John Seed in Taiwan

Paiwan artist gives carving to John Seed

I have just spent ten days accompanying John Seed on a trip around Taiwan. John is an environmentalist from Australia well known for his efforts protecting rainforests around the world and also as a philosopher of Deep Ecology. I met John at the Taoyuan Airport on the morning of 28 March. We then took the high speed train to Kaohsiung where we met Dr Lin Yih-ren who arranged John’s visit to Taiwan.

Wutai in Pingtung County

After lunch in Kaohsiung we went to visit the Qimei Community University and then went on a tour around the Meinong area. By the time night fell we were high in the mountains of Pingtung County staying at the Rukai village of Wutai. The photo at the top of this post shows Paiwan artist E-tan presenting one of his works to John. We met E-tan at the Autumn Moon Cafe (秋月e店) just above the town of Sandimen. The cafe is an amazing spot and is filled with great artworks. 

Presbyterian Church in Wutai

The next morning we went on a tour of Wutai village. The beautifully decorated stone buildings that fill the village are quite amazing. The church is also a very impressive building. Although many aboriginal communities go outside to raise funds to build a church, this church was built only using the resources of the community.

Landslide on the road to Wutai

Driving out of Wutai we were able to see the deep scars that Typhoon Morakot had left on the landscape. There were still major roadworks going on in some places along the road. During this part of the trip we spent time in Gaoshu learning about the post-typhoon reconstruction and rehabilitation projects. John also gave a talk at the community university in Qimei (旗美社區大學). John has written an account of the first three days of the trip (pdf file) with photos by me.

Drekai Band at Providence University

On 31 March there was an eco-cultural night at Providence University. The evening featured performances by members of Rukai, Bunun, Seediq and Atayal communities that have close links with Providence University. The Xiao Rukai Band (小魯凱樂團 Drekai) put on an entertaining performance. They are very talented performers who combine music with stories about their experience of being aboriginal and the impacts of Typhoon Morakot on their communities.

Bunun dancing in Dongpu

The next day we travelled to the Bunun community of Kalibuan in Nantou County which I had also visited a few weeks earlier. In the evening we drove up to Dongpu to enjoy a bath in the hot springs. I had visited this town eleven years ago when it was still recovering from the effects of the 921 earthquake. This time the local businesses also appeared to be struggling in the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot. After dinner we saw some local Bunun people put on a show for the tourists in the foyer of the hotel.

The next part of John’s visit was to the Jianshi Township in Hsinchu County. John spoke at an Anti-Dam Concert in Jianshi and we then travelled to Smangus and Marqwang. I will write more details about this in a separate post.

John Seed at Hongshi College

The final place on the itinerary was Hongshi Buddhist College (佛教弘誓學院) in Taoyuan. John gave a talk about Deep Ecology and also spoke about some of his personal experiences practicing Buddhism. During several of his talks in Taiwan John mentioned that Arne Naess, the founder of Deep Ecology, defined Deep Ecology as “asking deeper questions.” There were some great questions at Hongshi College. Many thanks to Venerable Chao Hwei for hosting John’s talk.

John is still in Taiwan with the next part of his visit hosted by the Society of Wilderness (荒野保護協會). He is conducting a “Council of All Beings” workshop and then giving the keynote speech at the Environment NGOs Conference in Taipei on Sunday.

*More photos can be found in the John Seed in Taiwan set at flickr.