Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Unlikely environmentalist labors on, despite cancer

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Doctor Chang Fong-nien leads a group of parents and children during a tour to outline how to protect plants in their neighborhood in Situn District in Greater Taichung in this photo taken in 2010. The surgeon-turned-advocate has spent millions of dollars on eco-oriented projects.

Photo: CNA

A 65-year-old environmental volunteer, who was diagnosed with liver cancer three years ago, is continuing with his eco-oriented mission, despite his declining health and having recently undergone a liver transplant.

Taking every opportunity to bolster the environment, even when lying in his bed, Chang Feng-nien (張豐年) assesses pro-green achievements at the hospital where he is being treated, Greater Kaohsiung’s Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.

“The hospital has apparently put some serious effort into greening its environment, but it should tend better to its tree management and should also lower the proportion of exotic tree species it plants,” Chang told the hospital before he was discharged following his treatment there.

His strong sense of mission to environmental issues only started about a decade ago, when the former surgeon was displeased with the way roadside trees in his residential area were being cut back and stood up against it.

This unexpected twist in Chang’s life has seen him dabbling in a number of eco-related issues — from planting roadside trees to water resource management and from noise pollution efforts to the development of Central Taiwan Science Park as well as a a petrochemical technology plant.

Public construction projects are also matters of great concern to Chang, in particular watershed management and disaster prevention in mountainous areas.

Drawing an analogy between medical practices and environmental protection, Chang said that surgeons are trained to envisage probable outcomes, complications and the after-effects of surgery before performing an operation, so as to avoid any problems.

“The same surgical training method could also be applied to environmental issues, which helps me foresee various problems,” Chang said.

When asked to name the achievement he takes most pride in from the past decade, Chang said it was his successful promotion of the “recombination noise article” — which he said was dubbed the “Chang Feng-nien bill” by the public at the time.

Chang said that the original law only regulated single noises that surpassed maximum allowable decibel levels, while disregarding collective noise.

“However, with my years of advocacy and effort, the Environmental Protection Administration under the Executive Yuan at last agreed to my proposals to measure the decibel levels of collective noises and impose a stricter control on noise [pollution],” he said.

Starting off as a non-professional in the field of environmental protection, Chang took part in many meetings to acquire knowledge on the topic.

Because of the professional competence he has accumulated over the past 10 years, Chang turned from a widely ignored amateur to a prominent advocate whose words no longer go unheeded.

However, Chang’s achievements have come with a heavy price tag: He has poured about NT$10 million (US$339,000) into various environmental protection efforts, while his heavy workload as a medical practitioner and also as an environmental advocate have greatly affected his health.

Thanks to the generosity and selflessness of his son, who recently donated two-thirds of his liver to save his father, Chang can continue upholding his mission to protect the environment.

In spite of his seemingly indestructible determination, the 65-year-old still cannot halt the natural aging process of his body, which he said has brought about a gradual decline in his vision and physical strength.

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