Decentralization, localization, ethics and more public participation may be solutions to challenges that the environmental campaign is facing worldwide, speakers said at a conference in Taipei yesterday.
“Previously, mistakes and failures by human societies were limited — in both space and time — in the damage they could achieve,” said Brendan Mackey, chairman of Earth Charter Initiative’s (ECI) International Education Advisory Committee.
ECI is a worldwide organization based in Costa Rica that promotes the values found in the Earth Charter such as sustainable development, social and economic justice, as well as democracy, non-violence and peace.
“However, this is no longer the case since the development of weapons of mass destruction, the ecological footprint of human land use activities, the creation and discharge of pollutants, the depletion and overuse of natural resources and now anthropogenic climate,” he told the conference which was co-hosted by Earth Charter Taiwan, Taiwan Ecological Stewardship Association and National Taiwan Normal University’s Graduate Institute of Environmental Education. “Humans are now the major force of global change on this planet, with the net result being a massive degradation in our life support systems.”
While many people work hard to preserve the environment and protect ecosystems, the progress is slow, as many governments are driven by the need to protect their immediate national interests and economic competitiveness in negotiations about solving global problems, he said. It is therefore important for environmentalists around the world to join forces, while acting locally, he added.
Citing examples from battles across the country to fight hazards brought by radiation, Taiwan Electromagnetic Radiation Hazard Protection and Control Association chairwoman Chen Chiao-hwa (陳椒華) said that although only a limited number of protesters participate at each demonstration, the total number of people taking part in the campaign against radiation hazards is quite shocking.
“The anti-radiation hazard campaign is perhaps the one with most participants and most victims in Taiwan’s environmental movement history,” she said. “Yet, their demonstrations are usually fruitless since each campaign is launched separately and usually doesn’t last too long.”
While solidarity seems to be a must, a campaign could become elitist when it’s too centralized, the panelists said.
“Everyone, including environmental groups, can only have limited ability, hence an elitist campaign to stop destruction of the environment is like a dog trying to stop a train by barking at it,” Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan chairman Wu Hung (朱增宏) said.
Mackey said that although many people consider ethics and traditional values impractical in the environmental movement, “there are actually ways to respect and interact with nature in the ethics and traditional values of most cultures.”
For example, some environmental groups have been trying to work with religious groups that advocate vegetarianism, Wu said.
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