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Conference on Globalization and Cross Strait
Global Climate and Environmental
Issues: point d'entrée for meaningful
Cross-Strait Cooperation
Professor Kirill Thompson
National Taiwan University
Taipei, 30 April 2015
Fujian, the Taiwan Strait, Formosa
We live in the Anthropocene Age
人類世 of Global Climate Change
• The forces of globalization exert far-reaching
impacts on the environment and climate,
making this an age of human impact in
geological terms.
• In this century, invasive human activities alter
& tip the global climate and ecosystems…
We live in the Anthropocene Age
人類世 of Global Climate Change
• In 2000, scientist Paul Crutzen saw that we live in
a new geologic age 新地質歷史時期, largely
impacted by human activities.
• He noted many examples: deep sea vessels
scraping sea floors, dams blocking tons of
sediment, jungles & forests being leveled, farm
land being overly irrigated, mines getting ever
wider or deeper. Each such activity harming the
biosphere, with far-reaching cummultive effect
• Seeing such human caused planetary change, he
called this age “the Anthropocene 人類世.”
Shenzhen in 1980: before the fall
Shenzhen in 2013: Get your oxygen
Shenzhen in 2015 after trash-induced
mudslide: get your boots & shovel!
Where is the leadership?
• Given the seriousness of these planetary trends,
world leaders pledge to seek ways to “reduce
humanity’s carbon footprint 碳足迹” &
environmental impact.
• There is a gap between pledge and action, since…
• profit & GDP remain the bottom line 底線 for
government officials and big business.
• They postpone the thinking and planning needed
for a sustainable lifestyle可持续的生活方式
Taiwan Poised at the Cross Roads
Anthropocene Cross Strait Situation
• The countries flanking the Taiwan Strait – Taiwan and
China– are hotspots of production and consumption,
waste, and pollution: industrial zones and factories
line Taiwan’s west coast, with even more north and
south along China’s southeast coast.
• China’s waste and pollution are greater, but Taiwan is a
big investor in China’s industry. As a result, the South
China Sea is among the most heavily polluted in the
world, with diminishing fish stocks and large dead
zones 死区域 of toxic waste and no O2 氧氣.
Pollution Index
Cross Strait Relations - Economy
• We usually discuss cross-strait relations in terms
of Economy, Politics, Society, & Military Affairs.
• Economy and trade form deepest bond between
Taiwan and China. The two sides realize many
win-win opportunities. 20 years ago, Taiwan
offered knowhow and capital while China had
cheap labor and new markets. Today there is
more straight cooperation in various mixes.
Evolving Cross Strait Moods and Developments,
Andy Warhol 安迪·沃荷
Cross Strait Politics
• Cross strait Politics are complicated: neither
regime can recognize–or acknowledge–the
other, because of their conflicting jurisdictions
and claims; yet, each side accepts the other’s
sphere of control.
• The root problem is the contradiction
between the autocratic single party system in
China vs. the capitalist driven democratic
system in Taiwan.
Cross Strait Society and Military
• Social interactions across the Strait usually go
smoothly, though stressed by differences in
thought, heart, and aspiration, as well as
lingering distrust.
• Militarily, insisting on its legitimacy and free
institutions, Taiwan shows good will and a
pacifistic approach while China launches new
submarines, stations new missiles, issues new
restrictions, and rattles its sabers.
Key Point: Cross Strait environmental
• All Cross Strait political, military, and economic
activities depend on the natural environment—
precious land, sea, air, and multiple ecosystems.
• Although Taiwan and China occupy different
geographic and geopolitical spaces, their land,
sea, air, and ecosystems overlap and are
• Key point: human activities on each side exert
an impact on the other side.
Ex: Taiwan is affected by the sand and dust
from China(not just pollution)
Ex: Toxic Aerosol Pollutants
Ex: Trash from China, harmful to
sealife in the Taiwan Strait
Government Policy Makers Myopic
• It is a common policymaker excuse—the rapid
speed of cross strait economic development
since the ‘80s left no time for environmental
thinking and planning, not to mention quality
of life concerns.
• Still, this worship of monetary value cannot be
excused. (Too many economists and MBAs
making decisions and plans?)
As Robert F. Kennedy well said in 1968,
• “…Yet the gross national product (GNP 国民生产总值)
does not allow for the health of our children, the
quality of their education or the joy of their play. It
does not include the beauty of our poetry or the
strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public
debate, or the integrity 廉正 of our public officials (?).
• It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither
our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion
nor our devotion to our country, it measures
everything, in short, except that which makes life
worthwhile….” (See Appendix I.)
Overview of the Global Situation
• We must think of Cross Strait relations
knowing that we are live in the wider
Anthropocene age,
• The old bottom lines of monetary wealth, and
political and military power are too limited
because blind pursuit of those bottom lines is
despoiling the lands, deadening the seas,
darkening the skies, and destroying the
conditions for quality human life for all time.
Humanity and the Planetary System
• The Science: Earth-system science sees the planet not
just as a set of places but also as a system of forces,
flows and feedbacks that act upon each other.
• This system can behave in steady ways– but also in odd
new ways; the Earth-system increasingly works very
differently now in the Anthropocene age.
• E.g., in the past two centuries people released vast
amounts of fossil carbon into the atmosphere that the
planet took hundreds of millions of years to store away.
This has given humanity a leading role in propelling the
planet’s carbon cycle 碳循環.
Human Carbon Footprint
• The human carbon addition unbalances the
planetary natural carbon flows.
• The result of putting more carbon into the
atmosphere than can be taken out is a warmer
climate:-- a melting Arctic, higher sea levels,
increased photosynthesis in many plants,
intensification of the hydrologic cycle of
evaporation and precipitation, and a new lesshealthy ocean chemistry (China’s burning of coal
and Taiwan’s burning of oil, etc.).
Cooperate in Geo-engineering
• Scientific Answer: Given the dangers of the
Anthropocene, geo-engineering 地球工程 is
needed to reduce carbon.
• Left to themselves, carbon-dioxide levels in the
atmosphere are expected to remain high for
1,000 years—even more, if emissions 排放
continue to increase. Climate scientists say
human intervention 人为的干扰 is necessary.
—The goal of this century should be not just to stop
the amount of carbon in the atmosphere from
increasing, but to start actively decreasing it.
Geo-engineering for Carbon
• More ways to reduce Carbon: grow forests
and enrich soils; use high-tech interventions,
like burning fresh plant matter in power plants
and pump the resulting carbon dioxide into
aquifers 蓄水层 below the sea, or scrub the
air with chemical-engineering plants, or
intervene in ocean chemistry to cause the
seas to better consume the air’s carbon.
2014 The hottest year on record!
New Synergy, Bottom Line, & Wisdom
• Taiwanese & Chinese leaders need to create
synergy 綜效 in government and every walk of
life to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint,
maintain clean water supplies and natural
ecosystems as the new bottom line 新底線.
• Such joint efforts of wisdom 智慧and
conscience 良心 remind people that, what is
most precious in life is life itself, and that clean
waters and wild nature are the source of life.
Change is necessary for a better
Cross Strait future
• Do the political leaders possess the necessary
wisdom? As long as they stay obsessed with
old bottom line 老底線 economic growth,
political power, and nationalism, they will not
think about what is precious in human life and
the basic conditions for a satisfying human
• The leaders need to be reminded!
The World and the Taiwan Strait in flux :
Some Bullet Points
Environmental Situation and Trends
• 1. We have global-scale production systems –
allowing for rapid widespread systematic
improvements (Taiwan, China)
• 2. We can implement quick ICT‐enabled
technological change (Information and
Communication Technology) – allowing for
speedy communications for making
improvements (Taiwan, China)
Environmental Situation and Trends
• 3. Population: rapid growth in developing areas, but
aging in high income areas (China, SE Asia, Taiwan)
• 4. Worldwide decline of middle-level skilled jobs
(Taiwan, China). (Too much automation is risky.)
• 5. Extreme environmental crises (China, Taiwan): toxic
soil, desertification, water pollution, air pollution,
earthquakes (some from excessive dams in China), etc.
• 6. Economic and geopolitical multi-polarity 多极化
(Taiwan, China trade & commerce diversification 多样
化, increased regional and private business initiatives.
Economic growth and poverty reduction are
blocked by four large hurdles:
• 1. Growing income inequality 收入不平等 and
social exclusion 社会排斥 (limits social and
economic development, not to mention the earth)
• 2. Continued population growth
• 3. Increasing environmental crises
• 4. The traditional academic disciplines 学科 are
too narrow to grasp and respond to the present
crises of culture, economy, environment, and
Tools for Achieving Real Sustainable Economic
• Rapid Technological Transformation (introduce
green technology, back to humanized production)
• Equity in Social Service Provision (public health,
education, welfare, opportunity)
• Community Protection of Natural Resources
(coop of stakeholders 利害相关者. Appendix 2.)
• Strengthen Local Governance 地方治理
(democratically elected, bribe free)
Tools for Achieving Real Sustainable
Economic/Environmental Development:
• Share Work, Learning, and Leisure (open access)
(Finland model)
• Place limits on Arbitrary 任性的 Corporate Power
(authoritarian & corrupt rule fosters unhealthy guanxi)
• Promote Responsible Investing and Financial Markets
(green investment)
• Re‐Democratize Our Democracies (people democracy
vs money democracy). See Appendix III.
• Identify Shared Global Values (seeking common values
in local traditions)
Top “Sustainable Systems” Priorities:
• Sustainable energy systems (solar, wind,
geothermal, tidal)
• Sustainable, resilient有復原力agriculture and
nutrition (organic, range, non-gmo)
• Sustainable urbanization (“Smart Cities”)
(clean energy public transport: change driving
cities into walking and biking cities)
Needed technological breakthroughs
• New global public-private partnerships (PPPs)
for sustainable technologies:
• Low-carbon energy systems
• Resilient, sustainable agriculture
• Smart ICT-enabled urban systems
• ICT‐enabled public health & education
Roles of Sustainable Development Disciplines
• (1) Understanding Mechanisms: climate,
biodiversity, economy-ecology dynamics
• (2) Monitoring and mapping Earth system
• (3) Developing integrated physical‐human
systems for the “green economy”
Roles of Sustainable Development Disciplines
• (4) Assist directed technological change e.g.
“deep decarbonization 完全除去碳素 ,”
ICT‐based health and education, sustainable
agriculture, smart cities
• (5) Lead public and university education, and
build a common global framework for action
New Bottom Line: Sustainable Development as
a Framework for Positive Action
Sustainable Development: Holistic
Integration整体集成of Economic, Social, and
Environmental Objectives in Approaching
Scientific Analysis, Governance, Problem
Solving, and Human Action generally
• Note: UN Member States are now negotiating
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to
be adopted in September 2015
New Bottom Line: Sustainable Development
Goals as a Framework for Cross Strait Relations
• Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) : the
new bottom line in cross strait relations.
• The two sides of the Taiwan Strait need to
agree on significant SDGs to rescue the natural
environment and assure life with quality for
future generations of people and nature.
• This cooperation will support the other cross
strait relations: economy, politics, social,
military affairs
Appendix II Importance of Participation of
Local Stakeholders in Decision-making
• Often the weaker stakeholder voices are drowned out
by the wealthier, better connected stakeholders;
• But weaker stakeholders have interests to protect and
often are more sensitive re local wildlife, ecosystems
and environmental concerns (& related public health
• So the weaker voices provide important input that
others might want to conceal.
• Wide participation in decision-making can help social
structures and human activities meet the challenges of
sustainability and act more responsibly.
Appendix III
Future Challenges
• Current legal systems are largely based on the principle
of state sovereignty. This assigns political responsibility
for the global commons and for trans-boundary
ecosystems to nation states that are effectively free,
and often do opt out of international agreement and
cooperation (China in the South China Sea).
• Alternative options do exist: if the subsidiary principle
基层决定原则 were applied widely, nested 嵌套
polycentric governance structures could deal with
specific environmental issues at transnational levels
where the problems are often caused and suffered.
Tao Yuanming “Returning to the
• Young, I was always free of common feeling.
It was in my nature to love the hills and mountains.
Mindlessly I was caught in the dust-filled trap.
Waking up, thirty years had gone.
The caged bird wants the old trees and air.
Fish in their pool miss the ancient stream.
I plough the earth at the edge of South Moor.
Keeping life simple, return to my plot and garden.
My place is hardly more than a few fields.
My house has eight or nine small rooms.
Elm-trees and Willows shade the back (cont’d).
Tao Yuanming “Returning to the
• Plum-trees and Peach-trees reach the door.
Misted, misted the distant village.
Drifting, the soft swirls of smoke.
Somewhere a dog barks deep in the winding
A cockerel crows from the top of the mulberry
No heat and dust behind my closed doors.
My bare rooms are filled with space and silence.
Too long a prisoner, captive in a cage,
Now I can get back again to Nature
Tao Yuanming “On Reading the Classic
of Hills and Seas”
In the summer grass and trees have grown.
Over my roof the branches meet.
Birds settle in the leaves.
I enjoy my humble place.
Ploughing’s done, the ground is sown,
Time to sit and read my book.
The narrow deeply-rutted lane
Means my friends forget to call (cont’d).
Tao Yuanming “On Reading the Classic
of Hills and Seas”
• Content, I pour the new Spring wine,
Go out and gather food I’ve grown.
A light rain from the East,
Blows in on a pleasant breeze.
I read the story of King Mu,
See pictures of the Hills and Seas.
One glance finds all of heaven and earth.
What pleasures can compare with these?