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.