A Day of Deliverance for the Environment

Wild at Heart invites you to join other environmental, indigenous, community, and social reform groups and individuals for two days of demonstrations, beginning September 3, in front of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration at #83 Section 2, Jhonghua (Chunghua) Rd. Taipei. Details as follows:

 

Mid-Summer Ghost Festival

The Mid-Summer Ghost Festival combines the Taoist mid-summer Day of Judgment with "Ullambana," the day of universal deliverance in Buddhism. In Taoist folk belief, mid-summer's day is a time for the gods to urge humans to be upright and good ; while Ullambana has been a big festival throughout the Chinese-speaking world ever since its introduction to China in 538 A.D. It has kept going strong despite the vicissitudes of history, including numerous waves of persecution against Buddhism, precisely because it preaches reverence towards one's ancestors, an idea which fits nicely with the traditional Chinese concept of filial piety. When Mid-Summer Ghost Festival comes around, the people of Taiwan get into high gear, carrying out countless ceremonies large and small across the nation to ensure that the souls of the departed find their way to paradise. But humans are not the only living beings that have departed from our midst...

The Ghosts of Taiwan's natural environment

For much of the 400 years of recent history Taiwan has been in the hands of colonialists or renegades. None of these rulers felt any compunction to develop our island sustainably. And ironic though it may seem, now that Taiwan's president and local leaders are popularly elected, our current regime behaves even more irresponsibly toward our land and people than its predecessors ever did.

Let us take a close look at what spirits of the environment have been lost to "economic development".

Just 400 years ago, Formosan sika deer were everywhere to be seen. Today, they are gone thanks to systematic extermination. Camphor, cypress, and many other tree species once covered our mountains, but today are reduced to scattered stands for the sake of economic benefit.

When the Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan 60 years ago after its defeat in civil war, "resisting communism and retaking the motherland" became its raison d'être. Taiwan was nothing more than a springboard for retaking the mainland. The Central and Southern Cross Island Highways were cut through the mountains, facilitating massive development of higher elevation forests and causing countless human fatalities. More recently the same story has been repeated with the Taipei-Ilan Freeway, where construction workers and mountain forests alike fell victim as the authorities doggedly gouged and blasted their way through the hills.

The introduction of petrochemicals manufacturing to Taiwan has dotted our island with a string of environmental wastelands. In every single county along Taiwan's western coast, destruction has descended at industrial sites starting in the late 70s. The depressing list includes Taichung County (Sunko Chemical), Kaohsiung County (the Chinese Petroleum oil refinery, Linyuan Industrial Park, and Dafa Industrial Park), Tainan County (Er-Ren River), Ilan County (Lung Te Industrial Park), Changhua County (Formosa Chemical & Fiber), Miaoli County (Toufen Industrial Park), Hsinchu County (Hsin Chu Chemical Industrial and Lee Chang Yung Chemical), Taoyuan County (RCA and the Taiwan Industrial Park), and Yunlin County (the Formosa Plastics Group's Sixth Naphtha Cracker).

The beat went on in the 80s with the establishment of a "high-tech" semiconductor industry in Hsinchu. Despite the high rate of middle age cancer and unacceptably high levels of airborne arsenic at the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, our authorities went on to set up similar industrial parks in Tainan and Taichung in a typical "damn-the-torpedoes" grab for the money approach.

In our thirst for electric power, we have built nuclear power plants with no thought to the consequences, and now low-level nuclear waste stockpiled on Orchid Island threatens the indigenous Tao people there with extinction. Mid- and high-level nuclear wastes, in the meantime, have absolutely nowhere to go. And the construction of fossil fuel power plants goes on unchecked, adding to our greenhouse gas emissions. We plug up our mountain valleys with water reservoirs and weirs, snuffing out riparian life and handing over our valuable water sources to a privileged few with the means to put their dibs on it. For agriculture and home users, the message is simple: "Tough luck!"

Meanwhile, the government clings to a wrong-headed policy commitment to waste incinerators that spread a film of dioxin across the land.

Environmental devastation has sent untold victims to violent deaths. Government officials are in cahoots with the perpetrators. A do-nothing Environmental Protection Administration and environmental impact assessments intended only as window dressing provide a smokescreen for development projects that are unprecedented in their scale and destruction.

Why are environmental groups holding special ceremonies for the Mid-Summer Ghost Festival?

Our planet is in crisis. In Taiwan, a half-century of development is triggering a backlash from nature. Environmental groups seek to open the eyes of people in Taiwan and around the world to the consequences of short term blind development.

The point of the Mid-Summer Ghost Festival is to pray for the deliverance of wandering spirits that became stranded in the netherworld after meeting with untimely deaths here on earth. In our natural environment, countless such deaths have resulted from four centuries of unbridled economic development. It is for the environment we once knew and have lost that we pray on this day of deliverance.

Time
We will carry out Buddhist rites on September 3rd & 4th, 2007 to commemorate our destroyed environment.

Place
Environmental Protection Administration
No. 83, Jhonghua Road Section 2, Taipei
(site of the former headquarters of the Chinese Petroleum Corporation)
Chinese Address:
行政院環保署(台北市中華路二段83號(原中國石油公司總公司遺址)

Suggested Dress
This is a solemn ceremony, intended to commemorate environmental catastrophe. Please wear black or dark clothing as a show of respect and mourning.

Funeral Pennants
We need 100 or more kanto flags to represent the spirits of the departed. Please bring as many as you can.

Tentative schedule: The ceremonial altar will be completed by 9:00 a.m. on September 3rd. You can worship at the altar whenever it is convenient to come.

Download Schedule


Environmental groups, other social activist groups: Let's get as many people out as we can, including indigenous rights activists, labor activists, farmers' rights activists, women's activists, and student activists. The environmental movement cannot rest until its goals are achieved. The historic fight against Dupont in Lugang was just the first shot. The battle continues, so let's keep fighting!

We have contacted the following persons to ask them to take part in the ceremony at 2:00 p.m. on September 3rd.

Main celebrants: President Chen Shui-bian
Co-celebrants: Premier Chang Chun-hsiung, Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng, Judicial Yuan President Weng Yueh-sheng, Examination Yuan President Yao Chia-wen, President of the Control Yuan
Master of ceremonies: EPA Minister Winston Dang
County magistrates and city mayors
National legislators

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