Several academics at Academia Sinica initiated an on-campus petition, urging the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to re-evaluate and revise the non optional enforcement methods of the Environmental Education Act (環境教育法).
The petition, titled “we say no to out-of-tune enforcement of the Environmental Education Act,” was initiated through Academia Sinica’s weekly Internet news site last week and called for support for more self-determined environmental education.
The act, enacted in June last year, stipulates that all civil servants at government offices of all levels, employees of state-run enterprises and students are required to take at least four hours of certified environmental education each year.
The petition stated that “we cannot accept that the government forces people to take environmental protection education courses, while it engages in behavior that damages the natural and human environment,” and included examples such as constructing the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) , mandatory farmland expropriations and the development project of the Miramar Hotel Resort in Taitung County.
In addition, it also stated that requiring civil servants to sign an agreement with local environmental protection bureaus to enforce of the act is against the spirit of democracy and freedom.
The petition also referred to a letter by an associate researcher at Academia Sinica, Hwang Ming-chorng (黃銘崇), published on Academia Sinica’s Internet site, about the problems of the Environmental Education Act.
In the letter, Hwang mentioned that both he and Academia Sinica received a fine for refusing to take the four-hour environmental education course. The course is composed of watching videos, writing reports, participating in an environment survey expedition and attending lectures.
“I believe when a democratic nation forces its people, including civil servants, to do certain things, it must be very careful. Once a precedent is set, the government can force civil servants to do many things using the same logic, although the thing being forced today may not be problematic for them,” he said in the letter.
He suggested that other actions that are beneficial to Taiwan’s natural environment, such as protesting against development projects that harm the environment, or initiating projects to promote environmental protection, should also be certified.
According to the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper), EPA Comprehensive Planning Department Director-General Yeh Jiunn-horng (葉俊宏) responded by saying that the ongoing development projects mentioned in the petition have all passed the Environmental Impact Assessment process. Signed agreements are not required by the act and enforcement methods are not rigid, so Academia Sinica could propose its own environmental education curriculum, Yeh added.