Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Global Warming via the Streets of Taipei, Part 1

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Taiwan. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

Time is waning, departure looming. Excitement hovers on the horizon of a new place and new experience just months away. Back to school, back to books and class. And this leaves me ample time, in my twilight, to evaluate my experiential education.

I have done a rather poor job of expressing the range of emotional and physical sentiments salient in my moments here. The teaching community cannot escape constant discussions of methodology and everything from the personal to the political encompassed in these cram schools. I guess it just burns me out from discussing it further here. Yet, in my finale, I am left questions of accomplishment, riddles of future ramifications. What will I leave with from Taiwan?

A cough. I just throw out too many up-highs and down-lows to my students, little hands like hazmat petry dishes. At least, that is what I usually blame it on. But after a few bouts with bronchitis and acute tonsillitis, perhaps snot is not the answer.

I finally watched An Inconvenient Truth. It was like Braveheart for me: I had heard about it, witnessed it win award after award, and just failed to find the time. How ironic, really, failing to find and comprehend time is quite a prevalent theme in the film.

Firstly, the film is exceptionally well done. SEE IT. Beyond this necessary disclaimer, the film rehashed a thought bouncing around my brain for the past few months, conveniently coinciding with illness. Though the long awaited list of “10 Things I Love About Taiwan” is yet to be posted, scootering will be high on that list. I love it. It is truly the essence of Taiwan, a paradox. For as much as I love it, it is the death of me. Cough, cough.

Interconnectivity. That is another prominent tone in Gore’s magnus opus. I cringe recalling all the moments spent waiting at a stoplight, gazing at the haze of exhaust writhing like strands of snakes as they escape. Pandora’s box sits atop each chassis. Two-stroke engines are like a two-step with devil, and I have been a Faustian dance partner.

But it’s well beyond the wheel wells. Taiwan is a prime example of global trends. One of the first Asian Tigers, Taiwan’s economy boomed in the ’90s. With that came the symptoms of rapid modernization, namely urbanization. In nations with over a million people, Taiwan is the fourth most densely populated region of the world. People need jobs, jobs are in cities, cities expand, people need transportation. Transport, logically, is “the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 24 percent of the CO2-equivalent total, 20 percent of global energy use, and over 50 percent of global oil use,” according to a November 2006 report by the UNDP.

Taiwan’s total net carbon dioxide emissions doubled between 1990 and 2000, according to the Taiwan EPA. An April 10 article in the Taipei Times stated “the average amount of carbon dioxide each person in Taiwan emits per year is now three times the global average.”

The world’s urban population is now larger than the rural for the first time in history. We sold Main Street in pursuit of Wall Street. Cities are losing their sense of identity, sprawling, homogenizing at best; decomposing and encamping the poor in the periphery at worst. “The irony of global warming,” said the UNDP, “is that the greatest effects of the problem are likely to be borne disproportionately by those who have benefited least from this development and contributed least to the problem.” The largest amount of devastation will be done upon developing countries between the subtropics.

Citizens of developed nations have learned of these other people through TV infomercials feeding a kid with a penny a day. They come in 30-second spans, squeezed between commercials for the new Ford Excursion racing other Similar Automakers Excursions pulling eight-person sleeper watercraft up a hill in the middle of the desert… with a white guy, drinking a beer, grabbing his balls, belching and waving the gotdamn red-white-and-blue. Maybe I added the last part.

Gore ended his documentary by holding us responsible to the questions of our unborn children. The current responsibility for global conditions is not the point. My next post will talk about solutions, leadership, and the little I know of economics. I do know this: You are fooling yourself if you believe global warming is not an immediate pandemic crisis.


Written by Miles

May 10, 2007 at 4:37 pm

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