Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above (2013) Movie Script

Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above
Please don't be surprised.
This is our home, Taiwan.
If you haven't seen it like this,
maybe it's because you've never been
this high above it.
Let us become a drifting cloud
or a flying bird.
Together, we see Taiwan.
Together, we witness the beauty
and sadness of this island.
Every boat loaded with a day's catch
is a reward for the fishermen's hard work.
Every field full of crops
is a prize for the farmers' effort.
Our ancestors, coming from different places,
sailed across the treacherous strait
in different times.
But they all had stood in the same fields,
growing rice humbly,
nurturing the crops with their sweat.
They worked day in and day out
just to grow enough food to
build their homes and support their children.
No matter where the field is.
No matter how old we are.
People from all walks of life
have worked as hard as they can in this land.
We not only keep ourselves going
but promise ourselves that
we will create a better future
for our next generation.
This island has been quietly nurturing us
together with other living creatures.
They had lived in harmony
with this land for centuries.
But who disrupted the balance
between all living creatures
and sowed the seeds of disaster?
June 2012.
We were flying along
the coast of Taitung County.
At the time, although it began to rain,
it wasn't too heavy.
But when the helicopter turned
towards Pingtung Plain,
it was hit by the southwest monsoon current.
Heavy rain poured down
and hit the front window hard.
currents started to emerge on the ground.
Water flooded the fish farms
as well as the fruit orchards.
During the past two decades,
on average each year,
we have 93 days of heavy rain,
42 days of very heavy rain,
and 13 days of extreme rain.
But during the past thirty years,
the days we have heavy rains
have clearly increased
while the days we have light rains
have clearly decreased.
In other words,
we either have no rain
or very heavy rain.
The total rainfall in Taiwan
hasn't changed much,
but rain falls on fewer and fewer days.
The rain concentrates to such an extent that
the land can no longer bear it.
Take Typhoon Morakot for example,
the rainfall in Mt. Ali alone
was a record-breaking 2855 mm
in just five days.
It was more than the yearly average
rainfall in Taiwan.
Before year 2000,
disasters on such a big scale happened
once every three or four years.
But in the past ten years,
we have had a super typhoon that
caused such serious floods almost every year.
Flying through layers of clouds,
we see Mt. Dawu from above.
The scars left by Typhoon Morakot
remain clearly visible.
In the past ten years,
every time heavy rain
poured down in the mountains,
similar disasters happened.
Hundreds of tons of
mudflow and fallen rocks
remind us
how scary a natural disaster can be.
Taiwan is a small mountainous island.
Mountains make up
almost three fourth of the surface.
Moreover, most of it is very steep.
Landslides, tremors,
and mudflows often happen.
Now after the 9/21 Earthquake
disasters take place even more frequently.
The driftwood washed down
from the mountains
were once the big tall trees in the forest.
Now, lying silently in a pile on the riverbank,
it looks like a jumble of
abandoned dead bodies.
Building a highway through the mountains
was once regarded as a symbol of
the iron will of mankind.
In fact,
it was the beginning of the end of the world.
Men arrogantly drew the shortest line
across the mountains and forests.
By doing that, men destroyed
the natural structure of the land.
As a result,
the road slides every time it rains.
In order to keep it in position,
containers are used as the supports.
Cars keep running on the road day and night
just because no one
sees the terror right below.
Most people cannot see
the injuries we inflicted on our land.
One after another,
cars go up to the mountains.
People in the cars often have no idea that
the trip is more like
an adventure than a tour.
This is Zhushan Train Station in Mt. Ali.
A popular spot for watching the sunrise.
Every day it's crowded with tourists.
But most people are unaware that
what lies right underneath their feet is
a large area of landslides.
When a disaster strikes,
even gods cannot protect themselves,
let alone humble creatures like us.
Only when we see from above,
do we realize this mountain village
is sandwiched between collapsed slopes.
It looks like a lonely island.
The roads that could be blocked at any time
are its fragile lifelines.
There are many mountain villages
like this in Taiwan.
People don't want to leave.
It's their wish to protect their homeland
and to stay with their ancestral spirits.
But the biggest problem is,
in fact, no one can
guarantee them resource and space
needed in life when they leave home.
This is a mountain in our land.
It was the home of broad-leaved forests.
Their deep roots held the soil
tight and keep the rainwater.
they grow so slowly that it takes them decades,
even centuries to become big trees.
How can trees like this
compete with betel trees
that bring men tons of money every year?
As we now live in a time
when everything is valued by
how much profit it brings,
the trees grown in the forests for generations
have been mercilessly cut down.
What replaced them were the betel saplings
that grow money on them.
Now from above,
we see the excavator working on the ground.
It's making more space for another crop.
Tea. High mountain tea.
The trees here were mercilessly felled as well.
Oh, no, you can't say "mercilessly".
In a time like this, we should say,
they were felled "effectively".
It's the same with the cabbage fields.
Cabbage has always been grown in the plains.
Just because some gourmet said,
"The higher it's grown, the better it tastes."
People began to grow cabbage on hills
and turn forests into farmland.
What we can see is a process of
how beautiful mountains turned ugly.
But what we cannot see is even more terrifying.
When the trees
whose deep roots held soil and water
were pulled out of the ground
and replaced by crops with shallow roots,
it was,
in fact, the beginning of a tragedy.
Roads are built higher and higher
up in the mountains.
Our footprints go deeper and deeper
into the forests.
Bungalows with corrugated iron roofs
are built in the woods.
Baths made of cement are added
next to the valleys.
Wires and water pipes not only
cut across the rivers
but divide the sky in an arrogant manner.
Tall buildings rise up in conservation areas.
Hot spring hotels stop the flow of rivers.
What is left in the valley is a narrow stream.
When it pours down with rain,
the water has nowhere to flow.
But when our lives and properties
are threatened,
we always blame Nature
instead of ourselves.
We keep building fancy castles on the hills.
We refuse to admit
the pseudo European architecture
doesn't go well with the surroundings.
Furthermore, we refuse to admit
the land cannot bear
the strong impact brought upon
by a development on such a large scale.
But until disaster strikes
luxurious B&Bs continue to be built.
All due to the unstoppable flows of tourists
as vacationing, eating vegetable
and drinking tea grown in the mountains
have become trendy things to do.
No one realizes that he himself
is an accomplice in causing disasters.
The forests and mountains are hurt.
Again and again, heavy rain washes
the flesh and blood from their bodies.
In the end, they dropped into the valley.
When the river flows through the valley,
the mud is deposited and becomes sediment.
a reservoir becomes
a deposit of mud and stones.
Wanda Reservoir was also known as
Green Lake for its beautiful bluish green water.
Today the deposit of mud and rocks
in the reservoir is up to 80 million tons
which takes up almost 70% of
the capacity of the reservoir.
The beautiful bluish green water
is no longer seen.
What we see now is a pool of muddy water.
Most of the reservoirs in Taiwan
are facing the crisis of deposits.
Almost one third of the capacity
is eaten up by mud.
The total volume of the 17 major reservoirs in Taiwan
was 2.65 billion cubic meters.
By 2010, only 1.93 billion cubic meters was left.
The volume of deposits has already
reached 710 million cubic meters.
the volume of the deposits is increasing at
a rate of 22 million cubic meters every year.
The life expectancy of the reservoirs
is getting shorter and shorter,
so the amount of water we can keep
is getting smaller and smaller.
We fail to keep the rain that
Nature bestows on us.
We helplessly watch it flow towards the sea.
From the sky above
the southwest coast of Taiwan,
endless fish farms come into sight.
Forty thousand hectares of the surface of
the island are fish farms.
Various species of fish are farmed
for a total value of
30.7 billion Taiwanese dollars
which makes up one third of
the whole fishing industry in Taiwan.
Fish farming needs
large quantities of clean water.
As a result, a large amount of
groundwater has to be extracted.
countless water pipes are laid across the
embankments and used to extract groundwater.
According to the statistics,
including the industrial use,
more than 5 billion tons of groundwater
are extracted every year.
This is an amount far more than
the land can bear.
When the amount of groundwater
extracted exceeds the limit,
the land begins to sink.
At the moment, the land that
sinks fastest is in Yunlin County.
On average,
the land sinks more than 7 cm each year.
So far, the land has sunk
more than two meters deep.
Taiwan is gradually sinking.
In the plains on the west coast,
more than 1,000 square kilometres
of the surface has sunk below the sea level.
Therefore, when the seawater intrusion occurs,
the fields and houses all go underwater.
The high-water marks on the walls
are vivid records of each visit by the sea.
The ancestors who have long rested
underground have also fallen victim to it.
The beautiful land they chose to settle
in a century ago is flooded with salt water.
Their burial ground has turned into the sea.
The straight artificial harbours
replaced the beautiful zigzag coastline.
Every seven kilometres along
the west coast of Taiwan
lies an artificial harbour built of concrete.
Abalone farms had once dominated
the northeast coast of Taiwan.
The beautiful rocky coastline
was cut and divided by concrete.
With profit in sight,
no one had ever thought
the damage was irreversible.
The protruding breakwater
causes changes in sand distribution
and results in the so-called "groin effect".
It means sand accumulates
in large quantities on the side facing the current.
On the other side, sand is lost to the sea
and this means the shore is receding.
As a result, we put even more tetrapods
to stop the erosion by the sea.
So more and more concrete
is accumulated at the seaside.
The artificial tetrapods replace the natural rocks
where sea creatures gather and hunt for food.
Taiwan has a coastline of 1322 km
of which 55.56% has concrete built upon it.
We built a wall
separating ourselves from the sea.
it stops our children getting close to the sea.
Isn't it such an irony
for an island country like Taiwan?
The sea is where life originated.
The sea is not a barrier.
It's the route from
this island to the rest of the world.
We should never see
it as a barrier or let it stop us.
More importantly,
we should never change its colour
or destroy its natural purity.
The wetlands are natural water purifiers.
Toxins are depleted here
before flowing into the sea.
Therefore they gained
the reputation as "the kidney of the Earth".
However, due to overdevelopment
and environmental pollution,
the wetlands are shrinking.
If we carry on what we have been doing,
more than half of the wetlands in Taiwan
will disappear in front of our eyes.
The over-fertilized farmland,
over-use of detergents and sewage
all are causes of eutrophication.
Together with the untreated water
from factories,
they turn clear running water
into a pool of stagnant water.
Due to untreated water from factories
and garbage pollution,
the Guanyin Coast of Taoyuan has lost
the beautiful turquoise colour it once had.
The polluted and pristine waters
separate from each other like Yin and Yang.
We follow the black current,
tracing it back to the estuary.
From the polluted river,
the black current of untreated water
keeps flowing into the sea.
In Taiwan,
there are countless seriously
polluted rivers like this one.
An image like this frightens us,
but we either feel helpless
or pretend we cannot see it.
The untreated water not only pollutes the sea
but contains toxic substances.
Once they have soaked into the soil,
it will be even more difficult to get rid of them.
However, we drink water from here
and eat the crops grown here.
As we cannot see it,
we never feel threatened.
We have gotten used to blaming
Nature, the Earth and the government
when things go wrong.
These factories with corrugated iron roofs
once contributed to Taiwan's economic miracle.
They improved our lives
but also produced serious pollution.
By the time we had risen above the poverty line,
become better-off and started to pay attention,
the water pollution was unfortunately
growing at a faster rate than we could clean it.
Although we have
implemented environmental laws,
there are still factories which surreptitiously
pump out untreated water at night.
It adds a layer of black oil
to the polluted yellow water in the river.
All the living creatures in the river
were completely wiped out. None survived.
What is more shocking is that
such polluted water is allowed to
flow across residential areas.
So this is the environment we live in.
In the end, we could only imagine
the original colours of mountains and the sky.
This is a cement mine
on the east coast of Taiwan.
The cement industry has
huge impact on the environment.
A ton of cement
is made from 1.4 tons of limestone,
300 kilos of clay and 60 kilos of silica sand.
In order to get these raw materials,
we cut the beautiful forests into pieces.
But we cannot see such destruction,
because we never go into the mountains.
Furthermore, mining cement
is a highly energy-consuming business.
To produce a ton of cement,
you need 112.9 kWh of electricity
and 132.7 kilos of coal.
It also emits large amounts of CO2.
But cement is needed in our lives.
Mining seems to be a necessary evil.
We produce more than
19M tons of cement every year.
Nearly half of it is exported.
We turn our beautiful mountains and forests
into cement and sell it to others.
Then we leave the destroyed environment
to our next generation.
In addition to cement,
the amount of sand and gravel mined
is even more astonishing.
More than 100 million tons of sand and gravel
is produced every year,
of which around 60% is mined illegally.
After this illegal mining,
a huge crater is left in the ground.
The more terrifying fact is that some
heartless businessmen will fill it with garbage,
causing another environmental disaster.
In fact, the amount of sand and gravel
washed down from the river is large enough.
There is no need to mine illegally.
It's just because the businessmen
want to lower the cost,
so they don't want to do it legally.
If profit tops the priorities, who would
care about the environmental damage?
Under the banner of economic development,
industrial parks mushroomed in Taiwan.
We see chimneys erected all over the place.
When there is no space left in the land,
we fight against the sea for more land.
We turn the beautiful coast into
artificial islands like those in the fantasy world.
This is a giant chimney of 250 meters in height.
The Taichung Power Plant
Taichung Power Plant
is the largest coal-fired power station
in the world.
Without it,
we won't have enough electricity to meet
the industrial and domestic demands.
it's also the largest CO2 emitter in the world.
In order to send electricity to every corner,
we built countless pylons
which spread across rivers and mountains.
The power company spends lots of money
on maintaining the network
to ensure a steady supply of electricity.
Nevertheless, amid the green in the mountains,
the pylons with warning signs saying
"High voltage. Keep Out."
Are hardly in harmony with the surroundings.
But these densely built pylons
play an important role in our comfortable lives.
Right here,
we see the contradictory nature and conflicts
between industrial development
and environmental protection.
For example, we enjoy the speed and
convenience of the Taiwan High Speed Railway.
But all our daily activities are
supported by large amounts of electricity.
We can communicate with
people in faraway places
and build economic relations with
the rest of the world.
But what is hidden in the figure of
our economic growth
is the rapidly-increasing consumption of energy.
In recent years, the high-tech industry
has become the main player in Taiwan's exports.
Moreover, it's become
the symbol of Taiwan's competitiveness.
But this high-earning industry is also
a high-energy-consuming industry.
According to the statistics,
the IT industry's need makes up 16% of
the total electricity consumption in Taiwan.
To resolve the conflicts between
energy demand and environmental protection
is definitely not a question of
who is wrong and who is right.
More importantly,
it's not a fight between different ideologies.
It's a serious issue everyone
has to face rationally.
In fact,
the contradiction and conflicts we're facing
aren't only between
energy demand and environmental protection.
We face a similar problem
in the basic need for housing.
When the land in the plains is in shortage,
we fight against the hills for more land.
the houses always increase at
a rate faster than the revision of the regulations.
In the old days, people said
"Houses rise from the ground".
Now, we say "Houses rise from the hills".
An old nursery goes like this.
"A brook runs in front of my home.
A hill stands at the back."
Now what lies in front of our houses
is not a brook,
but a collapsed slope full of danger.
What we care about a house is
how much it costs each square meter
rather than if it will still
be safe for us to live in tomorrow.
The contradictory nature and conflicts between
material comforts and environmental protection
have actually existed in our lives for a long time.
We say
we want to save energy and protect the Earth
but produce large amounts of garbage
at the same time.
Maybe you've no idea that
the amount of garbage we produce in Taiwan
is one of the largest in the world.
We have to deal with
7.4 million tons of garbage each year.
Most of the landfill sites are
situated near the sea
where no one pays attention or protests against.
On many of these sites,
the precautions aren't taken carefully,
so when the waves lap against the shore,
they take the garbage back to the sea.
Drifting with the currents,
the garbage spreads along the coast.
In the past, due to a lack of funding,
some city councils buried
the garbage near the cities.
Now they pose such a threat to public health that
we have to spend more time and money
digging it out and treating it properly.
But the irony is
when we're dealing with the old garbage,
we keep producing even more
as if as long as we couldn't see it,
the problem of garbage didn't exist.
This is our island, our home.
For several generations,
we have lived
in this land poor in natural resources
but rich in natural disasters.
Nevertheless, we've worked so hard to
create an unprecedentedly flourishing economy.
Meanwhile, this island has been nurturing
generations of people with her flesh and blood.
Like a mother who has borne too many children,
her body is exhausted and in great pain.
But she never complains and remains silent,
offering her children whatever they ask for.
Only when her children greedily squeeze
the last drop of milk out of her,
can we hear her moan softly in agony.
People often say that
if it wasn't for the wealth and happiness
of our children,
our hard work would be meaningless.
Sometimes I feel that
the so-called hard work is an excuse for pillage.
We pillage large amounts of resources
from this land to satisfy our endless desire.
But we never thought
and probably will never admit that
what we leave our next generation
is the aftermath of looting.
History has shown us that
the peak of a boom is often
the beginning of the decline.
Is the same worrying crisis looming
behind the boom we're enjoying at the moment?
Is it?
This is Houlong Township in Miaoli County.
Ms. Hung Hsiang together with
her fellow villagers
had resisted
the temptation and pressure from the outside.
They refused to turn their land into
an industrial park.
They insist on organic farming.
In her fields,
weeds, insects and crops live in harmony.
She says,
"We should have what is left by the insects".
"What we need isn't much.
We just want too much."
In recent years,
the number of people
who share her thoughts has been increasing.
They insist on organic
and environmentally friendly farming methods.
The proportion of their effort to their gain
may seem laughable to people
who are used to high returns and efficiency.
But they firmly believe that
only when we treat our land friendly
will it treat our offspring friendly in return.
Here comes another example.
His name is Lai Ching-song.
He had studied in Japan and witnessed
the Japanese's attitude to their environment.
Therefore when he returned to Taiwan,
he gave up the comfortable life
and high-earning job in the city.
He went back to the village in Yilan
to learn farming from scratch,
to grow rice organically.
Like Ms. Hung Hsiang, to grow rice in this way,
your gain is often not in proportion to your effort.
Sometimes, you get even less than you put in.
As a result, he came up with an idea.
He set up a cooperative like a club.
He invites people
who share his idea to join the cooperative.
Lai is responsible for the work in the fields.
He and his partners share
the risks of natural disasters and others.
In return, they share the harvest.
What Hung Hsiang and Lai Ching-song
has done is an attempt.
But it is the beginning of something important.
Their action demonstrates a simple idea -
for the sake of our future generations,
we have no rights
to indulge ourselves with our endless desire.
we live here only temporarily.
We're just migrants on the Earth.
Close your eyes
Breathe in deep
Can you see
what I see?
Keeping us in constant awe
This feeling captured in time
Isn't there more to this?
More than what we're told
Isn't there hope in this?
More than this world gives
If we only realize the pain we've caused
Know that there is still tomorrow
Discover the light in this land
How long more
can we breathe?
Can you see
what I see?
Fills us up
Leaves us void
Look into it and tell me
Isn't there more to this?
More than what we're told
Isn't there hope in this?
More than this world gives
If we only realize the pain we've caused
Know that there is still tomorrow
Discover the light in this land
Let us work together
to make home a better place.