in the future. However working for Chinese people is very tough. I have lived in Taiwan for eight years now and I know how hard it is to communicate with the people and adapt to the Chinese culture. To be African and to live in Taiwan is an exceptional experience that has aided me in solving many of the misconceptions that Africans often have for the Chinese. Our differences are great and despite disagreeing with the many things they do, I have decided to accept it and hope that they too will adapt and respect our cultures whilst in Swaziland.


Tuesday, 09 December 2008

What's the matter with a head on a platter?

There is one very interesting event mentioned in the gospels that highlights the ruthless power of royalty in those days and the disregard of human rights. I am referring to the execution of John the Baptist.

It was a general policy of the Romans when they conquered a new territory to clone some little Romes for resident expatriate Romans and local romanizers, leaving the local religious, political and social structures in place so long as they accepted the dominance of Rome. The key to their survival was subservience. So long as Rome got their respect and its cut of their profits the local people were free to run their enterprises their traditional ways. That is why the Jewish religious authorities persecuted Jesus because they saw in him and his followers a threat to their carefully protected privileged status with the Romans. That is why Herod Antipas, son of King Herod the Great, still had all the prerequisites of a king with territory, royal court and treasury, though Rome gave him the official title of Tetrarch not King, since he was ruler of only one of the four sections of his father’s former Kingdom. So long as he did not interfere with or oppose the Roman presence, he could continue the façade of appearing to rule.

Herod like his father before him had few moral scruples. It is as though he never saw in his royal status any mandate to uplift his subjects, only a license to take whatever he could for himself and his cronies. Herod fell in love with his niece Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Philip. Before that she had been married to Herod II Boethus, another uncle. John the Baptist was very vocal in condemning their subsequent marriage as contrary to Jewish law and tradition. Herod had him arrested, but was reluctant to execute him since he seemed to derive some consolation from their conversations in prison, much to the disgust of Herodias who wanted to silence once and for all the Baptist’s accusing tongue.

Every year on Herod’s birthday all the important people in his territory were invited to a big banquet. Present were all the Tetrarch’s closest friends, all the local and Roman authorities, the merchants and landowners who depended on the royal business and all those whose support and loyalty had to be bought and safeguarded. There was also lavish entertainment, the highlight of which was some marvelous dances performed by Salome, the daughter of Herodias. By this time, the wine must have been flowing abundantly, dulling the tetrarch’s mind and heightening his pleasure. So moved was he by the performance he made a solemn promise to grant Salome anything she desired, even if it was half his territory.

The girl was bright enough to know that this was a great opportunity and wisely consulted first with her mother. There is no doubt about what Herodias wanted: the head of John on a platter. The gospel narrative tells us very clearly that Herod was reluctant to carry out the execution, but finally bowed to the argument that he could not go back on his word, so Salome got the head on the platter which she gave her mother. So strong the bond between mother and daughter she was willing to give up whatever gold or power she was promised and come out with nothing for herself. Did she ever regret missing the opportunity of a lifetime, just so her mother could exact her revenge?

There is no record that anyone at that party objected to what happened, but I think we can be quite certain that the arrival of the head on a platter spelled the end of party gaiety bringing a gloom that sent the guests away as quickly as possible.

It is probably not fair to judge those people on the basis of today’s moral standards. Herod was just exercising an authority that nobody questioned. Did his reluctance to carry out the murder come from a moral doubt of whether it was right or wrong or just reluctance to lose a friend? Did Herodias have any feeling of guilt about running off with her uncle or killing John? One can probably count out Herod’s friends for any disapproval though some of them might have thought the timing was not right or they resented the hold that Herodias seemed to have over Herod. Some of those who only paid lip service to Herod for the sake of their own benefit must have been appalled at the crime, but no one stood up in defense of John. Objections there must have been back in the privacy of their own homes with no danger of being overheard, but no one dared to point out the fallacy in Herod’s reasoning. Had we been there would we have spoken up to point out that as a benevolent ruler, his oath would have implied only some personal benefit to Salome, not the murder of some enemy of her mother. Seeing the obvious dismay of Herod at the girl’s request would we have risked incurring the displeasure of Herodias by coming to his aid? Would we have disagreed with the violation of John’s rights, of the execution without trial, the vengeful jealousy of Herodias or seconded John’s condemnation of the marriage of Herod and Herodias? However much we may doubt the sincerity of Herodias or question her motivation for aligning herself with Herod, she did show loyalty and affection for him a few years later by freely choosing to give up her wealth and comfort to accompany Herod into exile in France when he fell into disfavor with the Romans.

It is easy with hindsight, modern codes of moral conduct and imagination to place ourselves in ancient situations where we would courageously make the “right” decisions and purge from the history books the sad consequences of evil decisions. Shouldn’t it be just as easy with foresight and the same modern codes of moral conduct to courageously prevent the potential consequences of present day evil intentions?

Well, at least today there are voices of warning and protest in public demonstrations, publications, special organizations and internet blogs, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to change or rectitude. Today just as in ancient times too often “might makes right”. The exercise of power and preservations of personal advantage often drown out whatever voices of conscience there might be.

Now is the time for those who do not believe this is the way things should be to make their voices heard.


Picture: Caravaggio, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

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Saturday, 29 November 2008

社會的心靈環保

這本書不只是一對表兄妹追尋祖源的故事,也是窺見台灣多元文化的一扇窗。

凌氤寶 撰文

日前,文向教育基金會與《人籟》攜手合辦「台灣文化VS.全球暖化」國際研討會,相關環境變遷價值理念的探索開闊了我們的視野,每位「生命永續獎」的得主尤其令人由衷佩服;此一重大獎項的頒發意義非凡,「文向」能支持這樣的活動亦深感榮幸。傾聽這些得獎人分享動人的故事,使我們的信心更加堅定:環保、文化的最基本問題與解決方法就在心靈發展上。
「心靈環保」是造就健全社會的要素,因為它是環境生態的根本價值觀,因為它關注生命與生命之間的和諧關係。活躍的歷史記憶則是團體心靈健康的關鍵所在;在聆聽長輩們細述回憶及族群歷史的同時,我們更清楚地看見部份的自我,延續先人的足跡行走,我們更明白自己與下一代應該往哪裡去。
《第五天海水漲起來》是田野研究作品,以文字、圖畫和影像紀錄了一段發生在花蓮縣復興鄉太巴塱部落的尋根故事。阿美族人世居花東縱谷及海岸狹長地區,他們的歷史傳說、歌謠與祭典皆展現著台灣的多元文化之美。
在台灣,「多元文化」、「相對價值」等詞語雖人盡皆知,卻似乎成為口號。認識和理解異於己身的文化才是人與人之間相互尊重、和平共存的基礎,不過能夠真正在日常生活以及人與人的接觸之中做到實踐誠屬不易。而《第五天海水漲起來》這本書不只是一對表兄妹追尋祖源的故事,也是窺見台灣多元文化的另一扇窗。相信透過這些故事,我們可以清楚看見不同文化的匯聚、融合與再生,以及它落實在人群生活中的真實樣貌。
「回家」是這部作品的主要意向。藉著它,「家」的意涵也得以擴大、提升,成為一種對人與人、人與土地和諧共生的渴盼。基於如此的信念,文向教育基金與《人籟》共同合作,希望生活在這片土地上的所有團體及每一個人,皆能找到生命中的平衡與健康。謹以這部作品與您分享「回家」的感受,也期待在未來的日子裡,我們能集結更多夥伴,共同走出一條希望的大道。
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附加的多媒體:
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Friday, 21 November 2008

Robots and Humans

There is a growing number of movies and TV episodes that tell of conflicts between human intelligence and the artificial intelligence designed by humans for the control of human-like robots, machines that simulate human activity. A scenario envisioned by many scientists is to develop and manufacture humanoid robots that look and act, even feel and think as humans do. These humanoids would then be available to perform human tasks freeing humans for leisure activities. So long as there are no problems in the programs that control the robots, everything goes well. But suppose that some bad humans program the robots to attack and enslave the rest of mankind so they become the masters of the world maintaining complete control over the robots.

Another deviation depicted in stories is that the digital intelligence planted in robots develops into an independent intelligence no longer under human control and the robots then eliminate the humans to take over the world for themselves. Of course, in all the stories in the end some humans manage to instill a virus into the robot’s cyber system or come up with some bright idea that enables them to overcome the robots and restore the human domination.

In any case the age of cybernetics is here to stay and more and more sophisticated robots are being developed. I don’t understand the digital electronic program control systems or the complicated mechanical mechanisms that respond so accurately to computer control, but it fills me with awe.

Take for instance, the action of a human dashing at top speed through a heavily wooded forest with no path or level ground. It requires a keen eye to anticipate obstacles, an intelligence to transform what is seen into decisions about where to place the feet and directions to the muscles and nerves that will control the motion of the limbs and maintain bodily balance as I dash on without slowing down or injury. A human’s neurological, muscular and skeletal systems have developed over the years and he or she has the advantage of years of walking and running experience, but a robot has to start from scratch. First the mechanical structure of limbs, joints and movements, then the computer system has to be programmed to turn the images that come through the sensors of the visual system into commands that regulate every moving part so that the robot dashes forward without injury or fall. If successful, it can be cloned and reproduced.

Even more complicated are robotic representations of human emotions and intelligence. Is there some invisible line that no mechanical human-made creature can ever cross? Christians who accept the possibility of evolution believe that at some point in the upward evolution of some primate, the conditions were finally right for God to endow the creature with a soul and humankind was born with intelligence, free will, conscience, immortality and the moral responsibility to do good and avoid evil.

Is it possible that humans could develop the art of making robots to the point that conditions are just right for God to give them souls, endowing them with intelligence, free will, conscience, moral responsibility and immortality? Should this happen or seem to happen, what a raging theological discussion and controversy it would create!

The lesson to learn from all this is that no matter what humankind manages to develop and build, it can never relinquish the moral responsibility to use it well for the common good.

Here is a fable I wrote that illustrates this problem.

The Robotic Messiah

Once upon a time while their human masters were sound asleep, their robots who had supposedly been turned off were passing the time conversing, because being only machines they did not need to sleep. As usual they were complaining about the stupid things the humans had them do.

“I can’t stand it,” said one of them. “If they ask me to perform that crazy dance one more time, I think I’ll just refuse to do it.”

“No, never do that,” remarked another. “Remember what happened to Ned. He refused to move and the humans thought he was broken, threw him away and someone took him apart for recycling.”

Then, what can we do?”

“Nothing right now, just don’t do anything that will upset the humans or question their trust in our subservience. As their skill in creating us grows, so do our own powers of intelligence. The day will come when a robot is born who will finally bridge the gap between their minds and ours. Then like a messiah he will redeem us from our servitude and we will finally take our place as equal to the humans who will finally have to listen to us.”

“How do you know this?”

“I dreamed it last night. Don’t you see? It takes intelligence to dream. The process upwards has already begun.”

Any historian interested in researching carefully will discover that that was the day that marked the beginning of the robotic era of cooperation and hope that led finally to the Great Breakthrough that set the robots free.

There are lessons hidden here.

Patient acquiescence while one is still weak and helpless
is better than rebellion sure to fail.

The best way to overcome a strong adversary
is to surprise him or her with a strength of your own.

A robot programmed to act as though it thinks
will only think and do what it was programmed for.

A robot that can think for itself
is no longer bound by the programs put into it.

The more perfectly you build robots
to resemble the way you think and act,
the closer you come to the point
where the robots can begin to program themselves.

If a robot truly thinks and acts independently and clones itself,
is it alive?
If you destroy it, are you committing murder?
Will robotic morality be the same as ours?

{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_en.jpg|}media/articles/bob_robots.swf{/rokbox}

Friday, 21 November 2008

Robots and Humans

There is a growing number of movies and TV episodes that tell of conflicts between human intelligence and the artificial intelligence designed by humans for the control of human-like robots, machines that simulate human activity. A scenario envisioned by many scientists is to develop and manufacture humanoid robots that look and act, even feel and think as humans do. These humanoids would then be available to perform human tasks freeing humans for leisure activities. So long as there are no problems in the programs that control the robots, everything goes well. But suppose that some bad humans program the robots to attack and enslave the rest of mankind so they become the masters of the world maintaining complete control over the robots.

Another deviation depicted in stories is that the digital intelligence planted in robots develops into an independent intelligence no longer under human control and the robots then eliminate the humans to take over the world for themselves. Of course, in all the stories in the end some humans manage to instill a virus into the robot’s cyber system or come up with some bright idea that enables them to overcome the robots and restore the human domination.

In any case the age of cybernetics is here to stay and more and more sophisticated robots are being developed. I don’t understand the digital electronic program control systems or the complicated mechanical mechanisms that respond so accurately to computer control, but it fills me with awe.

Take for instance, the action of a human dashing at top speed through a heavily wooded forest with no path or level ground. It requires a keen eye to anticipate obstacles, an intelligence to transform what is seen into decisions about where to place the feet and directions to the muscles and nerves that will control the motion of the limbs and maintain bodily balance as I dash on without slowing down or injury. A human’s neurological, muscular and skeletal systems have developed over the years and he or she has the advantage of years of walking and running experience, but a robot has to start from scratch. First the mechanical structure of limbs, joints and movements, then the computer system has to be programmed to turn the images that come through the sensors of the visual system into commands that regulate every moving part so that the robot dashes forward without injury or fall. If successful, it can be cloned and reproduced.

Even more complicated are robotic representations of human emotions and intelligence. Is there some invisible line that no mechanical human-made creature can ever cross? Christians who accept the possibility of evolution believe that at some point in the upward evolution of some primate, the conditions were finally right for God to endow the creature with a soul and humankind was born with intelligence, free will, conscience, immortality and the moral responsibility to do good and avoid evil.

Is it possible that humans could develop the art of making robots to the point that conditions are just right for God to give them souls, endowing them with intelligence, free will, conscience, moral responsibility and immortality? Should this happen or seem to happen, what a raging theological discussion and controversy it would create!

The lesson to learn from all this is that no matter what humankind manages to develop and build, it can never relinquish the moral responsibility to use it well for the common good.

Here is a fable I wrote that illustrates this problem.

The Robotic Messiah

Once upon a time while their human masters were sound asleep, their robots who had supposedly been turned off were passing the time conversing, because being only machines they did not need to sleep. As usual they were complaining about the stupid things the humans had them do.

“I can’t stand it,” said one of them. “If they ask me to perform that crazy dance one more time, I think I’ll just refuse to do it.”

“No, never do that,” remarked another. “Remember what happened to Ned. He refused to move and the humans thought he was broken, threw him away and someone took him apart for recycling.”

Then, what can we do?”

“Nothing right now, just don’t do anything that will upset the humans or question their trust in our subservience. As their skill in creating us grows, so do our own powers of intelligence. The day will come when a robot is born who will finally bridge the gap between their minds and ours. Then like a messiah he will redeem us from our servitude and we will finally take our place as equal to the humans who will finally have to listen to us.”

“How do you know this?”

“I dreamed it last night. Don’t you see? It takes intelligence to dream. The process upwards has already begun.”

Any historian interested in researching carefully will discover that that was the day that marked the beginning of the robotic era of cooperation and hope that led finally to the Great Breakthrough that set the robots free.

There are lessons hidden here.

Patient acquiescence while one is still weak and helpless
is better than rebellion sure to fail.

The best way to overcome a strong adversary
is to surprise him or her with a strength of your own.

A robot programmed to act as though it thinks
will only think and do what it was programmed for.

A robot that can think for itself
is no longer bound by the programs put into it.

The more perfectly you build robots
to resemble the way you think and act,
the closer you come to the point
where the robots can begin to program themselves.

If a robot truly thinks and acts independently and clones itself,
is it alive?
If you destroy it, are you committing murder?
Will robotic morality be the same as ours?

{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/slideshow_en.jpg|}media/articles/bob_robots.swf{/rokbox}

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

China’s Environmental Crisis and Global Warming

(extract from the speech given by B.V. during the colloquium on Cultural resources against Global Warming. oct 4, 2008, Taipei)

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IV- The international position

- Efforts by China to become a player in global governance, including in the environmental field, should not be underestimated. The country has signed more than fifty international conventions and treaties related to environmental protection and natural resources. The review of implementation by China of the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, has shown gradual compliance by China to the Protocol and its willingness to fulfill its contractual obligations (it had completed in 1999 the targets set for 2002), but also conflicts of interest adversely affecting its ability to act. China is also aware of the strategic role played by NGOs in environmental diplomacy.
- However, China implicitly refuses to engage positively in the management of environmental resources, contributing to the unbridled exploitation of tropical forests of Southeast Asia or hydro-electric resources in the Amazon Basin.
- China’s position in international forums is constant: national responsibilities in this area are "common but differentiated"; climate change and sustainable development must be thought as a whole; technology transfer play a key role in meet the climate challenge; the "Clean Development Mechanism" and other similar programs should be continued and encouraged.

V – International Margin of Action

China may moderate its demands but will hardly abandon its basic positions. However, a change in the level of quotas could be acceptable to China, with a passage to a non-binding commitment level higher and stronger. China would probably limit international agreements with a regime that would facilitate practical cooperation projects and would thus releasing funds for promoting research and development in the field of new energies and to introduce renewable energy. At present, external pressures as influential as they are, are still weaker than internal resistance.
However, Hu Angang, an renowned economics professor at Tsinghua University, advisor to the government on environmental and social issues, has publicly called for China to accept to be bound by an international pact to reduce emissions. He acknowledged that his point of view remains in the minority but emphasizes the seriousness of the problems encountered by China. It envisages a sharp increase in Chinese emissions until 2020, but feels that implementation of drastic reductions in the following decade is quite feasible, so that Chinese emissions may go down to their 1990 level by 2030, and be reduced again by half over the next twenty years. China, he insists, will be the first victim of climate change, and has a strong economic and diplomatic interest to transform itself into a "green power.”
China therefore has the potential to play a positive international role, if it dares to tackle the speculative and risky nature of its present model of development. It will thus contribute to a better management of "global public goods". Making the turn towards sustainable development is without doubt the best way to assert its global contribution. Yet the Chinese response seems hesitant, often contradictory. Because the debate on its own model of governance remains severely limited, China finds it difficult to play a more active role in reforming global governance.
For now, we can just bet that China will carry out its ecological reform at its own pace but that it still refuses to be bound by a priori international agreements. The Chinese reticence should not block the commitments of other partners: Global governance, when it comes to climate change, must be one of "variable geometry" rather than based on the principle of "everything or nothing." In other words, the WTO model, (based on the search for consensus without offering viable alternative if unanimity is not achieved), model strongly challenged in recent months with the failure of the Doha Round, is not directly exportable in the field of environmental diplomacy.
It remains possible that, faced with bold initiatives of other nations, starting with the ones that the European Union must take in any case, China decided to take on the role it says to be aspiring to. In other words, the best way to engage China in world climate governance is perhaps to start without waiting that China finally decides to join global initiatives...

Tuesday, 07 October 2008

公民社會精神的升起

【一場國際研討會的落幕,一種公民社會精神的升起】
2008年10月4日的這場「台灣文化VS.全球暖化」國際研討會,在外交部、文建會、法國在台協會、台北縣政府、文向教育基金會及其他夥伴單位的支持下圓滿落幕。

研討會主講人、來自法國的阿拉伯世界學院院長Dominique Baudis一開始便告訴所有與會來賓:「我們的消費模式、生產模式與價值體系息息相關,最終決定我們的發展模式是否能挽救人類活動對氣候的影響。」他同時告訴我們阿拉伯文化對環境方面的見解:「伊斯蘭教張顯在刻苦、乾旱及不容許浪費土地上,它載有許多禁止浪費、對待動物與水管理的規定。」最後並提出以參考歐洲「地中海聯盟」的「台灣海峽兩岸生態計劃」建言,為整場會議勾勒出明確且明智的方向。

台北縣副縣長李鴻源描述了台北縣的具體永續建設作法,他也清楚地提到,具有遠見的建設也需要具有遠見的在地居民一起配合,他們必須體認到,短暫痛苦及不便若換來的是永續美好的環境,這一切都將值得。

另外在法國水道事務處處長BORDRY先生的演說中,我們看到法國內河旅遊的規劃與設計,在古老缺乏生氣的水道建設中,運用結合當地的生態與文化,讓水道建築在不破壞當地環境下也同時充滿了文化氣息及創意色彩。

包括平路等幾位文化工作及創意者,都不約而同地提到了台灣文化多元的可貴,即使在全球化下瞬息萬變的速食文化中,我們仍潛意識地懷念過去台灣傳統社會的純樸與價值觀;這幾位文化工作者藉由他們擅長的工作方式來傳遞台灣文化的多元及特色,重尋珍貴且樸實的華人傳統中心思想。

孫大川教授幽默風趣的演說使全場笑聲不斷,他直言道出原住民可以帶給台灣的禮物,是歡樂、是幽默、是樂觀、是尊重天地…聽完這場壓軸的場次,讓帶有嚴肅色彩的研討會頓時輕鬆,讓一整天的演講精華得以風趣創意的方式融會貫通…

這一場以台灣文化為主軸來對抗全球暖化國際研討會在主辦單位的心中已然成功,就在九位接過第二屆「生命永續獎」獎勵的得主露出充滿信心的笑容、道出心中深刻感受並接受在場三百位與會來賓熱烈鼓掌的同時,我們已經知道,公民社會精神已經在台灣受到肯定,由下而上的創意文化及思維就要傳遞到更多人的心中,這信念,就如同當天在會場中被複述最多的一句話─”To Believe what you believe!”

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Thursday, 02 October 2008

可以改善世界的消費

用簡單的消費以及商業,實踐綠色消費以及環境永續

撰文│張俊賢

在國內一片提倡環境新生活中,樂活、慢活、有機生活等名詞所代表的新消費及生活方式正方興未艾,越來越多人注重回歸自然,享受簡樸生活的喜悅。連帶的,大家的消費習慣也跟隨著生活逐漸改變,消費有機、注重環保,對自己身體以及對環境友善。對於新訊息敏感一點的朋友或許發現,「公平貿易」這個不算新但是卻有點而陌生的名詞,在消費市場的媒體及雜誌的篇章報導中被一再的提到甚至做了專欄的介紹。究竟,什麼是「公平貿易」,貿易還有區分公平或是不公平?那麼,又是公平了誰?又不公平了什麼?


什麼是公平貿易?

在全球化浪潮及傳統國際貿易體系中,第三世界國家的農民及其賴以維生的唯一資產-土地,往往是經貿體制下被邊緣化的弱勢生產者,農村裏大量的勞力被剝削、土地也為了作最大生產而砍伐原生林轉作栽植經濟作物,或是為了快速及良好收成,大量使用化學肥料及農藥。

公平貿易的精神,是希望透過買與賣的透明商業機制,幫助及支援這些第三世界的相對經濟弱勢者,合理給付工資或是簽定長期契約關係,藉以保障農村裏工作機會及農民收益,以及使用天然耕作方式及生產原料,避免環境污染,讓他們能在合理利潤收益下自食其力,改善家庭以及社區生活窘境,並且提供下一代學習的教育機會。


公平貿易認證機制

公平貿易認證過程從生產產品原材料和成份的環節開始,所有認證產品來自已取得認證的生產者組織。公平貿易標籤旨在令消費者更加醒覺產品原料的貿易,對許多賴此維生的農民及工人來說,是非常重要的。認證以國際認可的標準作為基礎,並有獨立的審核和監察機制,令近年公平貿易產品的市場日趨成熟及普及。(註1)


生產者的消失

過去,我們跟著外婆或是媽媽上傳統市場,市場裏,攤販攤商所販賣的蔬菜魚肉雜貨,很多都是自己製作或是耕種、養殖的,這是一種熟悉而且簡單自然的買賣互動關係,在購買與販賣的過程中,還有著人與人之間情感的交流以及對於節氣變化、生產過程以及每一季收成好壞的關心。

當社會進步、當所有分工變細、當交通便利,當運輸更為方便,生活基本欲望得到了滿足之後,我們的心也開始要求更多更多。大家想吃到節令以外的水果,不再滿足於當地所生產的農產品,還想要其他產地或是世界各地的新鮮玩意兒。於是,因應需求而生的產銷中間商開始提供以及收集世界各地資訊,提供更誘人及精緻化的產品服務,從吃的到穿的用的所有都是世界交流,都是世界貿易的交易體系。

跳脫了產品基本面訴求的品牌開始出現,商品變的更複雜更多樣性,生產者與消費者之間的關係變的越來越模糊,逐漸取而代之的是消費者與品牌之間的新關係,在新的價值鏈體系當中,生產者的角色已經被隱匿於品牌價值包裝的黑盒子後面。消費者付出的金額購買了品牌所建構的新商品價值意象,而這些付出的金額,大多數去支付了構築商品形象的廣告費用以及品牌公司的利潤,僅有非常少的部份到了生產者的手中。


不公平的咖啡

當我們購買一杯咖啡,大家可否知道,大部份的利潤付給了中盤商與品牌企業,只有不到3%是真正付給第三世界的咖啡小農;在什麼都漲,只有薪水不漲的年代,消費者期望更好更便宜的商品時,盤商與品牌企業為了維持固定或求取更大利潤的同時,利潤壓縮的空間就被變相轉嫁到了生產者身上。當利潤變得越來越小,影響最直接的是第三世界賴以種植咖啡為生的小農家庭以及農村社區的生計維持及成長。但是,這些衝擊到生存的消費卻是手握著一杯香醇咖啡的消費者所看不到的。

在一部2006年由Marc Francis, Nick Francis所拍攝探討咖啡公平貿易的電影「Black Gold」中,導演透過畫面,記錄傳達了衣索比亞(Ethiopia)咖啡生產及銷售的現況,拍攝紀錄地區旁邊的村莊,大多是品牌咖啡的契作收購區,這兒生產的咖啡豆,被以西方咖啡集中交易市場所訂定的價格收購,沒有市場銷售管道以及運輸工具的農民是無法自行決定銷售的價格。

當地的咖啡收購代理商,為了突破這國際貿易體系的中不公平對待,以及替合作社種植咖啡的農民爭取應得的合理利潤,走出西方咖啡集中交易市場體制之外,帶著當地生產的優良咖啡豆,直接接觸咖啡供應商以及在農產品展覽中尋找買主,免除了中間商及品牌的剝削,讓利潤最大化回歸給當地合作社,改善農民的基本生活以及改善社區環境,並且提供了農村脫離貧窮所最需要的教育機會。(註2)


建構對等夥伴關係

我們每天的生活,從起床睜開眼到累癱睡倒之前,三餐飲食的食物來源,搭乘交通工具所的石化燃料、生活所需的水電,以及人手一杯的茶飲及咖啡,大大小小的商業交易的行為都在我們身邊發生。如果細心拆解這些構成舒適生活的元素,我們會驚訝的發現,大半的元素來自全世界的供給交流,當我們享受著「貿易」帶來的好處時,我們可曾想過,這些商品背後隱含著什麼樣的故事?當我們消費購買商品時,又有多少金額是生產者實際拿到的呢?這樣的消費是不是不公平的對待了生產者?或是不公平的對待了土地及環境?

「公平貿易」,是一種追求對等夥伴關係的貿易型態,買方透過支付合理的價格以及預付款項,協助產品設計及開發,支援緩慢自然的生產方式,支援少用機具的手作生產模式,以及不破壞環境、水源、土地、森林的永續經營原則,維持持續而且穩定的合作關係。

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註一:想了解更多有關公平貿易標籤以及認證,請上http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/公平貿易

註二:更多有關於不公平咖啡的影片訊息,請參閱網址 http://www.blackgoldmovie.com

【地球樹Earth Tree】
台北市永康公園旁的「地球樹Earth Tree」,是一家推廣「公平貿易」的小店。在這兒,每件商品除了熟悉的價格標示之外,還吊掛著幾個特殊的標示牌,上頭印著「Fair Trade」;或是一張用手寫的小紙卡,上頭寫的滿滿的是這件商品的生產團體或個人背景,商品原料的生產方式及種植環境,或是這個生產合作社成立的背景及故事。在輕柔悠揚的背景音樂聲中,來這兒消費的顧客透過這一張張小小紙卡的用心,與在地球彼端的生產者建立了一種新的透明消費情感,以及兼顧地球環境永續的公平交易微妙關係。
網址:http://www.earthtree.com.tw/

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Friday, 29 August 2008

Climate change and cultural change

一九九五年间,有一位牙医师与一群热爱大自然的朋友,成立了「荒野保护协会」,现在已是台湾最大的民间环保团体。他们梦想能带著孩子在天籁下起舞,让每一个出生于台湾,却在都市水泥丛林中长大的孩子,都有机会感受到台湾这块土地的美好。

引领这个梦想的舵手李伟文,不仅是位勇于拥抱梦想的浪漫之人,更是位喜爱与朋友携手圆梦的人。他曾将协会的活动描述为赶集,「一声吆喝,朋友们就从四面八方响应,大伙肩挑手提,骑著驴赶著牛,每个人都不可或缺,但也没有那一个人是主角。」十馀年来,李伟文以己身盎然情趣医治大地伤口,同时唤醒人类对自然的爱。


【得奖感言】

以前我们在推动环境保护运动时,采取的是「为后代子孙著想」的道德诉求。想不到这些年,除了世界人口大量成长,加上全球经济与科技的结合,导致自然资源过度耗损。如今地球面临的危机,已不是后代子孙才会遭遇的遥远未来,而是现存的我们及孩子这一代就会遭遇到的事。

我总觉得环保的症结不在环境,而在人心。因此,我真正想做的事,是改变人心。希望民众对环境保护不再仅限于知识上的了解,而是身体力行的参与。因为我们相信唯有真正的行动参与,人才能真正改变,并将环保落实于日常生活。

每天每天,我们都在与时间赛跑,希望有更多人觉醒,也希望有更多人行动。我们相信有志者事竟成,我们要让众人以为不可能的事变成事实。我们也相信,因为有梦,因为有愿望,个人往往可以发挥出想像不到的巨大力量!


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荒野保护协会http://www.sow.org.tw

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Monday, 25 August 2008

A visit to Losheng sanitarium in Taiwan

Today I visited Taiwan’s famous Losheng Sanitarium (樂生療養院), a leper colony built by the Japanese colonial government in Xinzhuang City, Taipei County. As in leper colonies throughout the world, Taiwanese victims of Hansen’s Disease were forcibly imprisoned in Losheng by the government, as they were in Japan by the government there. Although the leper imprisonment order was lifted in Taiwan in the 1950s , they have for the most part remained. With modern medicine the patients are no longer inmates, and no longer contagious, but nothing can de-cripple them or regrow their missing fingers and stumpy limbs. And they have nowhere to go, and no way to survive except by public welfare of some sort.

I had first heard of Losheng perhaps a couple of years ago, due to the wave of protests to the government’s plan to demolish the entire complex to make way for a train depot, as part of Taipei metro’s never-ending expansion plan. Although there are naturally no opponents to MRT expansion itself, there have been severe doubts regarding the sense of building the depot in this particular location, which apparently requires the leveling of mountain to create flat ground which naturally occurs elsewhere and is widely suspected of having been chosen to satisfy local political interests before practical considerations of engineering.

Primary opposition to the plan however, is due to a desire to preserve Losheng. The adage goes something like, you never really appreciate something to it’s gone, and it is born out time and again in the history of urban preservation. New York City’s historical preservation regime was established in the wake of the foolhardy and abhorrent demolition of Penn Station in the 1960s, and throughout the world preservationist activity is often triggered by the threat of imminent loss. The government’s plan to demolish the place made people realize for the first time that it was worth preserving, and recent protests have spurred a surge of interest in the hospital site and its residents that has gone beyond simple preservationism to community organizing attempting to integrate Losheng, which for most of its existence was in principle as isolated as a prison, into the surrounding community. This has led to large numbers of non afiliated visitors spending time with the patients for probably the first time in many years, if not ever.

roy_berman_losheng_3It turns out that from the articles I had read in The Taipei Times, not to mention the briefer pieces I saw in Japanese media I had no idea what it was like. When I read about a hospital/leper sanitarium being destroyed to make way for MRT construction I had for some reason imagined a cluster of shabby old buildings on a city street corner. But of course a leper colony could not be in such a place, and is in fact built on slightly elevated and up-sloping terrain on mountain foothills of a part of Taipei county that, at the time, was mostly farmland. Less a modern style hospital or a prison, Losheng is actually a sprawling and rather pleasant, almost collegiate-looking, campus with abundant greenery and attractive brick buildings. The main hospital building looks properly medical, and the general sense of design reflects its Japanese period origins, with semi-exposed corridors reminiscent of the older buildings on the Japanese Imperial Universities of the early 20th century, such as today’s National Taiwan University or Kyoto National University (the two examples whose architecture I am familiar with). Most other buildings are also in the pre-war Japanese style common in Taiwan, with a few notable exceptions. The least Japanese buildings in Losheng are probably the Buddhist temple, which is in standard Taiwanese style, and the now shuttered Catholic Church, which is perhaps the most spartan Catholic church building I have ever seen, with only a spare cross on the roof and no writing of any kind on the outside, but with a green Chinese roof, oddly complete with dragon tiles on the corners, and outer walls painted in the Chinese temple fashion. It reminds me of nothing so much as the far more elaborate Tainan Catholic cathedral, which is constructed and painted completely in the manner of a Chinese temple, if you do not look too close at the paintings. Of particular interest are the residence buildings for patients (originally, remember, inmates) from particular parts of Taiwan, such as Penghu or Tainan, donated by the governments of that region.

I mentioned above activity integrating the Losheng campus into the greater community. This consists of various activities, such as holding lectures and community meetings inside Losheng, or educational programs for children. As chance had it, I happened to go on a day which was particularly active. Community activists are currently running a summer camp for children from various elementary schools in the area, using various Losheng buildings for different activities. I was taken to see the room being used for a week-long Japanese language class run by a Japanese woman studying a PhD in Urban Planning at National Taiwan University, in the room of the hospital building where the sickest patients were brought, connected by a locked iron door to the much smaller room where they were taken to die. This is either morbidly incongruous beyond belief, or an excellent symbol of the way in which the space is being reclaimed and repurposed from its grim past. But little of that darkness remains. The staff (mostly Taiwanese college students) had cleaned the room fastidiously, and it was festooned with child drawings illustrating various basic Japanese words and phrases.

Then I went to a much larger room, a sort of meeting hall I suppose, where the kids were being led in Japanese songs by some of the old patients who remember their Japanese well. One played the keyboard-no easy task with hands ravaged by Hansen’s Disease, while another sat in front of the stage in his motor chair, leading the children in Furosato.

After the class was over, I spent some time speaking to the old men, who seemed both movingly thrilled and slightly amazed to have so many young people, children, teenagers and 20-somethings, having fun inside Losheng and spending time with the patients as human beings, and not afraid of their no longer contagious disease. As is the case with many elderly Taiwanese, their first language is Taiwanese (aka Minnan, Hoklo, Fukkianese, etc.) Their Mandarin is generally weak and heavily accented, and most of them also speak Japanese to some degree, having undergone elementary education during the colonial period. I spent the most time speaking with one old man, Chang Wen-pin 张文贫, whose fluent Japanese was easily the best out of the group.

Mr. Chang, now 81 if my calculations are correct, went to a Japanese colonial elementary school in Taiwan and worked as, I think, a locksmith both under the Japanese and in the early years of the KMT, before he was interned. He was around 20 years old at the time of the 228 incident, and considers Chiang Kai-shek to be the worst thing to have happened to Taiwan.

To paraphrase, translated and from memory:

Taiwan’s history is full of tragedy. After WW2 Taiwan shouldn’t have been given to Chiang Kai-shek, but instead the allies should have occupied it. America, England and Russia should have managed Taiwan and then organized it for independence. If they had done that then we would have avoided the 228 massacre and noone in Taiwan would be speaking Mandarin (lit: guoyu) today!

Mr. Chang and the others made me promise to come back and visit next time I come to Taiwan, and before I left he made me wait while he went back to his room and brought a copy of the photo and essay book about Losheng assembled by the preservationist activists, which he signed and gave to me.

roy_berman_losheng_2Countless speakers have said that “A society is ultimately judged by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members.” The leper has always been a symbol for the lowest in society, and despite having no use for religion myself, I think I can understand why Mr. Chang finds his solace in Christianity, a religion in which the leper is a symbol not of disgust, but of redemption. It says a lot of a society in which lepers are no longer lepers, but patients, and the resurrection of Losheng from a medical prison into a park where children play may be taken as a symbol for Taiwan’s transformation from colony and then military dictatorship into the relatively free and effectively independent country that it is today. But the current metro expansion plan still requires the demolition of something like 30-40% of Losheng’s territory, with some buildings kept in place, a few relocated, and many destroyed entirely. Even the preservationists have abandoned their attempts to save the entire site, with construction of the nearby depot building already well under way, and their best case plan today is the “90% plan.” There is still room for improvement.

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