Thu, Jun 07, 2012 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Polluters need education

Your editorial on the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) (“Government idle in face of pollution,” June 4, page 8) really hit the nail on the head.

As mentioned in another opinion piece (“An idle mind is a dirty mind,” Sept. 28, 2011, page 8), the EPA’s recent “enforcement” of anti-idling laws is worthless to the point of being comical.

During the Air Pollution Control Act’s (空氣污染防制法) debut, a supposed 2,000 warnings were given out to owners of idling vehicles. I am curious about both the nature and content of these warnings. Was it a warning that if the perpetrator continued idling, next time they would be slapped with a fine? Or was it a warning that they were simultaneously wasting fuel and, in turn, money, while unnecessarily polluting Taipei’s air? My guess would be the former.

Before attempting to punish ignorant people, there should at least be some attempt at education. In this particular case, the EPA is punishing drivers for something they do not necessarily understand beyond “because the EPA said so.”

Environmental activist groups like Idle-Free Taipei (IFT) are taking the other, more compassionate route: education through information. IFT has a Web site (www.idle-freetaipei.com) dedicated to facts and statistics, myth-busting and proactive solutions to the idling problem in Taipei, and frequently holds events to promote the cause and the belief that the power to make decisions about people’s lives should rest in the hands of the people who are living them.

To raise awareness about air pollution, IFT is hosting a photo contest with a cash prize of NT$5,000 (courtesy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Bureau of Energy) to the photographer who captures the most stopped scooters in one frame.

In addition, this weekend, IFT will launch a “sticker stampede,” whereby stickers will be strategically posted throughout Taipei as a friendly daily reminder (or “warning” if you’re the EPA) to motor vehicle operators to go idle-free.

The EPA’s goals and intentions are hidden by a thick veil of black smog that is the Air Pollution Control Act. Intimidation, threats and ultimately punishment in the form of fines will never be a satisfactory replacement for education.

One of the founding principles of William Glasser’s “choice theory” is that “one person cannot ‘make’ another person do anything that he or she chooses not to do. This explains why authoritarian management does not, and will not, result in long-term behavior change.”

And isn’t long-term change the desired goal? Glasser goes on to say that “we need to feel free to make choices and not to feel forced or threatened.”

It’s time for the EPA to stop wasting money and manpower on meaningless, unenforceable policies, and to start funding public service efforts, such as Idle-Free Taipei’s “Courage is Contagious” event, which in one single afternoon educated and converted hundreds of surprised drivers to become non-idlers.

John Fleckenstein

Taipei

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