Ask anyone in the world about Taiwan, and you will probably hear about its economic miracle—becoming a developed nation with electronics manufacturing and petrochemical processing. However, recently more people in Taiwan are asking themselves, does it make sense for a small subtropical island to focus on heavy industry, which takes a toll on the labor force, the health of residents, and the limited natural environment?

To give us some thoughts on this question is Professor Wenling Tu from Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, who is a founding member of several environmental NGOs and is a professor of public administration, and Ms. Hsin-I Lin, a researcher with Citizens of the Earth Taiwan, a foundation working on issues specific to the environment, including industrial pollution and waste.

We speak about Kaohsiung’s petrochemical pipe explosion from last year, how Taiwan’s development has been skewed towards unregulated industrialization, and what are the most hopeful and worrying trends for the next five to ten years.

Ketagalan Media (KM): We thank Professor Tu Wen-ling and Ms. Lin Hsin-yi for talking with us about the environmental impact of Taiwan’s largest industries. First, I want to know how did the two of you step into this field?

Prof. Tu Wen-ling (Tu): I became involved around college, in the 90s. Of course when I was younger, I saw the prettier side of Taiwan, but by the 90s there were a lot of environmental movements that sprung up, like the anti-nuclear, forestry, or anti-light metals movements. After I went to the United States, I felt very strongly that the environment will be a big challenge for Taiwan going forward, so I studied environmental policy. Also I realized that Taiwan was not part of the international conversation on the environment. Taiwan was shut out of formal diplomacy, like the United Nations, since the 70s; that was also when the world paid more attention to the environment and started discussing relevant policies.

I wanted to do something about that, so we first founded a Taiwanese students’ group called Environmental Task Force, and then the Taiwan Environmental Action Network (TEAN), to work on NGO diplomacy and share Taiwan’s environmental experience with the world. That was more than twenty years ago!

Lin Hsin-I (Lin): I am really a newbie in this field. I just joined Citizens for the Earth Taiwan (CET) about half a year ago. Originally I was a forestry major, and as a student of science we learned to use statistics and data, but I realized it’s really the people who decide how things go. So to solve our problems, I believe that people are the key, and so I switched to sociology. Sociology taught me to be critical, to think about problems with systems that we take for granted. It gave me a new perspective on the world.

Tu: Hsin-I mentioned CET, and TEAN actually merged with them back in 2011. When TEAN first started working with NGOs in Taiwan and trying to connect them to the world, they all supported the idea but thought language was an issue. So we wanted to form an NGO that uses a second language, to put together. At the end, we were able to get young people in America, the UK, and even France to care about Taiwan’s environmental issues.

KM: Taiwan’s leading industries are basically electronics manufacturing, and petrochemicals. After the documentary “Beyond Beauty” and also the Kaohsiung gas explosion incident last year, a lot of people all of a sudden realized how bad the problem is. How did we get to here today?

Tu: “Beyond Beauty” really only showed the tip of the iceberg. The issues in the movie have been the focus of NGOs and community groups for a very long time, like the Houjin River and Dalinpu in Kaohsiung, but the movie really brought mass attention to it. The problem was of course a long time in the making—it’s the result of land use policies that only emphasized economic growth at the expense of preservation. It’s the classic Taiwanese thinking of grabbing short-term gains, making a quick return. Fortunately, Taiwan also has residents and volunteers who fight for these issues, so once the public realize the problem we can point to distortions within government policies.

Although Taiwan is now part of APEC, but we are not connected to global trends in social justice issues. Taiwan’s development is still very skewed towards using economic growth to attract international attention. But Taiwan is an island; we have limited resources. We need to have very good long term planning. So far, we have only been killing the hen for the egg, so to speak. Electronics and petrochemicals are our largest industries, contributing to our GDP, providing jobs, and putting Taiwan in the international supply chain. But our petrochemical industry is really made up of a handful of state or privately owned enterprises with sizable government subsidies, with no regard for any long term strategy or the health of our people. Therefore, we see areas with heavy industry in Central and Southern Taiwan are also heavily polluted. Electronics manufacturing is a newer industry, and it has been a challenge to understand or regulate it, since the industry changes so quickly.

KM: But wouldn’t Taiwan need petrochemical or electronics industry for economic survival? We interviewed Dr. Chen Hsin-yu (who ran for Kaohsiung City Council for the Flanc Radical), and he said we could replace the petrochemical industry with handcraft and woodworking. Would something like that really contribute the same kind of economic value or job opportunity as petrochemicals? Or is there really a substitute? Or how do we begin to regulate it?

Lin: For petrochemicals, I think there are two things we can work on to regulate. First is to regulate the import of raw chemical materials. The government should know who is importing what chemicals, how they are used, what the toxicities are. Taiwan is a fast changing market, and the manufacturers themselves might not know how these chemicals work. Right now we do have a Toxic Chemical Material Regulations Law, but there are still ways we can improve it.

Second, the residents, communities and citizens need to have access to transparent information; simply, its the right to know. We the people need to know what risks we are exposed to. How the industry will change depends on what the people know. In the past, we think the “scientific experts” have all the answers, but that is because only they had access to information. We want to spread the knowledge, and bring more wisdom from the people to find solutions together. Any decision on substitutes or changes to our industrial landscape should be worked out with the people’s input.

KM: In other words, we need to let more people know, so more people can think of solutions together?

Lin: As for a substitute industry, we are used to thinking each city has to have one big industry, but that’s not necessarily true.

Tu: To add to the question about substitute industries, for a resource-strapped island like Taiwan, developing industries that use large amounts of electricity and water probably isn’t a good idea. It’s important for the people to know and decide for ourselves. The Sixth Naptha Cracker plant, in Yunlin, was originally planned for Yilan County. But the governor at the time Chen Ting-nan rejected the proposal, based on the comprehensive planning for Yilan at the time, which said Yilan’s geography was not suitable for petrochemical plants. Compare that with Yunlin, which produces 60% of Taiwan’s rice, chicken, and vegetables. Does putting a petrochemical plant there improve or limit its development?

In Kaohsiung as well, the state of the environment will limit industrial growth eventually. Our petrochemical industry is concentrated on the lower-profit part of the supply chain, and 80% of our products are shipped to China for higher-value processing. Taiwan isn’t even an oil-producing country. So who is getting the benefits? Who is bearing the costs? We should think clearly about this. As for electronics, we are not opposed to it, but why not invest in improving its impact on our health and the environment? The Taiwanese are smart, we can become a leader in this area, a knowledge exporter. We should have that kind of confidence.

KM: So to use the government’s power to set limitations on the industry, to redirect resources to other directions? Since if the industry is left to its own devices, they won’t have an incentive to improve?

Tu: Not only do we leave them to themselves, we roll back regulation, and subsidize their tax bills and water bills. We sell them precious, limited resources on a discount. This kind of policy causes our development to be skewed.

Lin: And speaking of agriculture, Taiwan’s agriculture technology has actually always been at the world’s forefront, but our policies constantly ignore our farmers. Why don’t we keep supporting something we are already good at? It’s a shame to eliminate that part of our economy.

KM: Finally, what would you say is the best and the worst trends for the next five to ten years?

Tu: Taiwan has very unique geographical resources. 70% of our area is mountains, with over 200 mountains above 3,000 meters (about 9,800 feet). Overall, there are still much we can preserve. For example, the biodiversity, the DNA databank, within our mountains. We should value our natural gift, and really re-imagine what development should mean to us.

The worst trend would be unrestricted development. We have nuclear power, but we don’t think about the long term consequences of where to store nuclear waste. Given climate change, would nuclear power become an all-encompassing disaster for us? We need to include all those risks in our energy strategy.

Our job is to use our resources smartly, focus on what we’re good at. We are hardworking, but we don’t work smart, so we are all working overtime to burn our resources. But if we can combine our ability to think on our feet, with the right use of our resources and our cosmopolitan culture, I believe we can come up with something more sustainable. The election this past November reflected some of this sentiment I believe.

Lin: I don’t think anyone can say for the next five to ten years what will happen, but I believe our generation of young people will be very busy. We are faced with encroaching economic influence from China. Our labor conditions, being overworked, will push us to the limit.

KM: Even if we are busy, but wouldn’t it also be a big accomplishment, if we can resolve these issues?

Lin: I agree! The first thing though I think is to “re-understand” Taiwan. Here’s a personal story—I went to Dalinpu in Kaohsiung once. Dalinpu is the area where people say we should build a petrochemical zone, after the gas explosion. It’s already a heavy industrial area, and the residents suffer through very serious industrial pollution. They have only a small patch of beach for their use, and the elders have to take sleeping pills to sleep at night. That’s why the younger people are out protesting.

I sat in at a meeting where environmental engineering students were talking to the residents as part of their class on doing environmental assessments. Interestingly, when the residents talked about their memories and histories, the students ignored them. All the students wanted to ask was “tell us what you want to do instead of petrochemicals.” They were talking past each other.

It was a strange feeling, that our generation of technicians and engineers are separated from the actual land. The see the experience of living on the land, and the relationships between people, as far less important as the answers they can calculate from data. This is the ultimate in rational capitalism, and I think it’s very scary. That’s how I was taught as a science major. I think we have more important problems than GDP growth. If we want to know which direction we should go, then I think we should we get to re-understand Taiwan again.

KM: Thanks so much to Prof. Tu and Hsin-yi for your time and thoughts.

世界上應該有許多人聽過台灣的「經濟奇蹟」—從戰後的貧窮社會,一路走向以開發國家,發展出重石化工業,與電子製造產業。但是台灣也有不少人質問,以台灣亞熱帶的小島,真的有本錢發展密集人力,高污染,高成本的重加工工業嗎?

今天我們邀請到國立政治大學公共行政學教授杜文苓教授,以及地球公民基金會研究員林心乙,來探討發展工業對台灣的負面影響。杜文苓教授從九零年代開始投入環境政策,在美國發起了學生環境政策組織,試圖將台灣的環境議題與國際趨勢接軌;林心乙目前專注在高雄石化業議題。

我們探討去年高雄石化管線氣爆,台灣的發展策略,社會對於產業和環境應有的態度,以及未來五到十年之間,最令人擔憂以及最令人有希望的發展趨勢。

Ketagalan Media (以下 KM):今天我們謝謝杜文苓教授與林心乙來跟我們討論工業與產業對環境造成的議題,第一個想請問兩位是什麼機遇才開始關心台灣的產業對環境的負面影響?為什麼會走到這個領域?

杜文苓教授(以下「杜」):我開始參與台灣環境的研究是1990年代大學的時候,在小時候我看到的台灣是比較漂亮的一面,但台灣的環境在當時有巨大的轉變。社會開始有許多環境相關的運動,像是反核、森林運動、後勁反五金,在大學的時候接觸到很多資訊;後來到美國來時覺的環境問題是台灣未來要面臨的挑戰,所以就念了環境政策。另外在美國也發現其實台灣很缺乏國際的環境資訊,因為 1970 年代之後台灣跟聯合國斷絕了關係,但那也正是整個國際上對於環境開始重視,環境的立法越來越多,而台灣卻完全的缺席,相較來說台灣在國際環境資訊上落後很多。我覺得應該協助台灣在這方面與國際接軌,所以一路從台灣學生社團 Environmental Task Force 一直到後來正式成立 Taiwan Environmental Action Network (TEAN),希望運用環境的外交策略把台灣的環境問題能讓國際知道,同時也把國際的局勢帶到台灣,一路已經二十幾年了。

KM:那心乙妳的故事呢?

林心乙(以下「林」):其實我算是剛加入專職環境運動的工作者,我加入 Citizens for the Earth Taiwan (CET) 大約半年的時間,之所以會想要接觸環境運動,是因為我大學主修森林系,一直在自然科學的領域裡面,就學過程當中發現我們很會運用數字、利用科學,但真正影響資源分配的是人,人才是關鍵,要解決人類與國家社會的問題,要著力點應該在人身上而不只是科學,所以我才開始接觸社會學。這是一個非常批判性思考的學科,會讓人去思考合理規則下的運作到底可能出現什麼問題,教導我換一個看世界的角度。

杜:剛剛心乙有提到 CET (Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan),TEAN,我們這兩個組織在 2011 年左右合併,成為一個單一組織,TEAN本來在台灣是有立案的社團,而在海外成立時其實是抱著年輕人想要做環保外交,用環境的 NGO 來跟國際的 NGO 連結,但台灣的 NGO 都說語言是一個滿重要的隔閡,所以我們才想在國外發起第二外國語的 NGO,大家可以貢獻心力。可以說不同世代的年輕人在不同地方都努力的在貢獻給環境,所以後來美國、英國、法國都有一群人在為台灣的環境發聲。

KM:我想針對電子產業對台灣的影響的現況提問,像是「看見台灣」這部電影在台灣造成很大的迴響,大家發現台灣其實狀況不這麼好,去年的高雄氣爆讓大家知道石化產業在高雄是個風險滿高的產業,台灣為什麼會走到這樣子的地步?產業發展又會怎麼走下去?會怎麼影響台灣的環境?

杜:大家看到「看見台灣」這部影片是只有揭露台灣的冰山一角,這其實是長期以來很多的團體與社區民眾關心的問題,像地球公民基金會關注很久的後勁溪汙染,高雄大林蒲的汙染,其實都長期有人在關注,只是大家在「看見台灣」看到那條河的狀況時,霎那間大家都看見這個問題了。但它其實並不是突然發展成這樣,這是台灣長期以來重視經濟而忽略關照國土的規劃,甚至是短視近利的思考、淺盤社會型,非常典型只顧眼前的賺錢;台灣非常幸運有很多社區居民或是非常在意環保問題的非政府組織,長期關注這樣的議題,讓這些議題一被揭露就能馬上找出政策上的扭曲,這也是我們過去在「台灣環境行動網」想要做的。

台灣的外交雖然不是聯合國的會員國,但經濟上像APEC還是與國際相當接軌的,但社會關注的部分、社會正義的環節是斷掉的,也就是說台灣的發展其實還是相當扭曲,想要利用經濟的實力來達到全世界的矚目。但事實上,台灣是個島嶼,資源相當有限,需要好的規劃長久的規劃。過去的執政思維都是竭澤而漁的思考,石化業跟電子業是台灣最大的兩個產業,在GDP、就業率、上下游產業關聯的貢獻都相當大,而石化業過去其實政府一直都是獨厚某幾個國有或私有資本的資本家。但產業本身該專注的環境,或者是長遠的大策略對台灣長期健康的發展,都沒有應有的關注與概念。長期下來可以看到中南部的工業發展重鎮,河川污染都相當嚴重,另外電子業是台灣的新興產業,但製程使用許多化學物質是有日新月異的風險,都沒有辦法有完整的理解或有效的規範,這都是台灣未來重要的挑戰。

KM:台灣必然要靠現在的石化業或電子業來做為經濟生存的方式嗎?我們之前訪問過基進側翼的議員參選人陳信諭醫師,那時有聊到高雄石化產業公投的話題,他認為如果到時石化業離開高雄後可讓精密手工業來取代原本的就業機會,但這也引起許多質疑,這樣的替代行業是否能撐起石化業貢獻的 GDP?石化業與電子業的替代品是什麼?要怎麼去平衡這兩大產業的負面影響?

林:我現在主要的業務包含石化業、社區知情權和責任科技;解決的方法會從這些研究來,主要有兩個路徑,一個是要做化學品的源頭管理,要追蹤廠商把哪些化學品運進國內,如何使用,這些化學品是什麼,政府都必須要掌握,這是第一步,台灣是個快速變動的島嶼,那些產業所使用的物質生產過程會產生什麼,他們也不一定完全知道,所以才說要做好源頭管理。這就是為什麼我們會有「毒性化學物質管理法」上路,不過他當然有很多不完善的地方我們還需要繼續推動。

第二步是如果政府掌握了資訊後,民眾要怎麼面對這些資訊,這就是所謂的「社區知情權」,也就是人民「知」的權力。知道自己暴露在什麼樣的環境風險當中,資訊的公開相當重要,而產業的轉型也會跟人民能掌握的資訊有相關。在環境運動裡我們常常會說那叫做「自然科學的專業技術掌握在少數精英手裡」,只有這些少數精英有發言權,所以常常有一種思維,覺得只有專家的意見才是意見,我們想要打破這樣的慣例,把這些資訊公開讓更多民眾智慧來參與才有辦法找出產業的替代方案,人類的歷史是不斷的在變動,沒有某兩個城市是一模一樣的,所以我認為產業轉型的契機跟「社區知情權」會很有關係。

KM:所以讓更多人知道,更多人思考問題在哪裡,才可以有集體智慧來解決問題?

林:繼續回答替代方案的問題,我們常會有一個思維是整個城市應該要有一個大規模一致的發展,但這件事情其實是很大的一個問號。

杜:我補充回答一下替代方案的這個問題。高耗能高耗水產業,在資源有限的島嶼台灣可能不是最好的路徑。「社區知情權」是一個很重要的觀念,到底這樣的產業是不是最好的發展,如果不是的話我們有甚麼替代路徑?翻開台灣的歷史,六輕的落腳一開始其實是在宜蘭,但陳定南縣長用宜蘭的區域整體規劃目標來否定了石化業,以及宜蘭的地理條件不適合發展石化,造成最後六輕落腳在雲林,但我們來看雲林的現狀,雲林本來是台灣稻米的故鄉,出產的台灣水稻、雞、蔬菜是佔台灣農業總量的六成,可是把汙染產業專區放在那個地方,到底是不是繁榮還是限制地方的發展?拿雲林再跟宜蘭做比較,我們可以清楚的看到不同的發展路徑。

再看到高雄,高雄想要轉型,如果環境的本沒有固好,那轉型就會有很多限制。台灣做的是石化產業的較上游,八成的成品其實輸出到中國,他們再做更高利潤的加工。但台灣並非產油國,那到底是誰在這個環節中受益?所產生的成本到底又是誰在負擔?這個部分台灣的產業策略應該要想清楚。另外高科技的部分,我們並不是反對台灣高科技產業的發展,而是應投入足夠的資本關注對於環境與健康的影響,或許在這部分的知識我們可以是佼佼者,是知識的產出者,是未來可以幫世界解決問題的台灣,我們應該有這樣的自信,做這樣的選擇。

KM:或許該說應該由公權力去限制產業,資源才導入轉型的方向,如果讓企業這樣繼續爽爽過,那他們就不會投入轉型的研究?

杜:現在的政策都是補貼的思維,不但是沒有限制,甚至是補貼稅制與水電費用這些對這個島嶼來說相當珍貴的資源,而這些不當的政策補貼其實造成了比貪汙還嚴重的後果,讓我們的發展不均衡。

林:我補充一下宜蘭的狀況,他們反對石化業的進入,跟雲林的對照就非常明顯,台灣的農業技術一直是走在世界的前面,可是台灣政府對於農民的態度卻是不夠重視。如果我們真要產業轉型,那往我們的強項農業去做不是很好嗎?而我們卻想要把農業淘汰,非常可惜。

KM:最後簡單的問一下,未來的五到十年台灣最好的跟最不好的發展方向可能會是什麼?最令人擔憂跟最令人期望的是什麼?

杜:台灣在世界上的地理資源相當特殊,我們有超過兩百多座的三千公尺以上高山,70% 是山地,天佑台灣我們被開發的沒有太慘烈,還有許多保留的價值。在全球暖化的狀況下,台灣中央山脈能儲存的基因資料庫還是相當豐富,我們應該看重老天賜給台灣的豐厚自然資源,對於開發的想像應該要更仔細的評估。

最壞的方向就是毫無節制的開發,舉核能為例,完全不去想長時間的核廢料儲存地點,地球暖化後的風險評估,是不是會造成台灣毀滅性的災難?這些思考都應該要放在能源發展策略裡面。

固本台灣,發展我們的強項。我們有勤奮的人民,但工作的方向不夠聰明,所以大家都忙過頭,忙著耗竭自然資源;但是如果把台灣人這種迅速的反應能力用在聰明的地方,那就可以比較快得跟世界接軌,自然資源跟人力資源的合作與結合,長期以來的都市與文化優勢,都應該放在永續發展的走向。這次的台灣選舉其實部分反映了台灣人民對於國家方向的期待。

林:五年到十年內到底應該會往哪走,沒有人可以回答得出來,但有一件事情非常重要,就是我們這個青年世代未來會非常的忙碌。中共的靠攏,以商逼政的方法,會是我們面臨的大問題之一。還有台灣低落的勞工條件,血汗企業把人操爆肝這些問題,會把台灣的年輕人逼著在艱困的環境中又要找到出路。

KM:雖然我們這輩會非常的忙,但如果我們可以解決的話這會是很大的成就。

林:所以我覺得我們這輩有一件非常需要做的事情,就是重新認識台灣,我分享一個小故事,有一次我去大林蒲,大林蒲就是當初高雄氣爆後大家說該成立石化專區的地方。那裡長期都承受中鋼與中油嚴重的重工業污染,他們只剩下小小的海岸可以親近自然,當地老一輩的民眾都需要吃安眠藥才可以度日,中生代才會想要出來抗議。

我去參加的活動是一個分享會,由一群環工系碩士班學生到當地去跟居民對話,是一個環工系的課程,要訓練怎麼做環境影響評估。在現場有一個很有趣的氛圍,這些居民在講許多在地的經驗與歷史時,都被忽略,環工系同學在後面的提問都是:「如果你們不想要發展石化業,請提出一個可以讓你們也活得很好的產業。」都是這類型的問題–也就是說這些學生跟居民是對不上話的。

那種感覺非常奇怪,這些年輕一代的技術人員對於土地的感覺非常斷裂,他們認為土地的價值跟人與人之間的關係遠低於那些可以精算出來的專業技術。這其實就是資本主義極致的邏輯,我覺得這個感覺非常恐怖,在我念自然科學的時候我也是這樣被教導的,但我們這代的年輕人應該有比GDP更嚴重的問題需要面對,我們對台灣太不熟了,如果我們要知道台灣要往哪個方向走,是不是應該要回過頭來認識台灣?

KM:我們今天的時間就先到這邊,謝謝杜教授與心乙。

 

(Feature photo of Kaohsiung’s China Petroleum Refineries, by Kaohsiung City Government.)

 

The Ketagalan Project

History and culture are the frames that prescribe how we understand the world around us. Our co-hosts present in-depth interviews on how art, culture, history and politics intertwine throughout time and space to connect us. Find out about the cosmopolitan modern Taipei downtown in the 1920s, regional trade, the future of aboriginal culture and more.