【編者的話】台灣,別再僥倖了!

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2009 / 9月

文‧李光真



2003年,歐洲出現罕見熱浪,家屋普遍沒裝冷氣的老人猝不及防,估計全歐因熱衰竭致死者,高達2萬,7000人。

2005年,5級颶風卡崔娜從世界強權美國手中奪走了1,836條人命;天災過後人禍上演,搶劫擄掠強姦,美麗的爵士之都紐奧良淪為人間煉獄。

澳洲連年旱災、中國超大雪災,去年,緬甸風災則捲走了13萬人的寶貴性命。原本氣候溫和的緬甸,面對罕見強颱幾乎一籌莫展,完全棄守。

地球暖化,氣候變遷,「別人家」的災難不斷上演,但潛意識裡我們一直相信,台灣是個福地,台灣是座幸運島。可不是,即使是地震,10年前921大震,兩千多人罹難誠然令人悲慟,但比起規模尚小一級度的日本阪神大震帶走六千多條人命,台灣還是有庇佑的。

這次不同,氣候變遷侵門踏戶,再也不容我們事不關己:一個中颱莫拉克,4天內「倒」下2,855公釐的暴雨,不僅遠超過台灣200年防洪標準,更可列入全球氣象史上的前4大極端降雨紀錄。環境工程學者李鴻源就表示,這樣的雨量如果下在別的國家,「可能就會亡國了!」

其實這幾年,侵台颱風的數量早已遽增(從以往每年平均3.5個增為2000年後的7個);颱風接二連三,導致危機放大。像這次,氣象局編號8號的莫拉克,被「夾」在7號與9號兩個颱風形成的大範圍低壓帶中動彈不得、滯留不去,雨量才會如此驚人。

此外,全球暖化、冰山消融,台灣附近海面平均每年上升2.5公釐(是全球平均值的2倍),西南部地層下陷的速率則高達每年7.9公釐。幾種數字相加、效應相乘,如果我們還要心存僥倖,以為莫拉克不過是個意外,是個「百年難遇」的怪颱,颱風過後日子照舊,那就太愚昧了。

天災威力倍增,人禍則始終未除,「還山於林、退地於河」的國土復育觀念,迄今仍在和「搶修,搶通」、「一定要重建家園!」等老口號在拔河。莫拉克六百多條人命,是否足以喚起大家的覺醒,猶在未定之天!

說「大家」,是因為我們都是其中的一份子,誰也不能置身事外。即使今天做志工救災送飯,但如果明天又去住非法濫建的溫泉旅館,去買危地超限利用的高冷蔬果,那麼,短短幾天的善行,恐怕仍抵不過長期的「幫凶」行徑。

在賈德•戴蒙所寫的《大崩壞》中,分析了全球歷史上多個著名文明崩毀的環境原因,這5大原因包括:生態環境的破壞、氣候變遷、強鄰威脅、友邦支持消失,以及最重要的──應變能力不足。

關於群體決策與應變能力的可能失誤,戴蒙指出,一是群體無法在災禍敲門前預見未來;二是問題已經浮現,但大家還是懵懵懂懂,不能察覺問題。三是,終於察覺了,但沒能想辦法解決;最後是,大家可能努力解決,但沒有成功。

沒有成功的下場,可能是南太平洋一度死寂的復活節島,可能是中美洲密林深掩的馬雅文明,也可能是繁華如煙的格陵蘭維京人文明。或許多數人此生不會目睹,但今日的一切辛勤,終歸塵土。

莫拉克過後的台灣,無疑已察覺問題,已想要努力解決,但能不能成功?則需要更大的決心和更完善的行動方案。讓我們祈禱,這六百多位民眾的犧牲,是警訊,不是喪鐘。

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EN

[Editor's Note] Don't Count on Luck!

Laura Li /tr. by Scott Williams


In 2003, Europe experienced an excep-tionally intense heat wave that caught elderly persons in homes without air conditioning by surprise and led to an estimated 27,000 deaths.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina took 1,836 lives in the United States. But the passing of the storm marked only the beginning of the human disaster. Robbery, looting, and rape turned beautiful, jazzy New Orleans into a hell on earth.

Recent years have seen a multiyear drought in Australia and major blizzards in China. The typhoon that struck Myanmar in 2008 killed 130,000. Myanmar has a relatively mild climate, and the typhoon's landfall was an almost unprecedented event.

Those of us in Taiwan have been aware of global warming, climate change, and the steady stream of disasters striking others for some time, but have nonetheless always believed, albeit unconsciously, that ours was a charmed island. Taiwan was admittedly very fortunate to have suffered only 2,000-some fatalities in the Chi Chi Earthquake of 1999, far fewer than the 6,000-plus caused by the less intense Kobe Earthquake.

But this was different. This time, we couldn't just shrug off climate change as somebody else's problem. Typhoon Morakot dropped 2,855 millimeters of rain on our island over a four-day period, an amount far beyond our 200-year-event standard for flood control and which ranks in the top four most extreme amounts of rainfall in recorded meteorological history.

In recent years, increasing numbers of typhoons have struck Taiwan. In fact, their numbers have risen from an historical average of about 3.5 per year to about seven per year since 2000. The storms have also tended to follow one another closely, making them even more destructive. Typhoon Morakot, for example, was the eighth typhoon of the season and wedged into a low-pressure trough between the year's seventh and ninth typhoons, which slowed it down and allowed it to dump huge amounts of rain on Taiwan.

Global warming and shrinking ice sheets are raising sea levels in Taiwan's vicinity by an average of 2.5 mm per year (about double the global average), while southwestern Taiwan is subsiding at a rate of about 7.9 mm per year. When you add the numbers together, the notions that Morakot was a fluke and that the typhoon seasons of the future will revert to pattern seem unlikely.

As the threat of natural disasters multiplies, human beings suffer. In recent years, efforts to restore our nation's land have still been based on some outdated ideas. Will the more than 600 Taiwanese deaths from Typhoon Morakot finally awaken us all to the uncertainty of our collective fate?

I say "us all" because we are all a part of this. For all that we may spend today delivering food to disaster victims, if we spend tomorrow at an illegal hot-spring spa or buying cabbages grown on fragile, overexploited slopelands, we're perpetuating the long-term problem.

In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond looks at the collapse of some of the world's great civilizations, and identifies contributing factors that include ecological destruction, climate change, powerful neighbors, loss of allies, and, most importantly, the failure to adapt.

Diamond argues that civilizations likely lose the ability to make decisions and adapt for several reasons: first, out of an inability to visualize the future when disaster looms nigh, and, second, out of an inability to comprehend the situation once the disaster has emerged. He also discusses civilizations that recognize the problem but are unable to find a solution, and others that fail in spite of everyone's best efforts.

His list of civilizations that failed include those of the Easter Islanders, the Mayans, and the Vikings. While most of us won't see it in our lifetimes, it is likely that the fruits of all our own hard work will ultimately turn to dust.

Typhoon Morakot has certainly awakened Taiwan to the problem. Now that we're working on a solution, the question becomes whether we can find one in time. To do so, we will need even greater determination and better courses of action. Let's pray that the unfortunate loss of these 600 Taiwanese turns out to have been an alarm bell rather than the death knell of our society.

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