There have been reports that Zhongshan Football Stadium will continue to be used as a venue for long-term exhibitions after the Taipei International Flora Expo finishes and that exhibition halls will be built in the nearby parks. Visitors would then be able to enjoy and admire beautiful and colorful flowers on technologically advanced 3D screens in elegantly decorated exhibition halls with comfortable lighting and air conditioning.
The only problem with this scenario is that they will not be able to smell the fragrance of the soil or lie down in the green grass. Visitors may not have to sweat, but they will also lose access to the natural surroundings of a park.
This situation speaks to an inherent conflict in Taipei’s decision to host the flora expo. The sort of ideas that go into organizing a computer or art exhibition cannot be applied to a flower exhibition.
The organizers of the expo claim that it is, “The glory of Taipei, the pride of Taipei.” They also say it will showcase the high standard of floral art and technology, bring benefits to the flower industry and raise the city’s international profile. There is apparently no end to its positive effects.
However, many people may wonder, like I do: Why should Taipei — a metropolitan area with lots of flower outlets, but very few flower growers — organize a big flora expo instead of Changhua or Yunlin Counties where Taiwan’s flower industry is concentrated?
The answer is of course that organizing an international event requires a wide range of public facilities and hundreds of millions of NT dollars. In Taiwan, only Taipei and Kaohsiung fit the bill.
However, the life cycle of flowers is very short, and to sustain a six-month-long flower exhibition and ensure fresh flowers are always available means frequently replacing withered flowers with fresh ones. Those flowers will have to be transported to Taipei from the south of the island, incurring transportation costs and increased carbon emissions that run counter to the government’s policy of saving energy and reducing emissions.
The official Web site of the flora expo says the event is based on three concepts: to “convey the essence of gardening, science and environmental protection technology,” to “reach the environmental goals of reducing carbon emissions and 3R [reduce, reuse and recycle]” and to “combine culture and art as part of eco-friendly living.”
This begs the question, in what way does moving flowers from their place of origin to the exhibition hall in Taipei contribute to the goal of reducing carbon emissions? Perhaps the organizers should offer an explanation in order to dispel any confusion.
Another issue arises if we assume that a few million flowers, including their soil and packaging, will have to be replaced every week. That will create a lot of waste.
The flora expo is a great event both for Taipei and for Taiwan. All Taiwanese hope it will be successful and that international visitors who come to attend the expo will also be able to experience the beauty of Taiwan. That is why not only the main exhibition hall, but all the related events should leave visitors with the feeling that the event was a well-planned, green, low carbon emission exposition, and not just a beautiful exterior.
Even more important, the more than NT$9 billion (US$282.2 million) being spent needs to bring the people of Taiwan more than just a fleeting encounter with the beauty of nature. Concrete plans must be put in place to ensure the facilities can be used sustainably and provide ongoing benefits to the wider community after the expo is over.
Chen Wen-ching is a researcher at the Environment and Development Foundation.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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