The need to cry out
The problem with Taiwan is that it is not an internationally recognized country. All its efforts in relation to human rights over the years have eroded very quickly after the change in administration. There is now a difference between saying that Taiwan is a country in which there are human rights problems and one in which human rights are under threat.
Taiwan needs help from the international community. Since it is not treated as a country, its ability to help other countries on human rights issues is severely hampered.
The pro-China government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is attempting to sacrifice human rights in accordance with the demands of China. The president is even afraid of allowing the Dalai Lama to visit, which means that Taiwan is a “needy case,” as Amnesty International Taiwan director Peter Huang (黃文雄) has argued (“Taiwan should seek spotlight on human rights: forum panel,” Dec. 12, page 3).
I admire Linda Gail Arrigo’s long-term concern for human rights. But when she said that Taiwan needs to “stop crying to the international community” and try to help other countries with more serious human rights problems, one would respond by saying that Taiwan still needs to cry to the international community for help.
This does not mean that Taiwan should ignore the poor human rights conditions of Burma, Tibet and other places with human rights problems.
A letter to the president
Dear President Ma Ying-jeou,
During your presidential campaign, you promised to clean up Taiwan’s environment and create jobs. I have a simple plan that will cut our carbon dioxide emissions and clean up our filthy intersections, especially in Taipei. Thank you for taking a few minutes to read through my ideas.
The focus of my frustration, and your opportunity, is scooter commuters. There are many street corners in Taipei where scooter drivers have to wait more than a minute for the light to change. Their scooters are idling during this time, filling the air with all kinds of harmful pollution and nasty chemicals. It’s almost as disgusting as street-level pollution in Hong Kong.
Economists and scientists believe that Earth’s oil supply may have hit its peak, and that gas prices can only go up in the long term. Taiwanese drivers should not, therefore, take a single drop of gasoline for granted. And everyone, everywhere, needs to re-examine convenience-oriented lifestyles and change wasteful habits.
I propose a NT$1 “sin tax” on every liter of gas. The money gathered would be used to fund alternative energy sources and grassroots environmental movements. Though a higher price for gas may elicit protests, it will also encourage motorists to think twice when wasting gasoline.
When I ride my motorcycle, I turn it off whenever I’m not moving, and the savings add up remarkably quickly, a habit that would offset the sin tax. To create better air quality in Taipei, all drivers should do the same. The simple answer is to turn your engine off while idling at intersections — an action that will not damage a scooter that has been running for 10 minutes.
Also, scooters that emit white smoke or don’t start when they are supposed to should be taken to the nearest shop for repairs.
To make this plan sustainable, I suggest that you put the following objectives into action: Find a spokesperson for the movement, who would receive a salary from the sin tax fund. This person should recruit unemployed college graduates to build awareness by developing a Web site so that stakeholders can communicate. These new employees would be responsible for recruiting street-level activists, thereby creating more jobs, who would remind scooter polluters that leaving engines running at intersections is wrong in so many ways.
To make the process transparent, all finances and transactions from the sin tax should be published on the Web, including payments to all involved and other expenses.
This plan doesn’t require a complex network of politicians. It requires real people, living in Taiwan, who want to share the air. Let’s make this happen for a cleaner and greener tomorrow.
I’m hoping that you, President Ma, will turn this idea into a reality. In the face of climate change, failing to take action on this issue is like saying that we don’t care. Immediate action for progressive change will help our environment immediately.
Yonghe, Taipei County
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