Fri, Jul 25, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Putting his money where his mouth is

Oliver Lin is prepared to do what it takes to achieve his ecological vision

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Oliver Lin now calls himself Eco Lin.

PHOTO: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

Some people talk about a better life and others do something about it. Oliver Lin (林雲閣) is a doer and the veteran photojournalist of death and disaster is now forging ahead with his latest plan, to build an ecologically sound home for the future.

Earlier in the week he was found in the middle of negotiations with an organization that needed his exhibition space for its 30-hour charity fast. Lin was lobbying for an extension to his current showing of ecological artworks, Destruction and Atonement, and seemed to be convincing the fasters that an exhibition at the same time would be a good idea.

It was hot, not only outside, but in the Si Lien Building of the Huashan Art District where his installations were. Always talking, it seemed, either on the phone or to various artists, friends and art space administrators, Lin was putting on the music for his exhibition himself and manning the sales counter -- all in aid of his Eco-Home project.

As an award-winning photojournalist his pictures have often defined tragic events in Taiwan, such as the Wuku landslide in 1996, the collapse of Lincoln Mansions in 1998 and, of course the 921 earthquake in 1999. He also broke the landlocked salmon story in 1995, tracing the cause of their near-extinction to the planting of apple trees and over-intensive farming.

He is a three-time winner of major literary awards and the author of four books, most of them a mixture of text and photos. He has also held three exhibitions of his work in the last five years, as well as defining his role as a campaigner for ecological awareness.

His present focus, however, is to buy a plot of land and build a specially designed house to live in harmony with nature. The idea sounds reminiscent of a 1960s commune and Lin is not unhappy with the comparison.

"Like hippies? Our lifestyles may be similar but we are different people and these are different times. There are many eco communities in the world, but most of the ones in the West go toward nature and are beautiful [they are marketed as holiday homes].

"Here in Taiwan we want it to be a bit different. We want to choose a bad place, with many hurts, and cure it and then live there and make it sustainable and self-sufficient. We will find the best eco solutions for electricity, pollution and all the other problems.

"Eco solutions, people say are expensive, but the real eco solutions should be very cheap. If they are expensive it means they come from many resources and I think eco solutions must be cheap and not consume many natural resources. But we should still have a high quality of hardware and software and life. The best solution to most problems is wisdom and not money."

Which is not to say that Lin does not understand the importance of money. He reckons it will cost up to NT$5 million to buy a suitable plot of land and another NT$5 million to build the farm. He hopes the government may step in with a grant, as it did for Hexing Village (和興村) in Nantou County, which was devastated by the 921 quake and was earlier this month given a financial aid package by the Environmental Protection Administration to promote ecological tourism.

Lin said he would also be approaching big businesses with the idea of promoting "green silicon island" development, as he is also aware that an Eco-Home homestay and low-intensity farming, handicrafts and arts, could be a financially sustainable proposition.

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