2012年12月8日 星期六

Who should define sustainable city?

Who should define sustainable city?


This article is a very brief excerpt from my master's thesis. Actually, I was going to send this piece of work to a research center based in Copenhagen in order to apply for an internship. Due to some reasons, I had to give up and therefore this article would not be able to be showed on their website. Now I would love to post it on my own blog and share with the people who also have the interests in sustainability issue as well as Stuttgart 21. This article only delivered what had been going on until this February. I would love to hear from any update and different perspectives. 

Stuttgart, the capital of state Baden-Württemberg located in Southwestern Germany, is home to many automobile industries such as Mercedes and Porsche. It is not only the cluster of high technology but also one of the strongest and most prosperous commercial metropolitan areas in Germany. Now, there have been many controversies over the rail project Stuttgart 21.

Stuttgart 21 is one part of the Stuttgart-Ulm rail project and its mission is to reconstruct and transformed present station, which is a terminal station on the ground, into an underground, through station. One of the guidelines of this project is sustainable development based on the definition by the Brundtlandt Commission in 19871. With Stuttgart 21, rail will become a more attractive and convenient way of traveling / commuting, and therefore it will reshape the traffic landscape by shifting passengers from road to rail. This shift will subsequently reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emission by 70, 000 tonnes per year2. In addition, due to the tunnelization, the noise pollution will sink underground creating a quiet place for living and working3. The clout of sustainable guideline can also be achieved in the developmental planning upon the new-born land with around 100 hectares in consequence of the tunnelization4. Firstly, the history of urban expansion in expense of green land will not be repeated. Secondly, the around 20 hectares among the enlarging land – with 4,200 of new plants to be planted – will be integrated into the present park, which means the green lung of Stuttgart city will become larger5. Thirdly, future’s building upon the new land will be built based on ecological standard referring to sustainable material and non-fossil fuel6.

The opponents of this project, however, have very different views of point. For instance, as some of the local people point out, the promises of Stuttgart 21 regarding are not guaranteed since the charming figures are calculated based on the wrong information7. In addition, there are some latent risks emerging if Stuttgart 21 is going to progress. For example, the station construction will impact the layers that keep the deposit of mineral water, and thus creating a risk of leaking and drying up8. The geology is also the concern. Beneath Stuttgart city lies the porous layer of anhydrite; when being contact with water, it becomes gypsum while simultaneously swelling9. The expanding and swelling layer indicates to the possibility of damage to the station, tunnel, and everything else above. Moreover, the explicit damage could be seen in Schlossgarten, the park next to train station. Owing to Stuttgart 21, nearly 300 trees have to be felled, and this means the species – protected Juchtenkäfer (hermit beetle in English) among them – which rely on these plants are to be fallen as well10. The action of planting 4,200 new trees is not going to save Juchtenkäfer since only elder and bigger ones can serve as the niche for this insect11. Moreover, the new land is going to be riddled with buildings and grassy areas and thus leaves no room for the claimed 4,200 population. And, those will-be-absent trees will subsequently make the air condition notorious since an estimated 65,000 trees are needed for absorbing CO212.

On 27th November 2011, there was a referendum taken place aimed to settle down the dispute. The outcome was that 58% of the voters wanted it to be continued13. However, this direct democracy was not able to put off the flares in opponents’ angry minds since there were controversies over information transparency. In addition, the common ground was kept up in the air when no constructive mechanism was offered for different sides. In the end, given the democratic values, the undesired risk followed by fear is still there.

Therefore, the case of Stuttgart 21 only shows that what sustainability looks like could be different from person to person. It prompts today’s society to ruminate on how we can pay attention and respect diverse voices in order to reach sustainable city. Scientific expert and institutional policy are indeed important. However, if we could not include diverse values and knowledge, the city would lose its soul. After all, sustainable city is the place where local people are going to live, the field where local knowledge knows how to interact with the environment harmoniously and sustainably.


1 “Construction and the environment: Urban and environmentally compatible construction,” Stuttgart-Ulm rail project, http://www.bahnprojekt-stuttgart-ulm.de/en-gb/environmentally-compatible-mobility/default.aspx

2 ”21 good reasons: for Stuttgart 21,” Stuttgart-Ulm rail project, http://www.das-neue-herz-europas.de/en-gb/21-good-reasons/default.aspx

3 ”21 good reasons: for Stuttgart 21,” Stuttgart-Ulm rail project, http://www.das-neue-herz-europas.de/en-gb/21-good-reasons/default.aspx

4 ”21 good reasons: for Stuttgart 21,” Stuttgart-Ulm rail project, http://www.das-neue-herz-europas.de/en-gb/21-good-reasons/default.aspx

5 ”21 good reasons: for Stuttgart 21,” Stuttgart-Ulm rail project, http://www.das-neue-herz-europas.de/en-gb/21-good-reasons/default.aspx

6 ”21 good reasons: for Stuttgart 21,” Stuttgart-Ulm rail project, http://www.das-neue-herz-europas.de/en-gb/21-good-reasons/default.aspx

7 “Service capability,” Stuttgart – a city in conflict, http://www.stop-stuttgart21.info/html/service.html

8“Ökologisch & nachhaltig,” Ja zum Kopfbahnhof: Kopfbahnhof 21, http://www.kopfbahnhof-21.de/index.php?id=307

9”mineral springs and geology,” Stuttgart – a city in conflict, http://www.stop-stuttgart21.info/html/mineral.html

10”the park "Schlossgarten" and ecological concerns,” Stuttgart – a city in conflict , http://www.stop-stuttgart21.info/html/park.html

11 ”the park "Schlossgarten" and ecological concerns,” Stuttgart – a city in conflict , http://www.stop-stuttgart21.info/html/park.html

12 ”the park "Schlossgarten" and ecological concerns,” Stuttgart – a city in conflict , http://www.stop-stuttgart21.info/html/park.html

13 “The Referendum,” Stuttgart – a city in conflict, http://www.stop-stuttgart21.info/html/referendum2.html

2012年12月6日 星期四

Taiwanese Sometimes! Please show us your divine manifestation! (the edited version) (台灣三太子! 請顯靈保庇台灣)

Thanks for  E. Hamann and K. Weiners's editing.

I have done my best to find the most proper English translation of the Taiwanese god dancing in the picture above. You may call him the "Neon God or the Third Prince. You can also call him Saitaize In this article, I will call him "(Taiwanese) sometimes" instead, which is similar to the pronunciation of Saitaize. This name is also used by the man in this picture who clad in the costume of the God.

This person is called Ed Wu. According to his blog (which is in Chinese only for the time being), the reason why he would love to launch this initiative is because of Taiwan's invisibility as well as the flag-stripped incidents seen in many international occasions. This came from his own personal experience when he was in Singapore 2008. In 2011, he set up his first journey with Sometimes, one of the elements representing Taiwanese culture. The film Where the hell is that Taiwan guy documented this spectacular trip. What he has done touched Taiwanese emotionally and made them want to help him in different ways to accomplish his ultimate goal: traveling to 100 countries, making footage in different places that will be compiled as a  stunning documentary in the hope of bringing Taiwan to the front stage of the world.

This summer London held the Olympic Games. Millions of tourists came to the city. London was the spotlight of the world, and thus the perfect stage for Taiwanese. It was not surprising that Ed decided to go , called for help from students and compatriots, and make the film there. It was such a big chance of making Taiwan highly visible, of making more people know we Taiwanese are the citizens of the world as well.

Ed's activity in London was on the 29th of July. Originally I had planned to go to Brussels on the 26th and therefore would not be able to attend the activity. However, there was an incident that happened some days before that event. The flag hanging in Piccadilly Circus was removed under the pressure from "someone," and we all knew who it was. This ending was not unexpected. However, I felt so insulted and angry as long as I saw the empty place where our flag should have occupied. Under this condition, I decided to stay longer so I could make contributions to the event on 29th. 

On that day, the number of present Taiwanese was beyond what Ed had expected. After the film was finished, we went from Regent's Park to Piccadilly Circus to continue on the Taiwanese pride. At the place where our real flag was stripped off and replaced by a ridiculous compromise called "Chinese Taipei Olympic Flag",   we shared the merriness and pride in being Taiwanese  with people from all over the world. The National Flag Anthem also resonated among every Taiwanese present there. At that moment, I believe that one sort of unspoken feeling could be felt with every participant, with joy, sorrow, many different emotions deluging deep inside.

It might be very difficult for most  people who didn't grow up in Taiwan to understand how complicated and difficult the situation has been. It's also very hard for many of them to imagine the fear of losing one's home country, being annexed by the would-be super power which doesn't know how to respect different perspectives and voices yet.  Owing to international reality based on military power and commercial profits, many countries don't recognize Taiwan, ROC, as a normal country. This is one of the reasons why Taiwan as a de facto country has been invisible in the world.

With Taiwan's increasing dependence on China's market, Beijing has begun to wield its leverage on many facets as well. Subsequently, what we could see was that some of the most successful tycoons, who have been in pursuit of the lion's share of the Chinese market politically and commercially, had come to the forefront and delivered the statements before the presidential election was held early this year, hoping to influence  the final result.  

I believe those powerful persons did have influence on some voters. However, no matter how much he or she bought the words, the reality was that more and more Taiwanese would rather consider the issues relevant to their and their families' financial situation. Some are fighting for the survival threatened by the crisis while some are pursuing the stable lives referring to the so called "reality". Work takes over their lives as well as the room for different possibilities. In addition, mass media without quality and battles between political parties that always establish nothing both make  society more chaotic and pathetic. Social and international consciousness don't exist at all. Neither change nor ideal has niche in  Taiwanese society.  

What Ed has been doing shows that we Taiwanese have to think beyond conventional values and do something different, stepping forward and out of our comfort zone if we really want to change the status quo that chokes us. His case also reflects that there are indeed many citizens doing something with tons of endeavor for the island and their people, in different ways, in every sense. Furthermore, Ed serves as a muse for the people who want to do something and as the warmest inspiration for the folks who, for the time being, are not able to afford any single tiny revolution in daily life.

Actually, it rained a lot in the beginning of the film making. I recalled that there was someone screaming out: "Taiwanese Sometimes! Please show us your divine manifestation!" This praying-for-sunshine line might to some extent show how urgent and difficult Taiwan's situation is; the 23 million citizens of the island may have to pray for a miracle. But before the miracle falls upon us, we have to do something first. Ed's initiative in London embodies that Taiwanese people can be unified and do something big together, with the pride of being one part of the land. 

The sun showed up after a while actually. I hope it will be what we Taiwanese are going to see and enjoy in the recent future to come.

2012年10月21日 星期日

The Duet Performed by Kosovar and Taiwanese

Kosovo, an officially new-born country in the 2000s, and one of the poorest countries in Europe, is the destination to whom I was eager to go last summer in 2011. The reason I felt like going might be simply based on my own superficial projection referring to Taiwanese identity which has been rejected by international reality. 

Before I went to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, I had heard about some descriptions in regards with this city. For example, a polish girl I met in Ljubljana mentioned that (it was said) there were still some mines rested in many buildings. The owner of the hostel in Tivat where I stayed wrapped Pristina as a scary city with his jokingly erratic facial expression. Moreover, there was a Montenegrin guy told me that generally Kosovo was not a good place to visit then. There have been many sad and ugly things conducted by Serbians as well as by Kosovars. One of his uncle lost his lives during the war. 

All these comments may merely point to some facades among others. Nevertheless, it's no doubt that the legacy of the conflict was still there, and the tense between it and Serbia appeared to keep lasting for the coming generations. 

The journey to Pristina was long enough to help escalate the anxiety and nervousness in mind. Meanwhile, the rugged but breathtaking mountains eased my nerves. A Macedonian Australian guy and a beautiful Macedonian girl sat around me, both of whom were so friendly and chatted with me, also made me feel somewhat relieved. 

As long as the bus crossed the border, I overlooked the settlement located in the dark valley surrounded by the silent mountains. It's really hard for a person like me coming from a country with long peaceful situation to imagine the bullet-riddled grounds which just had been so real in the recent past. 

It was a few minutes to 4 a.m. when I woke up everyone who was heading for Skopje. The bus was pulled over on the side of the main road, where a fleet of tanks just passed. I went inside the bus station, taking a nap until 7 a.m. 

I observed the city landscape of Pristina from inside while the taxi rolled its wheels in the city. It was so different from the places where I had been to in Europe then. I felt as if I was watching a program on national geographic channel. The image impact became even stronger when I walked on the street after settling in hostel. Kosovo is for sure located in Europe, and I knew that it was such a different place given its history and culture. However, the landscape still made my frame of understanding fall apart; Mosque, music, traffic, market, tradutional custome, building, and so on all, every element here formed the slides that dazzled my eyes. 

Perhaps it's almost impossible to be a blank sheet of music paper when exploring a place you haven't been to before. In the very beginning every melody you write to a large extent denotes the clout of your assumption and understanding based on former experiences. The following key point is how to find different stories behind the evidences that are seemingly  in accordance with what you have been taught and told. It seemed that I didn't do this well. To me, the air was saturated with the legacy of the war against Serbia. The overflow of sad moisture was not condensed into rainwater and therefore the objects were surrounded by the depressed fog, looking gray, mottled, and dusty. The photos of missing people during the war hang on the wall of the governmental building (next to the Skanderberg statue) particularly weighted this kind of sorrowfulness. It reminded us of how real and horrible the war has been. It also manifested what innocent folks couldn't beg for option but luck when this kind of repeatedly historical trajectory  on the rail. 

Due to the escalating tension in the border with Serbia then, I determined not to linger here for too long. After two days of stay, I headed for Tirana from Pristina directly. Looking out from the window with the bus lurching forward on the main road to Tirana, while the desolate, ever-battled, wounded land cascading from horizon  in front of my eyes, recalling the Roma boy who might also crystal the solitude, I saw no immediate hope. 

It was apparently that I came up with this no-hope statement  based on not only the assumptions mentioned above but also my own definition shaped by my growing up in Taiwan of how the life should look like. Taiwan hasn't experience war for more than half a century. Since Chiang Kei-shek retreated to Taiwan in 1949, the island, including other small ones scattered on the ocean, has undergone dramatically changes and vicissitudes. These days Taiwan has removed the shackles of poverty / totalitarian rule and standed out in the world with its own fierceness. What I have grown up along with made it difficult for me to imagine how a country like Kosovo could recover from the wound and trauma and then regain its gorgeousness again.

In fact, there has been one hope existing in this land since the end of the war. Namely, Kosovars  have their own country at least. There are around 90 political entities that have recognized Kosovo as a country such as most of the EU members, US, Canada, and Japan. In other words, for the coming future Kosovars could keep enjoying their own identity without worrying about the insulting and confusing from outside, or, Serbia. The recognition from (most of) EU and US is like the ticket to the international community, the official and "normal" one. 

As for Taiwan, in contrast, China's threatening is becoming immense and closer. Tons of profits that can gained from China's market make most of the world silent in rights and justice regarding with Taiwanese people. Only around twenty countries still maintain official relationships with the island with most of them underpinned by the desire of money. The more and more difficulty situation in the international community and complicated historical legacies make many stuffs politically important. Meanwhile, emotionally burdensome and annoying, even the tiny things as well. The money thing, now matter it is related to the seduction of filthy lucre from China or simply refers to the basic survival, makes the situation more perplexing in this crisis era. Under those conditions, many  folks choose to be silent, pathetic, and, you may call it, practical.

Of course, the definition of hope varies. But both Kosovar and Taiwanese would like to keep having and looking their own hopes. What we (they) ask for, are simply the respect. Without respect, how could the easy and normal life fall upon us?

But, as I have said, Kosovar has their own country, and therefore other kind of hopes could be built upon its land. Taiwanese? I see no immediate hope.

2012年9月23日 星期日

I owe you an apology, Sweden.

It really got on my nerves if someone asked me about the lives in Sweden.

For the past two years I had been in pursuit of the master’s degree called Human Ecology in Lund University of Sweden. During this span of time, I studied and partied as other international students did. However, I also moved around. I had stayed in seven different places in Lund / Malmö, which was very rare to be seen among the things happening to students. Owing to the nomadic life style, I got few chances to dive into Swedish culture. Besides, the mates I lived with and the friends I got close to were nearly from non-Nordic countries. Namely, what I or we learned could be very superficial and stereotypical. Even though I attended cafe multilingual, where I got to know some nice Swedes, it was hardly found even only one piece of jigsaw to complete the picture.

Maybe language barrier made one of the obstacles. Because I didn’t plan to stay in Sweden after finishing the degree, Swedish class became so secondary; meanwhile, I was busy…and lazy as well, all these factors – or you may call them excuses – led to my illiteracy in Swedish. Language doesn’t guarantee that an outsider could be like the fish in the water forever and ever, but it at least paves the road – no matter how far it can actually reach – for a newcomer to step forward.

Emotion also played important roles in making my excuses. I would say that this was the Lucifer among others. In the beginning, the idyllic scenes of Skåne province as well as the tranquil of Lund did fresh my flesh which had been exhausted by the social ties and mainstream values back in my home country Taiwan. I could still recall how fragrant the air was when I opened the window of my first home I stay, which was located on 10th floor of a flat, enabling me to overlook the south of Lund. Even the opening chapter of snow – though a bit early at the time – didn’t render the coming difficulty winter foreseeable given that I was obsessed with the white would for the first time in my life.

The good days did not last long. The Nordic put on a cruel face when northern hemisphere moved closer mile by mile to the sun as it has done since the earth emerged. The endless darkness, accompanied by tones of falling snow breaking the record in years, was beyond the mental preparation I have made and transcending all the alarms I had got from my friends. The rural quietude ironically appeared as the once-excited drug that ended up enervating your body. No matter how hard I had tried, it was super difficult to uproot the melancholy planted deep inside.

This very first winter I experienced made me unreasonably critical when confronting any single unpleasant stuff; the accusation of racism in particular. For instance, one day before 2011 Valborg I was hit by an egg-like object thrown from a car passing by. It happened so transient that I didn’t know how many people were in the car, not to mention what they looked like. As I said that this happened when the crazy Valborg was coming, this could be done by someone who couldn’t wait and thus got drunk earlier than other Swedes have always done. In addition, the driver might come from Denmark or other member states of EU. Well, you may say that it was not so cynical attributing this event to racism since the possibility was there and it did cause uncomfortable reaction. OK, there were more. There was a lady in the supermarket across from Lund main station seemed to dislike checking the tag attached to every single apple, which meant that different tags referred to different prices. Under this situation, I didn’t always pay what I got. I perceived this as racism every time the same case happened. Furthermore, the other day I went to a cafe to read the literatures for my thesis. After I finished my drink, a waiter came to me and said that he felt sorry to ask me leave but only the customers who were going to have lunch would be served. I looked around the not-so-crowded space and found that I was the only one being asked to do so given that there were others who ordered drink only. And I also realized that I was the only Asian at that point while others were Swedish, or, at least white.

the Valborg in Lund, 2011

Both of these cases could have some reasons rather than racism. The lady might simply not enjoy her job, and perhaps the man in cafe went asking other customers to leave later when I was not present. However, I was too negative to look at the bright sides. Even the fantastic summer here couldn’t emancipate me from the prejudice built upon my subjectivity and shallow knowledge of this Nordic country. Under this condition, my words with regard to the lives in Sweden, or to the country Sweden, were relatively harsh. Every good part of Swedish life would lose its luster when my bitter experience loomed and then took over the stage.

After finishing my master’s degree, I went to London to take a break from academia. This trip manifested that the life in Lund eventually had come to an end, maybe temporarily, maybe for good. This was my second time being in London. I was still enchanted by its glamorousness and colorfulness. In my case, London is like the antithesis of Sweden. There are many things for sure that can easily disfigure London’s gorgeousness, such as the unpredictable weather and the crazy tourists springing from every corner of the city. Nevertheless, I am still obsessed with it. Every dark side of London would fade its gloom when my fantastic experience shined on the stage. In other words, one can love or hate a place with or without any reason.

How London was highly rated (by me) sometimes, only sometimes, made me want to examine how the life in Lund was underrated. The prejudice and complaints appeared to obscure every single piece of good memory. Was I going to leave Europe with so many unfair comments on Sweden? Did Sweden, or Lund, change me in any good way?

The other day, my friends and I were planning to go somewhere by bus. As soon as I got on the bus, I smiled and said hi to the driver. After a while, I found that I was the only passenger in that queue who had done this. At that moment I saw Sweden in me. In fact I don’t know if it was like an unwritten statute all over Sweden. At least people in Lund / Malmö do so, with heart or not. It was possible that this polite manner was simply a routine. Nevertheless, I still believe that six or seven out of ten times people conduct this with their thanks.

From this event onwards, the good parts of the past two years started to emerge, or, to be recalled; the deadline of paper which did not exist indeed, the F which can possibly be nominal, the men with baby trolleys, the space design which fully embodies gender equality, the second-handed store that can be seen everywhere…etc. All these things represented the alternatives I could have in my life, or served as the mirror which reflected what I can learn from and what I should cling to in order to change, or fight against, the main stream society in Taiwan. Of course all of these values were possibly my shallow observations as well, but at least I started to look at the surface which glowed in the Nordic sunshine.

I do apologize, Sweden. Well I still have to say that the winter is no doubt horrible. Nevertheless, I would like to say thank you for the company. I also appreciate the things you have taught me for the past two years (oh...less than two years since I went to so many places during the stay in Europe); I do change in a positive and subtle way, as you have always done when you stand out in front of the world.