Wed, Aug 08, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Students raise awareness of plight of tropical forest

SEEING GREEN Despite its small size, Taiwan is the third-highest producer of carbon dioxide per capita in the world and the 22nd worst polluter overall

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

An Indonesian student gets his hair cut at an event in Taipei City yesterday in a symbolic act representing the destruction of Indonesia's rain forests.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Indonesian student Budi Kosasih, 19, squirmed and grimaced while two classmates from Yunlin County-based Transworld Institute of Technology held him down and cropped his hair, dyed green, with a straight razor and scissors, almost nicking his scalp.

By the end of what could fairly be described as a "hairdo assault," clumps of green fuzz littered the floor and Budi fell silent.

"Budi's hair is like the rainforests of Indonesia," one environmentalist present said. "They're getting slashed and burned."

Joined by a handful of other Indonesian and local students and teachers at a Taipei venue, Budi yesterday was a willing participant in a skit symbolizing the destruction of his country's tropical forests -- a phenomenon closely linked to the consumption habits and future of Taiwanese.

Every year, swaths of tropical forest equaling two-thirds of Taiwan's surface area are leveled in Indonesia, home to the world's second-largest rainforest after South America, Taiwan Environmental Protection Union officials said during the event. Farming and other development is to blame, they said.

For Taiwan, the rapid disappearance of oxygen-producing rainforests in nearby Indonesia will mean higher temperatures and dirtier air in years to come, said Chang Tzu-chien (張子見), a professor of environmental resources management at the institute who periodically travels to Indonesia to survey its deforestation problem.

Greedy consumers in Taiwan are feeding a huge demand for forest-related products while churning out some of the highest levels of carbon dioxide in the world, Chang said.

Unleashing more than 2.17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually -- or nearly 1 percent of the global total -- Taiwan generates more greenhouse gases than all but 21 countries, the Environmental Protection Administration said.

The country's per-capita emissions level, Chang said, is the third-highest in the world.

In other words, Taiwan is fueling global warming more than most countries while contributing to the destruction of the very habitat that helps mitigate global warming, particularly in Asia, he said.

"Despite their size and the rapid rate at which they're vanishing, shrinking rainforests in Indonesia are basically ignored as an environmental issue compared to the same problem in South America, which receives a lot of attention," Chang told reporters.

The press conference yesterday followed a week-long tour of the nation by Indonesian students studying natural resources management at the institute.

In a press release, the students called on Taiwanese "to pull together to save the lungs of the earth."

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