It is easy to get carried away with doomsday scenarios. Right now, the world’s economy is shaky, conflict is spreading throughout the Middle East, food prices are rising and the climate is changing rapidly. There are many reasons to be scared.
That is precisely why people should avoid buying into the belief that the world is doomed, that people have no hope and that we might as well give up.
Yes, things are bad. Yes, they might get worse, but people will live on, they will adapt and they will get stronger — if they do not give up.
Economically, Taiwan is in bad shape. Exports are drying up month-on-month — orders have been falling for almost half a year, with competitive regional neighbors like South Korea eating into Taiwan’s markets. Exports in July declined 4.4 percent year-on-year, dropping for the fifth month in a row, while the second quarter this year was Taiwan’s first quarterly drop in exports since the fourth quarter in 2009, when the global recession was hitting hard.
However, there is light at the end of this economic tunnel. Exports to the US and Southeast Asia are going up, while exports to Japan are declining at a slower rate than before. There is still room for Taiwan to grow, but it must be smart with how it adapts in the current volatile market. It is not the end of the world, just a tricky time to live in it.
The conflict in the Middle East is obviously worsening, and there could easily be a regional war if Israel decides to unilaterally attack Iran and thus drag the US into a direct confrontation. China is increasingly arming itself for an eventual invasion of Taiwan, while Japan and China are rattling sabers. This situation looks fluid and dangerous for Taiwan, but it could also present some opportunities.
With conflict brewing everywhere, Taiwan is going to gain strategic importance. Japan will not want a hostile China cutting off its sea lanes, while the US will be loathe to see China gain real strategic superiority in the Western Pacific. Taiwan could increasingly leverage its unique position in Asia in this time of uncertainty to gain an international presence, as it did when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) waded into the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) conflict with diplomacy instead of action, calling all sides — Taiwan, Japan and China — to negotiate the dispute and step back from the brink.
Climate change is an even bigger issue than the economy or conflict. At this point, it no longer matters what is causing climate change — climate change affects our lives in myriad ways every day, whether it is man-made or natural. It is devastating food yields, increasing disease, playing havoc on the weather and thus killing people and causing billions of dollars in damage. Climate change is real, and it is dangerous.
Taiwan is in a unique position to manufacture the tools needed to combat climate change or adapt to it. Although the solar sector is struggling, with massive government help it could be revolutionized. The same goes for wind turbines and other energy-saving devices such as bicycles and mass-storage batteries.
Are we facing the end of the world? It is only the end of the world if people believe so and give up trying to do something about the changes shaping global society. Hopefully, those who are willing to struggle on will outweigh those who want to give in to apathy.