Tuesday, November 13, 2012

For island of Tuvalu, time is slowly running out -- OPED by Vincent Huang of Taiwan

Vincent J.F. Huang (黃瑞芳), an eco-artist from Taiwan, writes:

As I write these words, I am preparing to fly to an international climate conference in Doha in Qatar,
as an independent climate activist from Taiwan. COP 18 (the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change) is on tap, and I will go there as part of a delegation from the island
nation of Tuvalu, where I have exhibited some of my eco-art installations before.

While Taiwan does not have many climate activists working in the
international arena, it's my goal to put my stamp as an artist on climate issues worldwide. My goal
is to help wake up the world -- and
Taiwan -- about the very real dangers of unchecked climate change and
global warming in the future.

This week in Doha, I plan to make a plea for

more attention to be paid to people of the Pacific

island of Tuvalu. I created several climate-related art installations

over the past few years to draw more

international attention to the situation Tuvalu is facing in regard to

rising sea levels. It's not going to be a pretty picture if worst comes to worst,

and many islanders and Tuvalu officials are worried.

It's take time and money for an independent artist like me to travel to places

like Tuvalu and Doha, without government support. I've been lucky to get some

travel grants from the Taipei Yuan Shan Rotary Club. (台北圓山扶輪社) for my first two visits to

Tuvalu, and I'm grateful. Taiwan's ambassador in Tuvalu, Larry Tseng (曾瑞利), was also very helpful

to me.

However, in general, it's difficult for independent artists like me

to get funding in

Taiwan since my climate-related works are not for sale or for investment by art

collectors. Many corporate enterprises in Taiwan talk a lot

about eco-friendly beliefs but very few CEOs want to help me or other Taiwanese artists like me.

I was born in 1971 in the small town of Shuili (水里) in Nantou

County (南投), and as a young man I remember very well the killer earthquake of September 21, 1991.

That earthquake made

me start to think hard about the relationships between man and nature,and then later, as an artist, I knew

I needed to say something about the destructive power of nature through

my works."

So here I am in Qatar attending COP 18, and exhibiting some of my art pieces on the sidelines

of the meetings. I see my job to remind people that we

are all global citizens who should be aware of and responsible for

current and and future environmental problems.

My view of the future for the island nation of Taiwan and the entire planet? I'm worried, but of course I cannot

predict exactly what will happen or when. Will parts of Taipei City be under water someday due to rising sea

levels worldwide when major parts of Greenland and Antarctica glaciers melt? It could happen.

We need some new approaches to wake people up. News

reports, visual images on television and blogs about the earthquake

and tsunami Japan and Superstorm Sandy recently in Manhattan and New

Jersey showed just how unpredictable Nature can be. We Taiwanese need to be on

alert, too. Natural disasters can be up close and real as Typhoon Morakot showed.

And for people living in Arctic regions and in a remote

island nation like Tuvalu, future disasters could be real. As a Taiwanese

eco-artist, I feel we

all need to face these issues no matter where we live on this planet

now. That's why I've come to Qatar.

I feel that the economic system of capitalism is one of the

key reasons for the lack of progress at climate conferences in the past, and

I worry the COP 18 might turn out the same.

Sadly, the leaders of both developing countries and wealthy nations

care only about their own economic situations, and they selfishly

refuse to do much or anything to solve our climate or environmental

issues worldwide.

Next year, I am going to work with an international group hoping to protect the

polar regions of our planet and take part in a three-week visit to the Arctic in


I hope Taiwan can

take a more active part in global efforts on climate issues in the

future, and help to put Taiwan on the world map in a new way, too.

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