Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Trap Of Environmental Evangelicalism


I read Hsu Su-jean's (許夙君) editorial with some interest. I suggest that his vague premise of competition between Taiwan and China can be elaborated by stipulating to the supposition that Taiwanese entrepreneurs could profit from attempting, in cooperation with certain Chinese interests, to peacefully render important features of PRC administered infrastructure economically obsolete. In connection with the three strengths Hsu sees in Taiwan relative to China, I believe that his choice of the modifier "potential" deserves further attention.

The relative preponderence of strong scientific training in Taiwan may continue to confer marginal advantage to contract manufacturers basing the R&D aspects of their operations in Hsinchu and Tainan, but tight profit margins and the risk of further economic shocks will compel them to consider further diversifying their investments. As I have written previously, network independent water and energy technologies may represent one such opportunity and moreover, an opportunity from which considerable positive environmental externalities could cascade and from which the PRC's command of critical aspects of related infrastructure might be rendered unnecessary and obsolete: a true "win-win" situation.

However, the application of this comparative advantage in scientific training may yet be undermined by the two other "strengths" Hsu identified. Firstly, the legal architecture in Taiwan, though it may in some nonobvious sense be "complete", fails to assign the costs of environmentally damaging externalities from manufacturing and agricultural industries to those most responsible for them. Consequently, market incentives for the production of efficient environmental technologies remain somewhat immature. This must be addressed correctly.

Secondly, the "sensitivity" of Taiwan to western culture has created a hothouse for the cross-pollination of western environmental evangelicals with Taiwanese advocates of further democratization. For Taiwanese people to oppose the current detente between the KMT and CCP on this democratic-environmentalist axis would be self-defeating. First of all such an axis would invariably seek to dictate the redistribution of scientific and financial resources into government regulations, carbon taxes and price controls in order to fulfill fantasies, already discredited, about saving the planet from global warming. Not only are the environmental benefits of these policies highly questionable since they consume the very capital needed to produce practical environmental technologies to market demand, but one can bet good money that such policies will not be adopted by the PRC in any event, thus rendering any local benefits irrelevant to the purported menace of global warming.

The cultural "sensitivity" of Taiwan identified by Hsu is evidently not shared by the "10:10" axis of environmental evangelicals who, apparently not content with David Reid and Paul Deacon's emulation of PRC-like attitudes of childish denial of their critics ("there is no scientific controversy"), have now revealed themselves for what they truly are in publicly portraying - on youtube - the vicious murder of people who merely happen to disagree with them.

Taiwanese people who value their freedom and independence must face the premises of these "environmentalists" squarely for what they really are - a dangerous distraction from the real threat to Taiwan: the PRC.

Yours freely,
Michael Fagan.

(Sent: Sunday 3rd October 2010. Unpublished by the Taipei Times)

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