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Dissenting Island Voices: Environmental Campaigns in Tasmania and Taiwan Henry C. L. Chen 1 and Peter Hay 2 1 Department of Leisure Management, Leader.

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Presentation on theme: "Dissenting Island Voices: Environmental Campaigns in Tasmania and Taiwan Henry C. L. Chen 1 and Peter Hay 2 1 Department of Leisure Management, Leader."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dissenting Island Voices: Environmental Campaigns in Tasmania and Taiwan Henry C. L. Chen 1 and Peter Hay 2 1 Department of Leisure Management, Leader University, Tainan, Taiwan 2 Centre for Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


3 The paper reports the first stage of a trans-jurisdictional, trans- cultural study of island environmental activism. It compares and contrasts the iconic environmental campaigns of Tasmania and Taiwan – the Franklin-Gordon ‘wild rivers’ campaign in the first case; the Chilan Forest campaign in the second. It details the unfolding of each campaign, then looks at the level of governments involved; the institutional fault lines that developed – ‘turf wars’ between government agencies in Tasmania, ‘pen wars’ between academics in Taiwan; the scale of campaign operations; activist tactics; and the significance, within their respective contexts, of each iconic campaign. It sketches how each campaign ‘fits’ a wider context of environmental activism. The paper concludes with an agenda for future research.

4 Environmental Activism in Tasmania: The Iconic Case of the Gordon-below-Franklin Dam Campaign



7 The bitterly contested struggle for the Franklin-Gordon Rivers in the early 1980s, was the most important environmental issue in Tasmania to that time and, indeed, since. It was a major historical turning point in natural resource management in the island, and THE key event in shaping the ensuing quarter-century of island politics. It has national significance as the highest profile ‘wilderness’ preservation contest the Australian political system has ever witnessed, and a claim can be made for this controversy as the world’s first globally-scoped preservationist political issue. No other environmental issue has more comprehensively dominated both federal and state politics in Australia. It featured a public ‘turf war’ between agencies. In terms of tactics it moved from a battle of scientific reports, played out within institutions, to a struggle over meanings that were essentially ethical and aesthetic, and that moved the site of contest into the streets and onto the site of the proposed development itself. These tactics led to victory, the first political triumph for the environmentalist interest in a publically-contested issue of such magnitude. It culminated in the establishment of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the first World Heritage Area in Australia.




11 Environmental Action in Taiwan: A Case Study of the Chilan Formosan Cypress Forest campaign The struggle over the future of the Chilan Formosan Cypress Forest is the highest profile environmental issue in Taiwan to date; the equivalent in Taiwan of the Franklin Dam fracas in Tasmania. It was the first environmental campaign to involve both central and provincial politics. There was a ‘pen war’ between academics. The regional campaign developed into a nationwide issue. Environmentalists carefully selected tactics appropriate to the achievement of their goals. Though this also involved a shift from a ‘war’ of scientific claims to direct action in the streets and a corresponding shift to appeals to ethical and aesthetic values, on sum, the scientific focus of the dispute remained. It resulted in the first proposal for a National Park to be managed in part by Aboriginal people, a significant development given that Aboriginal people have a long history of opposition to National Park proposals, maintaining that Taiwan’s National Parks Act has excluded them from traditional areas and from traditional hunting and fishing activities. This ‘sticking point’ has, nevertheless, not yet been satisfactorily resolved, and the Chilan National Park is still not finally in place.





16 TAIWANTASMANIA CampaignChilan Formosan Cypress ForestFranklin-Gordon Wild Rivers Levels of GovernmentCentral and ProvincialFederal and State Institutional Faultlines ‘ pen wars ’ between academics ‘ turf wars ’ between governmental agencies ScaleLocal to nationalIsland-wide to national to international TacticsParliamentary politics, street protests, scientific studies, petitions, NGO coalition, media Parliamentary politics, scientific studies, street protests, NGO coalition, media OutcomeProposal for the first National Park managed by Aboriginal people in Taiwan Establishment of the first World Heritage Area in Tasmania Comparisons of Campaign Case Studies: Taiwan and Tasmania

17 Contextualising the Wild Rivers and Chilan Forest Campaigns The Franklin Dam dispute was a spectacular triumph for the politics of direct action and for an activist mobilisation strategy in which appeals to ethical and aesthetic criteria figured more prominently than appeals to science. The success of the ‘No Dams’ campaign continued to sustain activist energy and strategic thought in the years ahead, and the activist template developed then continued, in the main to deliver success. Success was never guaranteed, though, as a tactically-adept anti- environmentalism also emerged in the late 1980s. The last full-scale direct action on site occurred in 1997 when a campaign of site occupation to halt forest clearing in the Mother Cummings Peak/Huntsman Valley area of northern Tasmania failed to stop the clearfells. A more recent campaign to stop the construction of a dam in ‘wild’ terrain quite close to the failed Mother Cummings campaign, opted against direct action. Instead of the deployment of argument from ethics and aesthetics the campaign was scrupulously scientific in focus – a return to the politics of the learnéd report. Has the ethics/aesthetics politics of direct action run its course in Tasmania? There is some support in the speculative literature to support just such a reading (for example Rootes 2003). But a politics of direct action has enjoyed two remarkable decades of success in Tasmania, and we incline to caution.

18 Though the Chilan Forest campaign is much more recent than the Franklin Dam dispute – indeed, it has not yet been entirely played out – some speculative observations may be attempted. Whilst it has not exactly provided a template for reconciliation of the interests of environmentalists and Aboriginal people in management of Taiwan’s mountain forests – not yet, anyway – it is clear that the Chilan Forest campaign has significantly shifted the discourse concerning Aboriginal involvement in National Park design and management. The literature comparing environmental activism in the west, particularly North America, with environmental activism elsewhere in the world, stresses contrasts rather than similarities, insisting that western preoccupations with wilderness protection are not shared by, and are irrelevant to, environment movements elsewhere (for example, Guha 1989). Such an observation is not applicable toTaiwan, where environmental activism is comparatively prominent, and where much activism seeks the protection of natural values, tracts of land, and species.

19 Where Now? This paper constitutes, in effect, a toe in the water for a cross- jurisdictional study of island environmental activism. Questions we intend to ask in the future include: Is there a vector of environmental activism; a cycle that unfolds in stages common to all or most contexts? To what extent, conversely, is activism dependent on local political cultures as opposed to lessons learned elsewhere and transported around the globe? To what extent is the character of environmental campaigning determined by the type of issue itself? In what way do the scientific, ethical and aesthetic dimensions of environmental disputes (and the modes of activism to which they variously conduce) reinforce or work against each other? What are the comparative roles of government, academic, NGO and community institutions in environmental disputes, across jurisdictions? What is the relationship between modes and levels of environmental activism, issues of community cohesion, and issues of governance, particularly democratic governance? Is there a specifically ‘island’ dimension to island environmental activism? Given the nature of this conference we would like to have been able to offer some thoughts on this latter issue today – but we are not there yet.

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