Preserving our environment
Saturday’s Taipei Times carried two articles that perfectly illustrated the two conflicting approaches to environmental problems (“Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin faces extinction,” Nov. 7, page 2, and “Taoyuan village sets example for communities,” Nov. 7, page 4).
The first concerned the possible imminent extinction of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin because of overfishing and pollution — with more pollution expected soon from a planned science park in Erlin (二林), Changhua County, that would discharge wastewater into the ocean where the dolphins (and many other creatures) live.
Contrast this with the other article, which said that the quality of life in Gaoyuan Village (高原), Taoyuan County, has improved dramatically because inhabitants stopped using the environment as a waste receptacle and started caring for it instead. Residents enjoy a better life, because both the economy and the environment have improved.
Around the world, there is a growing realization that the economy and the environment are intricately linked, and that better living standards cannot be achieved by boosting the economy at the expense of the environment.
Countries with the overall best quality of life according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s quality of life index — including Ireland, Switzerland and Norway — have stringent laws to protect the environment, and their economies are flourishing as a result. For example, Denmark is now a leader in wind energy because of the government’s push for renewable energy.
So how can we protect these dolphins and help the economy? For one, the public should take pride in such a rare and special dolphin species and start organizing dolphin viewing trips and investing in education centers to teach about the species and its environment. Whale and dolphin tours have become a key source of income for many coastal communities around the world, and education is always a cost-efficient way to create jobs and make people’s lives more interesting and exciting.
Second, build a wastewater treatment plant that uses nature’s power to treat wastewater. Filter the water through a reed bed, whereby the plants filter the waste and provide habitat for other plants and animals.
Third, the public should recognize that building a science park without applying environmental science is a rather unscientific exercise. Science parks should be beacons of environmentally friendly building and management. Buildings should be energy-efficient, waste should be recycled and the habitats around the buildings should be conserved — for example, by planting water-treating reed beds.
Since arriving in Taiwan a few weeks ago, I can already see that Taiwan is at a crossroads. It can walk down the road of environmental and economic ruin — allowing people’s lives to become disconnected from their community and environment in the name of the economy — or it can follow the path set out by Gaoyuan toward a better, happier life revolving around community, environment and economy.
BRUNO A. WALTHER
Visiting assistant professor of environmental science,
Taipei Medical University
As host to the recent meeting of international scientists working on the habitat needs of the Taiwan (or Eastern Taiwan Strait) population of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, I want to thank you for running your article.
The article may be a bit confusing, however, because your headline and part of the text indicate that the entire species, Sousa chinensis, is on the brink of extinction, whereas the recent activities were focused on the isolated population of the animals that inhabit the coastal waters of western Taiwan. This population has been classified as being critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, while the species as a whole is not yet at that point.
In future references to the animals, I suggest you add the words “Taiwan population of” to modify “Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin.”
Please continue your coverage of this issue. It is an indication that the government seems to think it can save the population with band-aid applications — such as proposing a “postage stamp reserve” or making a film — while delaying action on account of “insufficient research.” At the same time, the premier has declared war on the dolphins (and just about all other species in western Taiwan, including humans) by stating that projects such as the fifth stage expansion of Formosa Plastics Group’s Mailiao industrial park, the Guokuang Petrochemical Park and the Erlin Central Science Park should proceed even before the projects have been shown to be severely flawed from economic, social and environmental perspectives.
There are many in government working hard to conserve and protect the environment. Unfortunately, the folks with the power continue to pursue short-term, unsustainable and highly suspect economic objectives.
Director, Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association Taipei
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