optimism vs realism

Ni hao from Taiwan, 

   Planet Earth is doomed; unmistakably, undeniably, inexorably doomed. Maybe it’s not completely stuffed just yet but we are heading over the cliff and there’s no sign of turning. One doesn’t need to visit Taiwan to know this, but a week here has confirmed the dread. 


   When Europeans and North Americans began transferring their manufacturing to cheap labour Asia, they were not only exporting their pollution but unwittingly consigning several generations of Asians to the poorly paid workforce. These people have been converted from self-employed to shackled labour. Worse than that, they dangled in front of billions the illusion that consumerism is the optimal way to organise ourselves. It isn’t. The factories of the world are here, and in China, and in Việt Nam, and in Bangladesh. Guess where air and water pollution are the worst.

250 kilometres

     The system which churns out more and more consumer goods, so that more people can buy them, so that the multiplier effect spurs the economy, is riddled with gigantic flaws. Taiwan exposes the flaw better than any. The western third of the main island is one continuous ribbon of light manufacturing, clustered around the railway lines.

There is no break in the ribbon between Taipei in the north and Pingtung in the south, a distance of about 250 kilometres. That’s more and more plastic goods and more and more plastic wrapping. Here in Taiwan, everything is wrapped in plastic; and that’s when it is destined for domestic consumption – even before export. We all know where the plastic ends up. And we all know the main ingredient in plastic. But plastic is not the biggest problem.

and more consumerism

    The optimist says the human race will invent new ways to forestall the catastrophe but the realist knows it’s too late already. The capitalist system now spawns corporations that are not just bigger than nations – in their turnover – but more powerful than nations. Elected governments are cowering under their thrall and the corporations want more consumerism, not less. For them, it’s more profits and stuff the rest!

a fee for going on the beach?
too many people

      Now that the Asian tigers are roaring, as they are undeniably entitled to do, they are exposing a fundamental flaw in the capitalist system: an expectation that there are inexhaustible resources there for production and subsequent consumption. When the resources are depleted, we invent new ones, including in the food we are eating. In the process, we provide the sustenance for further increased human population. Every problem on Earth has one common root: too many people. Yet, every facet of the capitalist system leads to more people. 

   Taiwan is not to blame for the impending disaster. They are playing the same game as the rest of the world, only slightly more effectively. The huge line of manufacturing here is a clarion call. It can’t go on like this. How about we return to the days when everything we did had tomorrow in the reckoning.

Cai cien from Taiwan


Other photos from hereabouts

Banyan Tree Liu Qiu
mosaic on a wall Ali Shan
theme park Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake
in Ali Shan
workers waiting at the railway station, Taipei
at Ali Shan

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