Erenlai - Economy and Environment 經濟發展VS環保意識
Economy and Environment 經濟發展VS環保意識

Economy and Environment 經濟發展VS環保意識


These materials assess changing trends in the economy and the environment, and how they impact on the future.

高唱經濟發展的同時,中國也看到它在生態環保上所面臨的挑戰。究竟要如何因應呢?當下的每個抉擇都牽動著未來的走向。

 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Tokelau Walks the Talk

In December this year, the South Pacific archipelago of Tokelau will be the first nation to be entirely powered by renewable energy: with the help of New Zealand, they are currently completing the installation of more than 4000 solar panels on the three atolls that constitute Tokelau territory. Last July, we had the chance to interview Tino Vitale, the representative of the Tokelau Delegation at the Festival of Pacific Arts held in the Solomon Islands: he told us about their project and a special song they perform to carry their plea.

 

Friday, 01 July 2011

What Fukushima should mean to us

The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami brought vast destruction to Japan. Captured on shaky camera-phone footage, images of the event, of the monumental floods sweeping away everyone and everything, are now burned forever in our collective consciousness. A nation at once underwater and ablaze. 125,000 buildings destroyed. Over 15000 people confirmed dead, over 8000 people still missing. It’s impossible to wrap your head around numbers as disturbing as these.

But what truly gripped the world in fear, what hit close to home even thousands of miles away, far from any fault lines, far from any shorelines, what shook everyone’s confidence to its core was the drama that unfolded before our eyes in the weeks that followed.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster changed forever the world’s relationship with nuclear energy. Over the course of several weeks, we looked on in abject horror as our worst fears played out. First one explosion; then another; then another. Uncontrollable fires. Hero workers trudging deep into the plant, donning awkward, heavy-duty, white and blue radiation suits, risking everything for the safety of a nation. Everywhere, tests revealing unsafe levels of contamination – vegetables, fish, milk, the very land itself. Evacuations ordered. Hourly bulletins about the safety of Tokyo’s tap water. Elevated radiation levels being detected as far away as the United States and Canada.

For many, Fukushima gave the most damning evidence yet that nuclear energy should no longer be considered an option. Now, environmentalists all over the world are cheering Germany’s decision to decommission all of its nuclear power plants by the year 2022. Switzerland now promises to follow Germany’s lead by 2034. Similar movements in other countries are gaining steam. The fear of nuclear energy is palpable these days and many would like to ride it for all it is worth.

Yes, it certainly is a lonely time for those in favor of nuclear energy. But I have to count myself as one amongst the few.

This isn’t an article about whether or not nuclear energy is safe. Quite frankly, nuclear energy isn’t safe, and it is my sincere hope that the disaster in Japan will give us a wake-up call to its dangers. But I don’t believe what happened there necessitates a worldwide moratorium on nuclear energy. In light of the world’s ever-growing appetite for energy, we need a careful, critical discussion of what our best options are moving forward from Fukushima. Crisis calls for measured action, not ham-fisted resolutions.

The future of our world depends on our choices, and only by asking the right questions can we make the right choices. Fukushima reminds us that the use of nuclear energy comes with a significant risk. So, the first question is: Should we give up nuclear energy because it isn’t safe? More specifically, without nuclear power, what are we left with? What will we do? Will we really begin to power the world with windmills and solar panels?

No, we will burn more coal; that’s what we will do.

This is because our appetite for energy now far outweighs our ability to generate it from clean sources. If you think it will play out any other way, please consider Germany. After the decision was made to shut down nuclear power, Germany’s politicians insisted that the nation would be going green from here on out, and their tough stance on nuclear energy won the praise of many. To quote Chancellor Angela Merkel: “We believe we as a country can be a trailblazer for a new age of renewable energy sources."

It sounds nice, it really does. But statements such as these do not paint a complete picture. The Breakthrough Institute think tank believes Germany will have to scale up its renewable energies to generate over 40% of the country’s energy in order to make up for the loss of nuclear energy – no easy task. Germany, for its part, obviously doesn’t think replacing nuclear with renewables is economically feasible. I say this because rather than pouring money and resources into renewables, Germany is pouring them into the construction of fossil fuel plants.

"If we want to quickly get out of nuclear power and into renewable energy, we need fossil-fuel power plants. There is no way around," says the Chancellor.

Philip Roesler, Germany’s economy minister, adds: "I think it is a very clever idea to build fossil-fuel plants on existing [nuclear] sites.”

For many, this is still good news. When people think of coal, apocalyptic visions of nuclear winters, radiation suits and mutated fish do not bubble up to the surface. Coal, despite its obvious setbacks, seems a safer choice than nuclear power in the popular mind. But this is precisely the notion I hope to challenge.

The second question is: If our choice in the short-term boils down to coal or nuclear, then which is better?

Much of the talk about nuclear energy is concerning what could happen. Few people are paying attention to what is happening, every day, because of coal burning. It is difficult to estimate how many people coal burning kills each year, but a good place to start looking is deaths caused by coal mining. In the United States, coal mining kills approximately 30 people per year. A staggering figure, to be sure. But in less developed nations, the number of deaths is much, much higher. In 2004, over 6000 coal miners lost their lives in China. To put this in context, only one man died at Fukushima, and he didn’t die of radiation sickness. He died of a heart-attack.

Many, of course, will point out that the danger from nuclear plants is far more insidious. Radiation takes time to kill, after all. This is absolutely true. But because it’s something we can see in the air, smell on the wind, and feel in our bodies, because we deal with it every day, because it simply doesn’t evoke the same gut-wrenching fear that radiation does, pollution from coal-burning does not get the press it deserves.

Most of us know about the dangers of global warming, and that coal burning is a huge component of it. In China, for instance, coal accounts for over 80% of CO2 emissions. In America, that figure is 40%. But few of us recognize the more tangible effects of coal burning on society. According to an estimate by University of Pittsburgh Physics Professor Bernard Cohen, a typical coal plant will lead to 25 premature deaths every year, in addition to some 60,000 respiratory illnesses. A 2006 study estimated that coal-burning shortens the lives of 400,000 people per year in China. A 2010 report by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit environmental group, found that pollution from coal-fired power plants will result in the early deaths of more than 13,000 Americans in 2011. An American Lung Association study showed that pollution from coal-burning prematurely kills 24,000 Americans every year, in addition to causing 38,000 heart attacks, 12,000 hospital admissions and 550,000 asthma attacks.

Different agencies will come up with different figures, but in every study the numbers are shocking. They tell us that air pollution, too, takes time to kill, and that it is killing many, many people. This is happening, today, right now, this very moment. Even worse, the cumulative effects of air pollution will be felt for many, many generations. In this way it is similar to radioactive fall-out – only it is not localized to a particular area.

Speaking of radiation, it may surprise you to know that coal burning releases a significant amount of it into our environment. This is because fossil fuel contains radioactive isotopes. The amount of radiation released from the burning of coal is not a trivial amount. A study found that in 1982, a typical American coal burning plant released 4.7 tonnes of uranium and 11.6 tonnes of thorium, for a total national release of 727 tonnes of uranium and 1788 tonnes of thorium. The total release of radioactivity from coal-fired fossil fuel in America was 97.3 TBq that year. This is 155 times greater than the total amount of radioactive material released by the Three Mile Island accident.

Still, the dangers of this huge quantity of additional radiation pale in comparison to the dangers of coal’s carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen oxide emissions. This is because the levels at which radiation is thought to cause serious health consequences are higher than you might think. For instance, it is generally believed that the Fukushima disaster, despite all the press it has generated, has so far caused no deaths or long term health effects due to radiation exposure. I want to say that again, because it may sound unbelievable in light of everything you have heard: there have so far been no deaths or long term health effects attributable to radiation from the Fukushima disaster.

How can this be? When it comes to radiation, numbers are deceiving. For instance, it can be said that the average Fukushima resident was exposed to 3600 times the normal level of background radiation people absorb in a day. It’s a mind-boggling figure.

But in order for such figures to have any real meaning, they need to be further contextualized. The annual dose at which an increase in the lifetime risk of cancer is evident is 100 millisieverts (mSv). A mammogram gives you 3 mSv. A CT scan gives you approximately 10mSv. The maximum yearly dose for United States radiation workers is 50mSv/year. Most experts believe that the average Fukushima resident was probably exposed to, at most, 30-40 mSv of radiation – the equivalent of smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day for a year.

The dangers of radiation are, nonetheless, very real. The Fukushima disaster is just that: a disaster. Many people were forced to evacuate, and it will be many years before the land surrounding the plant is safe to live on. Questions of food safety continue to pop up.  And, despite all the comforting figures governments give about what constitutes a ‘safe’ dose, it would behoove us all to remain skeptical. There will no doubt be many studies into the long-term effects of the Fukushima disaster, and it is very possible we will discover that the long-term risks of low-doses of radiation are greater than we now suppose. But, this seems a fact of modern life: many things that enable the lifestyles we enjoy are not very good for us. Nuclear power is one of many.

Ultimately it comes down to this: Nuclear power is bad. But coal burning is worse. Therefore, wherever possible, we should seriously consider ridding ourselves of coal before nuclear.

What happened in Japan should force us to re-examine the relative risks and safety protocols at each and every nuclear power plant in the world. The incident exposed some serious concerns about the nature of the relationship between the nuclear industry and the regulatory committee that oversees it.  Adjustments should be made, and some nuclear plants should probably be taken offline. But I believe these decisions should be taken on a case by case basis.

Still, there are those who argue that we cannot let the opportunity to end nuclear power now pass us by, that we must strike while the iron is hot. Their reasoning is as follows: Right now, the coal lobby remains as strong as ever, so taking it down would prove next to impossible. Nuclear energy, however, is reeling from the blow Fukushima dealt to its reputation as a safe energy source. Therefore, it follows that, like wolves chasing prey bigger than ourselves, we should pick off the weak and injured while we can and save the tougher battles for a time when we are better armed – with legitimate green energy alternatives. It pains me to admit it, but this might be true. It is all the more crucial, then, for us not to let Germany forget its promise to invest heavily in green energy. The whole world is watching this experiment; something good needs to come of it. The future energy policies of many nations hang in the balance.

But I won’t stand in line to pat Germany on the back. I remain skeptical of the true motivation behind its government’s decision, which seems the result of playing politics rather than any real concern for its people. And I also remain skeptical of the idea that informed, concerned citizens are incapable of making coal a target of their ire. If coal fails to terrify, if we have not yet imbued it with that same sense of epic horror shadowing every thought of nuclear power, it is only because of our collective ignorance of its very real, daily dangers.

The bottom line is that nuclear power and green energy investments should not be considered mutually exclusive. So for as long as coal is our only real alternative to nuclear power, I will remain a proponent of nuclear power. I may be a lonely idealist, but I think we can go after the bigger, stronger, more dangerous prey first.

(Painting by Bendu)

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Fukushima …and then?

Nicolas Pagnier is a member of the Utopia office (http://www.mouvementutopia.org/). Following the Fukushima disaster in March and eRenlai's June Focus which looked in detail at the growing anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan, Nicolas feels concerned that governments and corporations in nuclear power will continue to operate business as usual. This article takes on the arguments of the pro-nuclear side one by one, before introducing the negaWatt scenario as a sustainable alternative, which would allow for an end to nuclear power in France (the most nuclear consuming country in the world) within 30 years. Article translated from French by Nick Coulson.

 

Friday, 28 January 2011

The green dream of community farmers

We all have to eat, but what exactly should we eat? There is a saying in Chinese - “we would rather eat expensive food than take cheap medicine”. In other words, eating good food prevents us from getting sick.

Taiwanese homemakers are well known for how smart they are. However, planning to prepare good and healthy food for the family is one thing, being able to buy food that is free of toxic chemicals from a traditional market, supermarket or the internet is another. For all you homemakers out there who are caring, family-loving, smart and virtuous - are you sure the foods you buy for your family are non-toxic and healthy? In fact, the only thing you can be 100% sure of is that there are labels and instructions on the packages. The Homemaker’s Union and Foundation in Taiwan recently did some random checking on the concentration of nitrate in vegetables and discovered that they exceeded the standards of the European Union. The Council of Agriculture in Taiwan admitted that there is no relevant standard concerning the nitrate concentration in vegetables sold in Taiwan.

Can we really trust the current food standards in Taiwan? Taiwan has the highest rate of uremia sufferers in the world and there are way too many books on the market about detoxification therapy and the increasing number of people with skin allergies. Instead of pointing the finger at our homemakers, we should look to the producers, farms and rice fields. In fact, pesticide use in Taiwan was once the highest in the world.

Working together to make a military fort environmentally friendly

Coming out the number 2 exit in Tucheng MRT station and across Jincheng Road, we follow the leisure farm signs to see a military look-out post which was once an ammunition depot. Walking past the lookout-post, there are many warning signs declaring “for military use only”. Having crossed the culvert of the freeway, the scenery of the three surrounding tree-clad mountains emerges. It feels amazing and surreal to know that it is only a five minute walk back to Tucheng MRT station!

Xian-Hui Qiu is the owner of the “Hui-Yao Toxic-Free Vegetable Garden”

“I was an air conditioning maintenance man before becoming an organic vegetable farmer 4 years ago. The government was going to buy the farmlands here from us so they could transform the military ammunition depot into the second detention centre. My family has been farming here for many generations and then the government has ordered us to desert these farmlands inherited to us from our ancestors. Of course we refused the government’s offer. This is why the ‘Tucheng Environmental Guarding Association’ was formed, to make a stand against the government in an effort to protect the environment here. We only use natural compost on our farmlands now and no longer using chemical fertilizers and pesticides”.

Ren-Zhi Huang, a former graduate of Building and Planning from National Taiwan University, once the secretary general of “The Organization of Urban Re-s”, is now an important member of the Tucheng Environmental Protection Association. Mr Huang said

“I volunteered to come and assist the farmers here. This farm village is able to remain unchanged because of the moratorium on the military ammunition depot, so why can’t we make this place into a conservation area? This place is very close to Tucheng MRT station and developing here would increase the land value. However, the locals are against developing this place, they chose to guard their homes and protect their farmlands. Farming does not bring the farmers much income, but the joys and satisfactions of farming cannot be purchased by money”.

Mr Huang took out the government’s brief and planning report on the military ammunition depot and said

“During the years of stopping the county government from developing this place, there have been many eco-tours, farming experience tours and fun markets held here. Li-Lan Liu, the director general of the Tucheng Environmental Guarding Association, set up the ‘Ms Liu Environmental Classes’ here, promoting events such as ecological education and leisure coffee house, to show the government that we will never give up farming. There are now a total of 13 people in the ‘Military Ammunition Depot Promotion Cooperative’ and they will be working with farmers from other communities to regularly hold a farmers’ market to jointly promote their farm products. I believe Taiwan is a huge community and what we are doing here is community supported agriculture”.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a new type of direct marketing. Every growing season consumers sign contracts with farmers for a fixed amount of money. This amount is determined by how wealthy a certain consumer is. The consumer then has the products from the farm delivered once a week. The consumer and farmer share the risk together. In an age where the price of resources and foods keep rising, CSA reduces the wastage from transportation of resources. The consumers enjoy the freshest foods of the season and the farmers guarantee their source of income even when there is a nature disaster or in a time of under-harvesting. The local people are able to claim their “rights on food” from this type of direct marketing.

Photo courtesy of  Tucheng Watch Green Union. Translated from Chinese by Jason Chen

 

 

 

Sunday, 17 January 2010

被遺忘的1979:與毒搏鬥的油症患者

2008年秋日的一個傍晚,金黃色的陽光自天邊灌瀉而下,溫暖中帶著些許涼意。置身在這片色澤之中的鹿港文武廟前,突然出現一群外地人,乒乒乓乓地忙著在廟前廣場架布幕,擺音響,排座位,準備播放一部名為《油症――與毒共存》的紀錄片――這是台灣第一部追蹤1979年轟動全台的油症(多氯聯苯)事件的影片。

在微暗的暮光中,林俊榮帶著家人悄悄地來到現場。他們也是當年事件的受害者。再次來到文武廟,林家人的心情毋寧是複雜的。因為這裡曾是中部油症病患的巡迴醫療站之一,住在福興鄉的林家人,來過這兒接受檢測與治療。

大約二十年前,文武廟廟方以「古剎奉祀關帝暨孔子以及十大聖人偉大神像,莊嚴肅靜,竟然隨便當醫務站,堪稱漠視聖地,尚且患者臉貌醜陋礙眼,妨害來賓觀瞻」為由,希望政府能將醫療站遷往他處。後來因前來求診的病人太少,醫療站便宣布停診了。

對於油症及昔日文武廟曾是油症醫療站的歷史,在廟裡進進出出的人並沒有什麼印象,多半是一問三不知。這也難怪,此事發生的三十年前,有些人恐怕還沒出生呢!就算他們的父母經歷過那段不堪回首的過往,如今大概也沒有人願意再提起了。

 

對漠視早習以為常

多年來,林家對於家裡有人中毒的事,幾乎絕口不提。一方面是覺得丟臉,一方面是因為不知道自己體內仍留有多氯聯苯。

直到《油症――與毒共存》導演蔡崇隆循線到福興鄉進行採訪,引起長女林婉瑜的好奇,開始收集相關資料,這個憨厚的鄉下家庭才赫然驚覺,原來三十年前吃進肚子的毒素,至今非但沒有消失,而且還會傳給下一代!如此一來,這些年來發生在他們身上大大小小的病症,包括原因不明的強烈頭痛、肌肉萎縮無力、腎衰竭、暈眩與癌症……似乎都有了答案!

入夜之後,廟前廣場變得一片寂靜,前來觀賞片子的觀眾屈指可數,顯得有些冷清。

對於民眾冷淡的反應,林家並不感到意外,因為多年來政府部門的推拖、社會輿論的漠視,他們早習以為常了。只是隨著影片中其他受害者幽幽地訴說著過往,他們的心亦不覺隨之起伏震盪。剎時間,星光彷彿消退,他們的思緒也被帶回那段不願回首,也不忍回憶的歲月……


明顯疏失重蹈覆轍

ChenZhaoRu_SurvivingEvil04發生於1979年的油症事件,距今已整整三十年了。這起台灣環境公害史上最嚴重的事件,是因為彰化油脂公司在製造米糠油的過程中,使用毒性極強的多氯聯苯作為熱媒。後因管線破裂,讓多氯聯苯滲入油裡面,造成全台灣至少兩千人中毒,其中以台中、彰化、苗栗等地最為嚴重。當時受害者全身長滿一粒粒化膿氯痤瘡的恐怖模樣,震驚了整個社會。

說起來,這起不幸的意外應該是可以避免的。日本在1968年,便發生過同樣的公害,為什麼11年後的台灣仍會重蹈覆轍?許多國家早已明令禁止多氯聯苯的生產與輸入,為什麼台灣卻遲遲沒有相關法令?公部門如此明顯的疏失,為什麼監察院的調查結果,竟是「各級衛生單位並無行政責任」?

其實答案再簡單也不過了。那就是:政府在事前沒有盡到把關義務,事後也不想扛起任何責任。

 

自願登記契機流逝

事發之後頭幾年,政府陸續在各縣市衛生局增設食品衛生科,專責管理相關問題,首次將多氯聯苯列為檢驗項目。同時,政府也在1981年公布實施「國家賠償法」,保障人民因行政人員疏失所造成的損失。爾後民間更主動成立「消費者文教基金會」,為弱勢的消費者爭取應有的權益。

只是這些救助性的舉措,對於業已中毒的油症患者來說,並無濟於事――因為多氯聯苯中毒造成的油症,完全無藥可醫!

公部門面對此事的態度,始終都很被動,很消極。而且從一開始,油症患者名單的建立,就是個笑話。

原來,那時政府採取一種叫「自願登記」的制度,讓油症患者自行決定是否向衛生單位報到,成為登記有案的患者。也就是說,如果有患者自覺沒有中毒,或是不想承認自己中毒,政府就會睜一隻眼,閉一隻眼,「尊重」當事人的決定。

正因如此,林俊榮一大家子明明都吃了有毒的米糠油,卻只有三人是官方認可的油症患者。而當年身上沒有出現氯痤瘡、自以為逃過一劫的林婉瑜,也就成了「漏網之魚」。不主動,不拒絕,不負責,如此古怪的「自願登記制」,不知流失了多少拯救人命的機會!

 

醫療照護嚴重不足

此外,醫療照護措施的嚴重不足,也是個問題。八○年代初,衛生署曾擬定「多氯聯苯中毒病患治療原則」,指定省立台中、彰化醫院等醫療機構,提供油症患者免費醫療,並委託中國醫藥學院進行中西合併診治,同時還在鹿港等地設置了免費醫療站。只是隨著求診人數日漸減少、預算不足、療效有限等因素,這些免費的服務到了2000年以後,全沒了。

再者,也就是最為人詬病的「油症卡」的問題。早些年,油症患者只要持官方核發的證明文件,也就是油症卡,便可至省立醫院、彰化基督教醫院等醫療機構,接受免費醫療。可是多數醫護人員根本不知道什麼是油症卡(甚至還有人誤以為它是中油的加油卡),拒收的情形時有所聞。而這些醫護人員對病患有意無意的歧視,更是讓油症患者有如受到二度傷害。

「拿那張卡去看病,真的是一點尊嚴都沒有!」幾年前才從私立惠明學校退休、也是油症患者的廖脫如老師忿忿不平地說。當年專門收容視覺障礙學生的惠明學校,師生共有一百多人中毒,至今多數都像她一樣,仍為各種病痛所苦:「每次護士看到那張卡,就露出異樣的眼光,懷疑我根本就沒有中毒,只是為了貪小便宜看免費的病。有一次我去醫院,他們說沒有在收這種卡。我說,可是我去某某醫院,人家就有收啊,結果你知道他跟我說什麼嗎?他說,那你不會去某某醫院就看好了,幹嘛來我們這邊?」


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照片提供/同喜文化



本文為節錄,完整內容請見2010年2月號《人籟》論辨月刊

No68

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Thursday, 05 November 2009

湿地:地球之肾

中央研究院生物多样性研究中心的陈章波先生解释湿地的功用与重要性。



想知道更多湿地的相关知识,请看2009年11月号《人籁》论辨月刊

相关文章,请看

附加的多媒体:
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Monday, 03 August 2009

China’s shrinking arable land?


 
The crisis in natural resources affecting mankind is multifaceted, and it’s not always easy to evaluate the acuteness of the phenomena. China’s shrinking arable land offers a perspective on the way such challenges can be analyzed and assessed. It shows that problems are real but should not be exaggerated. Rather than relying on general statistics it is always good to look at the data and trends in more detail. In a nutshell, China’s land problem is a real one, but land resources are still available and some changes in land use have been commendable. However, the needs of the country will probably put additional pressure on world markets.
 
 

The Maoist period had seen much pasture and forest devoted to agricultural production. Conversely, the years from 1979 to 1985 constitute a period of rapid deterioration in terms of available arable land. In 1981, 1984 and 1985, China suffered an annual loss of more than a million hectares. The next five years saw this trend reversed and in 1990 more new land was brought into cultivation than was lost. Thereafter, however, conditions deteriorated once more. Most cultivated land that disappeared because of industrial, urban and infrastructural development was fertile land on the periphery of urban centers. On the other hand, there still exists a considerable amount of wasteland, especially in the southeast and central eastern regions, unused as a result of mining or industrial activities. Some of this could still be restored for agricultural use.

It is often said that China’s arable land might drop below the red line of 120 million hectares in a few years time due to rampant illegal use. This might be true but is not proven. Looking at statistics production by production, one sees some sown areas growing in size and others diminishing, in an inconsistent pattern. Also, there is progress recorded in irrigation and water-saving irrigation systems.

Some scholars assert that the situation is not as bad as often described. The official total of China’s farmland, they say, is about 50 per cent lower than the real figure. Moreover, they argue that the decline has been the result mostly of desirable land use changes rather than of disappearance of farmland in favour of new cities, industries and transportation links.

China has a long history of underreporting its grain production area, one of the difficulties lying in the diversity of local criterion used for area measurement. Other reasons for underreporting are linked to taxation issues and the need to keep a “space’ for reporting big rises in production gain when asked to do so by higher levels of government.

There is still available farmland. Also, China’s average grain yields are still below the South Korean and Japanese rates, giving the country room for improvement. On the other hand, figures of the losses incurred during the last thirty years may actually underestimate the real loss. Reasons for the loss must be assessed carefully. The combined total of urban and rural construction has been responsible for less than one-fifth of China’s recent farmland loss. Another fifth of the total loss was the result of conversion to orchards, reflecting the increased demand for fruit.

In any case, the most problematic losses occur in areas with inadequate production capacity and in suburban coastal areas where the most productive agricultural land is converted to other uses. After careful, cautious analysis, one may conclude that in the future, grain imports from China are highly likely. For the time being, looking at the situation of world markets, there should be little problem with the country eventually doubling or tripling, its current grain imports. This however could change within the next few years. For sure, no catastrophic scenario is likely, but China’s farmland problem must be seen in an ever-changing global context.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

A little county goes a long way

When many of us think of Taipei, the area that encircles the Taipei city is not what would usually come into mind. Though more and more, it is seemingly obvious that one should pay attention to the land space that is home to over 3,8 million people. This location is none other than the Taipei County.

The county controls ten county-controlled cities(縣轄市), nineteen townships (鎮) and a thousand over villages (里) which include some of the key tourism areas such as Tamshui, Wulai and Fulong. In the time of the Dutch colonisation, the principal inhabitants were the people of Basay, the Attayals emerged in the south of Taipei County soon after. Han Chinese eventually immigrated to the region in the mid 17th century, and aboriginals were consequently compelled to assimilate or immigrate to the mountainous regions.

It was not until the late 19th century that the term Taipei came into use to describe geographically the location of Northern Taiwan, and the cities of Hsinchu, Yilan, and Danshui formed under Taipei’s government. Shen Bao Zhen (沈葆桢), the imperial envoy of the P.R.C under request, set up the Taipei government/bureau (辦務署) which governed Hsinchu, Danshui, and Yilan.*

Taipei County experienced further change and division following the Japanese occupation in 1895, Keelung, Yilan and Hsinchu were established and Danshui emerged shortly after. From 1897, the Taipei bureau (辦務署) was abolished and all thirteen counties of Taipei – Shilin, Xinzhuang, Huwei, Jingwei, Taoziyuan, Sanjianyong, Shulinko, Zhongli, Keelung, Jingbaoli, Dingshunagxi, Shuefanjiao – came under the jurisdiction of the Taipei administration (轄區).*
 
During the reformation in 1920, the Taipei county became attached to the state of Taipei (台北州) whose administration was overthrown during the war in 1945. The years that proceed the war involved the re-grouping of different cities into a larger area: The Keelung area and the Qidu area became known as the city of Keelung, while Danshui, Shilin and Beitou were under the planning of the Yang Min Shan Management Bureau, formerly known as the Cao Shan Management Bureau.*
 
In the 50s’ Taipei County saw more and more reforms concerning the arrangement of cities, townships and villages into counties and eventually became the Taipei County that we have today. With the vision of a Greater Taipei in mind, the current Taipei County government wishes to include all townships and villages into the limits of Taipei City and become known as a whole administrative region.

*Names of townships and villages in Chinese: Keelung (基隆),Yilan (宜蘭),Hsinchu (新竹), Shilin (士林), Xinzhuang (新庄),Huwei (滬尾), Jingwei (景尾), Taoziyuan (桃仔園), Sanjianyong (三角湧), Shulinko (樹林口), Zhongli (中壢), Keelung (基隆), Jingbaoli (金包里), Dingshunagxi (頂雙溪), Shuefanjiao (水返腳), Qidu (七堵), Yang Min Shan Management Bureau (陽明山管理局), Cao Shan Management Bureau (草山管理局)


Monday, 23 March 2009

The Chinese Paradox

 
In these times of crises, there is something like a Chinese paradox.

On the one hand, Chinese is doing better than most nations when it comes to economic resilience: China has not been at the origin of the crisis; it does not experience a financial breakdown, though its stock market has been devastated and unemployment is increasing quickly; it has fiscal and financial means far superior to the ones of any other nation for engineering a stimulus; if its exports are falling, its imports are following on the same rhythm, letting its commercial surplus intact; once the crisis is over, it will most probably become the number two world economy, and Japan will be relegated to number three; its stimulus might actually come at the right time, helping it to achieve the infrastructure it still needs; its foreign reserves make it able to buy world-class industrial assets at unheard-of prices and to secure its energy and raw material supply for a long time. Summing up, the present world recession might actually be one decisive step in the accession of China to world prominence.

But there is the other side of the equation…

If China’s economic and financial bases are comparatively sound, Chinas’ social and political sensitivity to the crisis is extremely high. Years of growth as well as the citizens’ acute perception of inequalities and corruption make society prone to rebel if revenues fall or unemployment continues to grow. According to unofficial reports, urban unemployment is already above 9 percent. The arrival of university graduates on the labor market is a source of tension, nurtured by parents’ expectations after having overpaid for ensuring that their children receive education and the job that used to be almost automatically attached to a university degree. Chinas’ higher education system proves to be very ill adapted to current economic needs…

When it comes to the stimulus, a significant rise in consumption will be extremely difficult to achieve, with consumers’ anxiety and expectant attitude linked to the cost of healthcare, threat of unemployment and necessary family investment in education. Vouchers can only achieve a very temporary effect. Public investment is easier to stimulate, but the problem here lies elsewhere: China is still not able to ensure quality spending where it needs it most – water sanitation, green buildings and green industries. “White elephants” types of projects and mere dilapidation of funds are still attached to sudden increase in public spending. If banks are now lending money more easily, they seem to do so preferentially to state industries (maybe recreating rampant bad loans), which is not where China needs to invest. So, stimulus might impede rather than hasten the necessary shift in China’s economic logic. Sustainability still remains a dream rather than a strategy.

In the countryside, the coming back of migrant workers makes the problem of land scarcity and degradation even more acute than before. Actually, the fact that millions of rural workers are left jobless (there will probably be more than forty millions people in this situation at the end of the year) has consequences that might be even more difficult to estimate. Part of this population comes back to the fields, where it will be mostly idle. Another part will stay in the cities, looking for an opportunity and constituting a growing lumpenproletariat. Finally, many of them will establish themselves in prefectoral-level and county-level cities, somewhere between their village and bigger metropolis, in several cases thus creating social tensions. In some parts of Chinas’ West, unemployment might already be a factor in the rise of animosity between Han Chinese and ethnic minorities.

Finally, there are several anniversaries this year that make the whole situation even more sensitive… The most important of these anniversaries is the foundation of the People’s Republic on October 1st. Some analysts see dissensions brewing within the Party’s leadership ahead of this celebration as to the course of action to be taken. Nobody knows yet in which mod China will celebrate the sixty years of the regime. The hydra of the crisis might be already largely vanquished, but the most plausible scenario is that China by then will enter into full struggle with its tentacles.

(Photo: B.V.)

 

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

For a World Economy of Parsimony

The American-German political theorist Hannah Arendt had already diagnosed it in the fifties: modern economy is an economy of waste. Things must be consumed or thrown away as soon as possible if we do not want the economic process to experience a catastrophic halt. As a matter of fact, today, our governments put their hope in a rise in consumption for overcoming the current economic crisis. Articles lament the fact that only 25 per cent of young Japanese want to buy a car – which seems to make perfect sense for anyone who has experienced what is means to own a car in a big Japanese city and knows the quality of Japan’s public transportation. Still, the big question seems to be: how to make Japanese consumers (and people around the world) buy more cars, electronic gadgets and LV bags? All items which are perfectly wasteful, harmful to the environment and unrelated to our overall level of happiness... Is there not something basically wrong in our economic logic – and should not the most urgent question be: how do we escape from this madness?

The globalization of markets has certainly reduced production costs and increased consumers’ choice, but it also has been particularly detrimental to the environment. As toys or machine tools are less costly to produce in China, they cross the oceans towards Europe, America or Africa, without any consideration paid to ecological costs and consequences on local economies. Market, as an economic tool of production and distribution, now meets with a basic limitation due to its incapacity to deliver per itself a just estimate of environmental costs. Besides, a globalized market knows an accrued instability of prices, as can be seen by the ups and downs of oil prices during these last years. This volatility makes any long-term investment a very risky operation. In other words, globalized markets are becoming incompatible with the very durability of our planet.

So, what is to be done? Four principles might help us to reinvent our economic model:


-We should encourage an economy of parsimony. This means for instance that growth is to be based on public investment in water management, access to water for all, green buildings, health and education rather than on individual and wasteful consumption. An economy of parsimony is one that does not arbitrate among goods only on the basis of their monetary value but which dares to discriminate according to value judgments.

-An economy of parsimony is also an economy that tries to reduce inequalities. For instance, social packages (such as vouchers), if they truly have to be used by governments, should go to the poorer sectors of society rather than being indiscriminately distributed. And they should be reserved for goods of obvious necessity, such as food and social services.

-We have to build up an “economy of proximity”, trying first to revive the economic vitality and diversity of our regions, rather than continuing on the road of over specialization. This might include some transitory protectionist measures, provided these measure apply to industries that are socially and ecologically beneficial to their surroundings.

-We do have to strive towards a globalized economic system, but such a system is not akin to a single globalized free market. It includes ecological and commercial regulations that protect natural and social environments that are particularly fragile.
Such is the challenge now met by the world community. What will be happening this year will show whether we are able to make the choices that, on the long-term, will prove to be the right ones.



Sunday, 23 November 2008

台灣的經濟寒冬

When I was a child, I was called Wusay. My father probably preferred the "-ay" ending - he named my elder brother Foday. So we were, originally, Foday and Wusay.

Some twenty years later, one day, I came back to Tafalong to visit my Grandfather. We had a nice chat before he started to call me Nakao.

"Why do you call me Nakao?!" I was astonished.

"Your name is Nakao," said Grandpa peacefully.

Later on, I went to Sado and asked my aunt, "my name is Wusay, right?"

"Yes...." My aunt nodded, slightly confused.

"But Grandpa says, just now, that my name is Nakao."

"Oh really?" My aunt thought for a second and said, "in that case... you are Nakao."

My transformation took about ten minutes only.

One day, my neighbor, a Hoanya, asked me why I had my father’s name after my own, rather than my mother’s.

"Pangcah is a maternal society. Shouldn’t you take your mother’s name so that people can tell from which family you are?"

"Because my mother was Han," I replied. "Just that she married to a Pangcah who has a Japanese name."

"But her birth place is in Kalingko, not too far away from my father’s," I added. "She was born at the foot of Mei-lun, a nice hill. Her mother used to call her Mei-lun; sometimes my father called her Melon."

The Hoanya then suggested me to replace my father’s Japanese name with Mei-lun.

"I think Melon is better," I said. "Nakao Melon is a rare kind of melon, a Tafalong specialty."

"That’s it!" The Hoanya exclaimed. "I want to order a trunk of Nakao Melon!"

My second transformation took even less than five minutes.

There is no pinganganan (something after which one is named) for my name. My name has always been a nisanga’an (something that is created).

Attached media :
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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

全球暖化議題下的台歐合作平台

撰文│畢彌堅 (歐洲商會理事長、法國東方匯理銀行台北分行總經理)

我很榮幸能參與你們今天所舉行的工作坊。我很清楚我們這次聚會的重要性,因為這表示各位與會的長官及公務人員,你們不想讓你們的工作範圍僅止於發佈概括性的聲明與公關活動而已;這表示你們真正希望把深刻的環保省思,落實在公共政策裡,落實在周密且創新的執行方案之中。

為了達到這樣的理想,你們的確正在促進跨文化的措施以及與他國之間的合作,尤其是與歐洲國家。身為歐洲商會主席,你們的邀請對我是一種鼓勵,也是一種提醒:也許,由於跨國企業經常只是與國家部長及其他國家代理人合作,於是,他們會忘記台灣豐富的地方民主色彩;殊不知在基層建設上、在推動教育上、以及在決定台灣未來幾十年在國際間的角色上,各縣市鄉鎮才是主要的推動者。這點對台北縣來說,更是如此,因為這裡居住著三百七十萬的居民,是台灣人口最密集的地區,也是台灣最投入於環保與創新計畫的地區。

我的發表分成兩個部份:我要就全球暖化所造成的難題,來談談台灣與歐洲的關係;更確切的說,這難題的產生,乃在於我們要轉向一種更積極推動環保的雛形。然後,我會針對這樣的文化轉向所可能帶來的影響做討論,我這裡所謂的文化轉向,是指公營事業與私營事業的合夥關係。我盡量長話短說,這樣我們的交流才能更活潑生動。


全球暖化,歐盟與台灣

我不想在這裡多談全球暖化問題,因為這問題明天的研討會上會有很廣泛的討論。在這裡我只想強調一個事實:現今已經有很多確實的證據,證實全球氣候的改變,與人類的活動有關連,而且這些改變,在不太久的將來,可能會帶來危害,但我們的確有辦法降低部份的危害以及其影響。而台灣,這個具有豐富的科技與文化傳統的國家,面對這樣一個治理全球環保工作的嶄新訴求,當然有權扮演一個積極的角色。

如你們所知,歐盟在發展全球政策以對抗全球暖化的工作上,扮演著領導的角色。而這實際上也是其當仁不讓的道德責任,因為一百五十年前發源於歐洲國家的工業革命,正是這個系統化之改變的肇因,而這改變現在正衝擊著我們的自然環境;雖然不可諱言的,工業革命改革了我們的生活方式,給全人類帶來了新希望與機會。

希望將於二○○八年舉行的哥本哈根高峰會議能允許國際團體商定這份執行計劃,以便能使之前在京都所達成的協議能進一步的發展與擴大。有關溫室廢氣排放問題,歐盟已經訂下最遠大的目標。在二○二○年之前,歐盟將降低百分之二十的廢氣排放,不僅如此,如果其他國家願意跟進歐盟的這個目標,則歐盟將大膽的降低百分之三十的廢氣排放。為了達到這個目標,所設計的政策經過逐漸嚴格的廢氣排放規範基準、研究可替代以及可更新的能量來源、並且推動歐盟排放 權交易制──一個目標以箝制二氧化碳排放的市場機制。(將來,還會計畫箝制其他氣體的排放量)。

在台灣,我們注意到人民已意識到環保為當務之急,雖然有很多數據不免令人憂心,這尤其指台灣近十年來平均每人所排放之二氧化碳的增加率乃居世界之冠。但我注意到,台灣有互動良好的民主辯論,所以不會自欺欺人,知道在節能減碳上、在防止濫採自然資源上、還有在動員整個社會邁向全球環保運動的工作上,仍要多加努力。台灣還不能被視為是模範環保國家,這自然有其原因。但最重要的是,台灣願意跟進,而且承諾把環保當成其國際策略的里程碑。

若所有這些都能轉化為具體措施,則台灣勢必能感動歐洲國家,尤其目前歐盟的人民及政府都密切關注,想知道到底中國面對這個對抗全球暖化的全球運動中,是否願意擔負其應付的責任。何況,與歐洲聯合起來做環保,對台灣而言可是一樁『好生意』:首先,歐盟勢必會逐漸頒佈嚴格的『環保準則』,如此,那些不願意遵守的國家,其外銷事業必因此嚴重受挫;前不久多哈貿易循環(Doha cycle)的失敗,充分說明了世貿組織(WTO)目前的結構將組擋不住這波環保責任的訴求;第二,對全球氣候問題的治理,能允許一種較彈性的國際機制架構的產生,而在這樣的架構裡,台灣可以找到嶄新的國際身分與任務。


公私營企業之合夥關係

明天將舉行的國際會議,把文化資源與對抗全球暖化的奮鬥這兩者之間,建立起穩固的聯結;你們做這樣的聯結,我認為是正確的。從我這位歐洲企業家的觀點,我認為最能證實這種聯結者,莫過於發展一種『集體社會責任』的文化。歐洲的很多公司已經逐漸學習把自己看成是『集體公民』,因為他們明瞭這樣的身分不僅不會干預他們的經濟任務或市場法則,而且還能確保長期的集體利益,這對於輕率的生意行為之抵制,能採取負責的態度和規範的角色。

依這個觀點,環保,整體而論,(包括由於全球暖化危機意識所引發的當急之務),目前都被為數眾多的歐盟公司,納入其經營策略之中。當然,這也因為這些公司有很多在『綠色商業』的範疇裡,享有相對的益處──諸如供水及排污系統的公共衛生、有機食物、社會責任(環保)投資組合、環保觀光事業等等。而且,很多還沒能跟進這個『環保』或『綠色』商業的公司,目前也在重新組織,以期能使它們的產品與運作與公眾的旨趣接軌。

歐洲能實行的法則,台灣當然也能實行。畢竟,台灣在資訊產業所享有的相對利益,能輕易的使台灣成為『綠色資訊科技』的世界領導者。在對抗全球暖化的努力上,『綠色資訊科技』可是至為重要的一環,因為它關乎能源、水、以及稀有資源的消耗問題。

一旦私營公司確定能而且願意在創造永續環境的奮鬥上扮演正面及創新的角色,以對抗暖化的問題以及其他相關的問題,則公營企業與私營企業的合作,才能更為容易,也才能互相的為彼此的利益而努力。

然而,在台灣,這樣的合作模型仍然需要醞釀與擴大。舉例來說,台北歐洲商會的立場聲明屢次強調台灣的公共契約管理仍然引發嚴重的問題,很多這些問題都會妨礙台灣的環保任務。

在此讓我引用我們商會在最近的立場聲明中,所提出的議題與提案:

- 一些法令和規範往往阻礙歐洲公司享有完整的市場使用權;面對奠立已久的世貿組織規章,台灣依然未決,像是台灣運用政府採購協定一事;一些重要服務部門的品質提升-尤其是財政、後勤、以及觀光業-都缺乏必要的大膽改革來吸引外國企業的參與。(我個人以為,要使台灣的觀光業市場轉型,外國的專業知識絕對是必要的,如此,才能創造環保、效率的觀光業來吸引中國以及其他地方的觀光客,在管理的尺度上,也才能與好的商業運作接軌。)

-國家以及地方政府必須招攬多國的承包商,以促進台灣與其他國家市場之合作,如此才能獲取規模經濟,而降低成本。

-台灣必須發展並執行全球的行銷活動,以使世人注意台灣的好處以及發展的潛能(比如,台灣的人才庫、教育、健保、觀光、環保)

- 把一些公營服務事業外包給私營部門/企業,像是行政、督察、維修這類的工作,如此將可以大大的增進能源效率、加強環保知識、落實規模經濟。

-更重要的是,國家以及地方政府應該引進一套合乎經濟效益的關稅系統,好為太陽能電池板的銷售,建立大規模的地方市場。同樣的,台灣的地熱能資源豐富,因此,政府應該經由試驗計畫以及台灣地熱能源的地圖繪製(這需要台灣當地的研究學院與歐洲的大學合作),積極的支持推動開發地熱能發電。還有,既然近幾年的風力開發未能成功,有關當局應該為未來地方風力科技部門的發展計劃,重新做評估。還有,(我知道底下這個議題頗具爭議),生化燃料以及生質柴油的發展將能支持地方農人把已受污染的農地用來種植能源作物。

-訂定嚴格的建築準則以及節省能源的規範,如此,把可更新能源運用於建築設計的機會,才有可能增加。

-以市場機制來訂立電價,如此,將能鼓勵人民節省用電,並激勵對可更新能源或核能的投資。

-廣泛的來說,在規劃執行基層建設計畫的工作上,國家政府以及縣市政府應該大為推動私營部門的參與;私、公營部門合作的成功,將能大大的提升公共建設計畫的創新、品質、以及成本效率。

希望這樣雙重的合夥關係(歐台合夥關係以及公、私營部門的合夥關係),確實能培植台灣的文化、科技、和社會創新能力,使台灣在對抗全球暖化的問題上,在建立長期的永續經濟模範上,能變成一個領導國家。我再強調一次,這樣的工作,地方政府才是主要的角色。若台北縣能積極的把自己的經驗讓國際社會知道,並且持續的學習歐洲經驗,則台北縣將能成為環保計畫的明燈,以及創新文化的庇護所。在台灣的歐洲公司一定會致力於與台灣的公、私營部門合作,以確保能有效的運用這美麗寶島以及其大都會的文化資源和生態資源。我確信這兩天的相會與辯論,將能使我們全部與會的人,都能瞭解並開始設想我們想要一起創造的共同未來。

附加的多媒體:
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