Vision for a sustainable future

Bruno Walther sent the following letter to the Taipei Times last week. The Taipei Times published a second letter that he also sent last week. He has given me permission to post the first letter here.

Ever since the nuclear catastrophe began in Japan, I was just waiting for somebody to step forward with the argument ‘but given all the environmental problems caused by fossil fuels, isn’t nuclear energy the lesser of two evils?” I didn’t have to wait long, as the Taipei Times’ editorial repeated this tired and old propaganda of the nuclear energy industry (“The irrational fear of invisible agents,” Mar. 22, page 8). While overall, nuclear energy may be the lesser of two evils, it is still an evil, capable of disseminating radiation and thereby increasing cancer rates considerably in affected populations. Worse, it leaves us with thousands of tons of the most toxic and dangerous waste for hundreds of thousands of years. Who in his or her right mind would place such a burden of responsibility on future generations who have no benefit from our wasteful ways?

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Population and birth rate need more debate

I had a letter published in the Taipei Times today on the subject of the birth rate and population growth. Another letter by Brian Schack also makes the same point that I do. There is much talk in Taiwan about the urgent need to lift the birth rate, however there is little balance in the debate. It is becoming more and more obvious that economic and population growth is now pushing the world up against physical limits. These limits were clearly predicted in the 1972 book Limits to Growth and have become more obvious and well understood in the decades since then.

Population is a sensitive topic and it is unfortunately used by some people to promote racist and anti-immigrant agendas. It is a topic that needs to be discussed in a sensitive and compassionate manner. Limiting population growth is a key to reducing the most adverse effects of overshoot. Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute in a recent article about the impending food crisis said, “On the demand side, we need to accelerate the shift to smaller families.” In coming decades, as the impacts of resource shortages and pollution become more severe, small families in Taiwan may be viewed more positively.

The full text of my letter in the Taipei Times is below. Continue reading

Combined elections should be put to referendum

I had a letter published in the Taipei Times today. The letter suggests holding a referendum on combining the presidential and legislative elections. I believe this is one of several referendums that could be held in conjunction with the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections. The most important one would be a referendum to amend the birdcage provisions of the Referendum Law.

While the idea of combining the presidential and legislative elections (“KMT mulls idea of combined legislative, presidential election,” Jan. 18, page 3) is good in theory, the means of achieving it should respect democratic principles.

With the legislative election now less than a year away, it is not the time to start changing the rules. Furthermore, any changes in the dates of elections that involve extending term limits would seriously harm voters’ democratic rights. Continue reading

Questions about judicial independence

I had a letter published in the Taipei Times today on the topic of judicial independence. The letter was written after the Taipei District Court handed down a not guilty verdict in Chen Shui-bian’s financial mergers case. However, after I sent the letter Chen was subsequently found guilty by the Supreme Court in the Longtan land deal case. An excellent article by J. Michael Cole in response to the Supreme Court decision asks the all important question, Was the judiciary independent?. My letter is pasted below.

An independent judiciary is a key foundation of democracy. So is the principle of being innocent until proven guilty.

However, the response to the not guilty verdict in the case of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) handed down by Taipei District Court on Nov. 5 shows there is still a lack of respect for these important principles in Taiwan. Continue reading

Peak oil and petrochemicals in Taiwan

IEA graph of oil production

There is a major environmental protest in Taipei this afternoon focused on the issue of Taiwan’s petrochemical industry. It begins at 2pm at the Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT Station.

Opposition to the petrochemical industry in Taiwan is frequently framed in terms of its impact on the health of workers and nearby residents, climate change or because of the threats it poses to endangered dolphin populations. Another important reason the development of this industry must be stopped is peak oil.

This week a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed that the production of conventional oil peaked in 2006. A graph showing this is above and you can find some initial analysis of the report at The Oil Drum. Earlier this year I wrote a letter to the Taipei Times on the topic of peak oil. I mentioned how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill should wake up the world to the problem of oil dependency. The report from the IEA should ring even louder alarm bells. Continue reading

Youth must speak out to protect internet freedom

I had a letter published in the Taipei Times today in response to two recent incidents where freedom of speech on the internet was threatened. I wrote an article on my posterous blog which gives some more background on the issue. The post also includes links to the Hu’s girls videos. Tim Maddog has written a post at Taiwan Matters! on freedom of speech issue. Michael Turton also has more on the issue and notes that the Data Protection Act which will come into effect next year may create further problems for internet users. My letter from the Taipei Times is below.

The Ministry of Education’s attempt to interfere with political discussion on the PTT Internet forum (“Notice to Ministry sparks outrage,” Nov. 4, page 1) marks yet another attack on free speech by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government.

This comes just after an Internet user faced threats of legal action for producing a spoof version of the “Hu’s girls” promotional video for the campaign of Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), the KMT candidate for the Greater Taichung mayoral election (“Prosecutors say no suit against altered Hu video,” Nov. 3, page 3). Continue reading

No consensus about national day in Taiwan

On Thursday Arthur Waldron had a letter in the Taipei Times saying he was distressed that the opposition parties would not participate in the Double Ten National Day celebrations. He then suggested a “2010 Consensus” of one national day, different interpretations.

Today the Taipei Times has published two letters in response by Ben Goren and me. Ben places the issue in the context of “of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) … actively [seeking] to reinvigorate Chinese nationalism in Taiwan through downgrading Taiwan from a state to a region within an anachronistic Republic of China.” Ben goes on to write,

Waldron should know that the only consensus the current government cares for is the fictional “1992 consensus,” which in turn is only a transparent tool to reinforce the “one China” principle as a foundation for negotiations with China. If the Ma administration had truly wanted the -opposition to celebrate the ROC’s national day, why did it make every effort to remove and destroy the ROC national flag so that it would not offend the delicate sensibilities of Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) in November 2008? As one of my Taiwanese supervisors said to me recently, what country denigrates and humiliates itself to the extent of trashing its most potent symbol of national sovereignty so as to please visiting foreign dignitaries?

Waldron’s distress would be better served lamenting how the Ma administration is actively striving to reverse and undermine the gains in sovereignty and national identity Taiwanese have accumulated since its democratization.

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Taiwan’s English-language media gets more digital

Taiwan News cover

This week saw two significant changes to Taiwan’s English-language newspapers. The first was the announcement by the Taiwan News on Tuesday that it would cease publishing a print edition and only be available online.

The paper, established in 1949 as the China News, changed its name to Taiwan News after it was purchased by the I-Mei Corporation in 1999. In January 2008 it changed from a broadsheet to a tabloid format. The final issue was published today. Here’s a quote from the Taiwan News’ own report:

During a press conference yesterday, Taiwan News President Jack Wong announced that the 62-year old newspaper is going digital.

“The unthinkable is finally upon us,” said Wong. “On Tuesday, Sept. 28, Taiwan News will launch the previously impossible integration of text, color images, and sound in a digital multimedia format. It will be the world’s first and log-on is for free.”

In response to the recent global trend toward digital publishing, Taiwan News has switched to an all-online format. “The whole world will witness an electronic newspaper that leaves all others behind in its digital technology and multi-media capabilities,” added Wong.

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