Sustainability? The Art of Hypocrisy Reaches New Heights

While the rest of the world is concerned with climate destabilization and governments are taking pains to find ways of addressing water resource utilization, we see our Taiwan government engaged in quite a fierce shadow boxing match while at the same time sputtering out all manner of vague and insignificant carbon reduction measures. We have been told to take off our heavy clothes, we have been excoriated to carry our own drinking cups and chopsticks, and we even get a few little subsidies for conserving some electricity, buying more stuff, buying a new car, or cutting down on our personal water consumption.

In the meantime, that same government is building massive new power plants, cutting down old trees to make way for "carbon offset" tree plantations and promoting highly (and probably illegally) subsidized development projects in those wonderfully "appropriate" industries such as mining for cement, steel and petrochemical plant construction, along with the "high tech" industrial parks that are euphemistically referred to as "Science Parks". These "heavy" industries (heavy water use, heavy energy consumption -Taiwan is just about 100-percent reliant on imported energy-, heavily subsidized, and heavily polluting government-sponsored enterprises include a range of opto-electronics factories, thermal power plants, petrochemical plants, steel plants and marble mines for the cement factories.

So maybe all of us 23 million Taiwanese can take off all our clothes in order to offset the emission from one smokestack of a new coal fired power plant in central Taiwan?!

Today is the opening day of the 2009 International Forum on Sustainable Development, being held at the National Taiwan Library during which we expect the government to once again trot out the old war horses to espouse what great things Taiwan is doing for the environment and thereby impress our foreign friends. One could hardly hope for a more impressive member of the foreign attendees than Dr. Jane Goodall, the United Nations Ambassador for Peace, known for her scientific rigor and tremendous contribution to the education of the world on the need to urgently address species extinction and the causes thereof.

We have prepared a letter to Dr. Goodall that we hope will give her more information and have asked her to try to bring to the attention of government officials with whom she meets to the plight of a critically endangered (IUCN declared the animals CR in August 2008) population of humpback dolphins off the western coast of Taiwan.

This is an area in which, despite all the lip service (and bringing a United Nations Ambassador of Peace to this conference) given to "conservation", "sustainability" and "biodiversity", the government insists on steaming ahead with dozens of development projects that will likely spell the end for the less than 100 remaining animals in this population.

We refuse to accept the government’s hypocrisy: preaching the gospel of "sustainability" while at the same time slaughtering dolphins, running fishers and farmers out of their lands and waters, subsidizing irresponsible development and sowing the seeds of greed and over-consumption at the expense of future generations.

Planting trees in China, building a few windmills, changing a few won’t address our energy crisis while catering to the demands on our water sources by industry all but eliminates any credence that the people can give to government claims of "working for sustainability".

Jane Goodall has said innumerable times, including during her many visits to Taiwan, that government and business must join, if not lead in the efforts to promote sustainability. From the recent projects proposed by our government and its superficial attempts to address climate change and species extinction, we can only say, "Hello, is anyone listening?"

Click here for a table of some of the projects already in operation, under construction or planned for areas along and upstream of the western Taiwan humpback dolphins' habitat