Reading Heizo Takenaka’s article on Japan’s economy, I was just waiting for the oh-so-typical swipe at environmentalists and I wasn’t to be disappointed (“Japan as No. 3: Will the slide down the economic ladder continue?” Sept. 13, page 9). Just at the end, he asserts that “civic movements and groups — like environmental organizations … take little heed of the need for economic growth.”
Again, an economist portrays environmentalists as opposing economic growth, as if this somehow follows logically. Rather, it is a gross simplification that economists make again and again to mislead the public. These days, pursuing economic growth for growth’s sake is becoming counterproductive for two reasons: First, logic dictates that growth simply cannot go on forever on a limited planet (impossiblehamster.org). Second, given the planet’s natural limits, further economic growth done the conventional way — by overusing declining resources and producing noxious wastes — increasingly undermines our ability to live happy, fulfilling lives.
So what are we to do? The only logical conclusion can be that we need a broad public discussion about what constitutes desirable and what constitutes undesirable economic activity. The question before us should always be: What kind of growth do we want?
For example, we might want the market share of fossil-fuel based industries to decline and those of renewable energy industries to grow.
This is a decision based not on economics, but on value judgments: We decide that we do not want all those fossil fuel residues dumped into our environment, leading to air pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, acid rain, soil degradation, mercury poisoning and all those other goodies that come along with the burning of fossil fuels. Rather, we want clean energy because it will be better for us in the long term, so we take the political decision to phase out fossil fuels.
Such a discussion about what kinds of economic growth we want should include all segments of society, be informed by valid scientific analyses and be guided by ethical considerations about long-term sustainability (steadystate.org). We need to recognize that depletion of natural capital is not beneficial to economic growth (whirledbank.org/ourwords/daly.html) and therefore we should constrain unsustainable activities much more than we currently do. Some forward thinkers such as Paul Hawken have called for a new “Ecology of Commerce” whereby intelligent government regulation based on public debate and sound science guides economic activity from destructive toward sustainable production (tinyurl.com/guardian-reborn). The economic growth that comes out of this forward leap in ecological economics should render our world more livable, more just and more fun for everybody, not just for those few who have benefited from the economic growth during the last few decades, while leaving most of the planet exhausted and most people on stagnant or decreasing incomes facing an ever-declining quality of life.
Taiwan’s country code
I have always wondered why Taiwan was assigned the country code number of 886 for international calls, since the code for China, 86, is so close. It appears that whoever did the assigning of numbers considers Taiwan to be part of China, since no other country in Asia has a code that is anywhere near the code number of another country. I did some research and found out. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) publishes a list of 192 countries on its Web site, and Taiwan is not on the list. Taiwan is considered a part of China (“Taiwan, China — 886”). Can this mistake be corrected someday? Maybe 88 would do fine.
When Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping (習近平) wakes up one morning and decides that his People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can win a war to conquer Taiwan, that is when his war will begin. To ensure that Xi never gains that confidence it is now necessary for the United States to shed any notions of “forbearance” in arms sales to Taiwan. Largely because they could guarantee military superiority on the Taiwan Strait, US administrations from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama practiced “forbearance” — pre-emptive limitation of arms sales to Taiwan — in hopes of gaining diplomatic leverage with Beijing. President Ronald
As the US marks one month under the leadership of President Joe Biden, the conversations around Taiwan have shifted. As I discussed in a Taipei Times article (“No more talk of ‘bargaining chips,’” Jan. 30, page 8), with the end of former US president Donald Trump’s administration — and all of the unpredictability associated with it — Taiwan would not have to worry about being used as a “bargaining chip” in some sort of deal with the People’s Republic of China. The talk of Taiwan being used as a bargaining chip never subsided over those four years, but under Biden, those
The Canadian parliament on Monday passed a motion saying that China’s human rights abuses against the country’s Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang constitute “genocide.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far avoided using the word genocide in regard to Xinjiang, but if he did, it would begin to generate solidarity among G7 nations on the issue — which is something Trudeau has called for. Former US president Donald Trump used the word genocide regarding Xinjiang before leaving office last month, and members of US President Joe Biden’s administration have been pushing for him to make the same declaration, a Reuters report
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) talked about “opposing the Chinese Communist Party [CCP]” in a recent Facebook post, writing that opposing the CCP is not the special reserve of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Not long after, many people within the KMT received a mysterious letter signed “Chinese Nationalist Party Central Committee” containing what looked like a declaration of opposition to, and a call to arms against, the CCP. Unexpectedly, the KMT’s Culture and Communications Committee came forward with a clarification, saying that the letter was not sent by the KMT and telling the public not to believe