21 February 2008

Today is the Lantern Festival in Taiwan

In fact it started yesterday but today is also a big day of celebration. New concerns rise among environmentalists as the lanterns sent into the air at the occasion may be a strong cause of pollution:
"Every year the debris from thousands of burned-out lanterns litters the Taiwan countryside. Some even ignite fires: In 2006, according to press reports, a sky lantern set a field on fire next to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, sending up huge clouds of smoke and forcing officials to temporarily shut a runway." (Herald Tribune, 20/02/08)

The debate opposes environmentalists and authorities who promote the festival as it is a very important source of revenue and economic development. The article also recalls that the lantern Festival is not the only Chinese tradition to be questioned : for example, some alternative solutions are also figured out about the burning of paper money for the ghosts or, in mainland China, authorities had to take some measures to prevent people from burning plastic cellphones or any kind of plastic objects as offerings for the defunt souls... As well, every year, some people show some concerns about the tradition of doing a barbecue during the mid-automn festival.

The "technological" alternatives such as virtually lighting a lantern on internet seem not to be satisfying for the moment... and if we'd just try to invent some new activities more eco-friendly to compete and maybe also to balance the negative effects of these traditions that people still cherish a lot?

13 February 2008

Dear All,

In Taiwan, February 28th is a memorial day for the incident that happened in 1947 and led to the death of thousands of civilians. By coming to terms with its memories, a society is able to build up consent and harmony among its members. However it is never easy to achieve a balance between “
justice” and “reconciliation”. This is the issue we are exploring this month.

In this line, Bob Ronald distinguishes between a
Merciful Justice and a Judicious Mercy. And previously on eRenlai, Brian Mc Coy had explored the topic as experienced by Australian Aboriginal community: A government who can’t say ‘sorry’. Also, watch a photo variation by Liang Zhun on “giving a hand to a friend”.
Among our editorials, Benoit celebrates the coming of his Chinese zodiacal year:
The Year of the Rat. Also, have a different look at some of the objects in our everyday life: plastic bags and scooters. Roy Berman draws the map of a floating continent of garbage while I ponder whether or not to buy a scooter

Bob is also a master in the art of rewriting classic tales: discover his own personal version of the
Emperor’s new suit.

Also, Joel Ciceron has contributed to our database on China and Taiwan’s environmental issues: go to
(please allow some time for downloading).

We wish you a Happy Chinese New Year. May the year of the Rat be propitious!

L'année de la ratoune

Bonjour à tous,

A Taiwan, le 28 février commémore l’incident survenu en 1947 qui causa la mort de milliers de personnes. Chaque société doit sans doute exercer cet effort de mémoire et de retour sur son passé pour pouvoir créer un consensus et atteindre l’harmonie entre ses membres. Cependant, il n’est pas aisé de trouver un équilibre entre «
justice » et « réconciliation » ; c’est là le thème que nous développons ce mois-ci.

Bob Ronald propose ainsi de faire la distinction entre une « justice clémente » et une « clémence judicieuse » : Merciful Justice and a Judicious Mercy. Brian Mc Coy avait également déjà abordé le sujet dans un article qui relate l’expérience des aborigènes en Australie: A government who can’t say ‘sorry’. Ou encore, découvrez une variation photographique de Liang Zhun sur les gestuelles du pardon.
Parmi nos éditoriaux, Benoît célèbre l’arrivée de son signe astrological chinois:
l’Année du Rat! Par ailleurs, les objets qui nous entourent ne sont pas aussi anodins qu’ils en ont l’air : saviez-vous qu’il existe des continents flottants faits de sacs plastiques ? Pour ma part, je m’interroge sur les bienfaits de l’acquisition d’un scooter à Taipei

Par ailleurs, Bob, qui est passé maître dans l’art de réécrire les contes de notre enfance, nous présente sa version personnelle des «
Habits neufs de l’empereur ».

En outre, Joël Cicéron nous a aidé à enrichir notre documentation sur les problèmes environnementaux en Chine et à Taiwan: pour en savoir plus, rendez-vous sur
(Nous vous prions d’être patients en regard des temps de chargements) !

Nous vous souhaitons un joyeux nouvel an chinois. Que l’année du Rat vous soit propice à tous !

"Sorry" at last

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd expressed this week a formal apology for the wrongs committed against Aborigines in the past.

"Mr Rudd said he apologised "especially" to the Stolen Generations of young Aboriginal children who were taken from their parents in a policy of assimilation which lasted from the 19th Century to the late 1960s." (BBC News, 13/02/08)

Previously on Renlai magazine Brian Mc Coy had already discussed this topic through the angle of the "sorry"ceremonies led by Aborigines in Australia: A government who can’t say ‘sorry’

Scooter or no scooter?

I have been living in Taiwan for two years and a half and I am a pitiful pedestrian. As a matter of fact, in Taipei, the pedestrian is not at all the ruler of the street. The true king of the streets (and the sidewalks) in Taipei is the scooter.
At first it could look practical to move about the city on two motorized wheels as a real urbanite! Scooters are fast, not that expensive in Taiwan and easy to park… Easy to park? Really? There are more or less one million scooters in Taipei for its more than 2,600,000 population which means that there is almost one scooter for every three persons in the city! I could verify this number on a smaller scale citing my Taiwanese relatives: my family of four members living in Taipei owns a total of three scooters and two cars!

Moreover, scooters in Taipei are also a notorious danger for pedestrians, bicycles and for themselves! At least half of the people I know have had an accident involving a scooter and it’s astonishing to see how much the radiography rooms are crowded in the hospitals. A friend of mine, a hard-practicing-scooterer, once told me that she has to frequently bypass the security driving rules because of other scooters! For example, Taipei streets have on the largest streets a special place designated on the ground where scooters can wait for the light to become green; according to my friend, there is always one scooter starting to cross while the light is still red, then all the other scooters have also to cross at once so half of the herd is already in the middle of the street and the other half is urging poor you in the middle to do the same… I can still point out that, although everyone shares the same instinct of survival, the herds’ ways of acting are perhaps not the best ones to preserve one’s life and, in this case, they especially do discourage any courtesy between the street users.

Also, in the motorized jungle of the city, the scooters and motorcycles have their own predators: cars, taxis, trucks and buses. A new trend of smoking completely the windshield of four-wheel drives so that the driver cannot be seen from outside just worsens the discrepancy between the hard world of the street person and the safe cocoon of the big car. Apart from the fact that the people outside have no idea if the driver has spotted them or not, it also appears to be a lousy way to drive and to interact with others. If “I” feel good, I do not need to worry about others’ feelings even less about their safety.

For your information: production and sales of cars doubled in 2007 on the Chinese market which is the second biggest in the world after the US.
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