A leading Taiwanese environmental activist said he has become so tired of inaction and bad leadership by politicians that he is putting up his own money as a reward for any person who can find the sky lantern bearing messages penned by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Lin Ming-te (林明德) said he decided to promote his environmental campaign by offering NT$30,000 in cash to any person who found a giant sky lantern with messages written by Ma during a festival this week.
On Feb. 8, Ma and New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) wrote messages on a large sky lantern and released it into the air, Lin said.
“When I read the news reports, my heart was in turmoil. The heads of government are taking the lead to do immoral things and everyone else has to bear the consequences,” Lin said.
Lin said that the reward was not to challenge the government, but that he hoped government agencies would attach more importance to environmental issues.
“It is also to raise public awareness, for people to go into mountains and forests, to see for themselves the destructive effects and pollution caused by sky lanterns. Maybe this way, people can ponder and think seriously about environmental protection issues,” Lin said.
Lin is known as “Taiwan’s Forrest Gump” because of his completion of six round-the-nation walking journeys over the past 16 years.
Lin, 68, tramped solo around the nation multiple times pushing a cart and collecting trash to promote garbage reduction, recycling and to raise awareness on protecting the environment.
So far, Lin has covered 300,000km on his one-man campaign to clean up Taiwan. His exploits have been lauded by politicians and senior officials. He was received by Ma at the Presidential Office and awarded a special commendation.
However, Lin said he has been troubled by the growth of Lantern Festival activities in recent years including an increase in fireworks events, the release of sky lanterns and folk celebrations involving the slaughter of pigs and other livestock.
These celebrations and festive events produce more trash, generating more air pollution and endanger public safety, he said.
“I wrote many times to the Presidential Office and all levels of government urging them to restrain or ban such activities for the sake of our environment. However, they did not pay any attention to the issues that I raised,” Lin said.
Lin said he is concerned about the trash generated by the release of sky lanterns at New Taipei City’s (新北市) Pingsi (平溪), as the activity is held 365 days a year for tourists.
“It attracts crowds of tens of thousands, while leaving many tonnes of garbage that need to be cleaned up and taken away. Not only that, some failed sky lanterns burn up and crash-land, causing fires. In past years, botched sky lanterns have landed on highways and mountain slopes. One fell at Taipei International Airport. These incidents nearly led to big disasters,” Lin said.
Many sky lanterns fall into forests and the burned-up skeletons dangle on branches, spoil the natural scenery and pollute mountain areas, Lin said, adding that some serious cases had resulted in forest fires, requiring firefighting units.
Lin said that sky lantern events were only one of the activities his campaign was focused on. Other problems include temple celebrations for various deities, such as the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival in Greater Tainan, fireworks displays on national holidays and firecrackers during elections.