A series of activities was held at Wugu Wetland Ecological Park education center in New Taipei City (新北市) yesterday to celebrate the Environmental Education Act (環境教育法) becoming law, with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) attending an hour-long environmental class.
The act requires staff at all levels of government, employees at state-run enterprises and students to take four hours of classes on environmental protection each year.
Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) said the act had finally passed after 17 years of preparation, adding that the government would establish a -computer-based information system to keep track of all courses.
Ma and Wu listened to a speech about sustainable ecology, watched a film about the history of the environmental movement and went on a tour of the wetlands to see birds and crabs in their natural habitats, escorted by a volunteer wildlife guide from the Society of Wilderness.
We have the wisdom to find ways to ensure economic development and environmental protection can coexist, instead of being forced to choose between one or the other, Ma said after the lesson, adding that the “per bag trash collection fee” policy implemented in Taipei, which led to a substantial reduction in the quantity of trash collected each year, was an example of a good solution.
However, the day was not without incident.
Toward the end of Ma’s speech, anti-nuclear power activists stood on their seats and held a banner that said: “Mr. President, abolishing nuclear power can reduce carbon emissions too.”
The banner was quickly seized by the organizers and the protesters were asked to leave the premises and remain a distance from the site until Ma had left.
“The president asked university students whether the reduction of carbon emissions or abolition of nuclear power was more important, but that was a bogus question, misleading people into believing the two goals are mutually exclusive,” said a protester from the environmental NGO Green Citizens’ Action Alliance.
“We have come to teach Ma something about the environment and let him know that shutting nuclear power plants can reduce carbon emissions ... and only by abolishing nuclear power once and for all can there be inter--generational justice,” the protester said.
Families and residents of nearby neighborhoods visited the educational booths set up for the public, where they were taught how to recognize camouflaged animals in their natural habitats, played puzzle games on water circulation and learned about household detergents or artificial fragrances.
“Because it has four spots on its back” an elementary school student shouted out when the wildlife guide asked why the endangered species of the dragonfly Mortonagrion hirosei found in the Wugu Wetlands was known as the four-spot midget.
“We are local residents and sometimes come here to ride our bikes, but we never knew the wetlands were home to such a cornucopia of wildlife ... now we are thinking about coming more often to observe the wildlife,” said the parents of two elementary children who responded enthusiastically to the many questions asked by the guide and were especially excited when they got to use binoculars to view the other side of the river.
The activities were jointly organized by the Chinese Society for Environmental Education, the EPA and the New Taipei City Government.