The Disaster-STS Network invites participation in an initiative to build a global record and capacity to address environmental injustice in different settings. In conceputalizing different settings as sites of quotidian Anthropocenes, local cases are put in a planetary frame and global dialogue.
In a first round of work - from November–December 2021 - participating research groups will build digital photo essays about environmental injustice in different settings, working with a shared analytic framework that facilitates cross-setting exchange. Going forward, participants can also design more extensive digital collections and exhibits, helping build a global record and knowledge infrastructure for environmental justice research and activism in its next phase.
Applications to participate will be accepted on a rolling basis. Workshops supporting work on the project’s digital platform (https://disaster-sts-network.org) will be held in mid-November (with options to accommodate diverse schedules and time zones; see below). Work-in-progress will be presented in early December.
When appropriate, digital presentations and collections built for this initiative will be freely available to support further research and teaching (in schools, universities, and community organizations).
Apply to participate here.
Fall 2021, the project is supported by the Goethe Institute's Wunderbar Together Program.
Throughout November 2021, there will be workshops to receive help designing and building digital collections and exhibits on https://disaster-sts-network.org. Workshops will be offered at the dates/times listed here. Tour and practice PECE here. PECE instructions here.
plastics, superfund, mercury, Formosa Plastics, Union Carbide, citizen science
2. What environmental threats (from worst case scenarios, pollution and climate change) are there in this setting?
9. What kinds of data and research would be useful in efforts to characterize and address environmental threats in this setting and similar settings?
10. What intersecting injustices -- data, economic, epistemic, gender, health, infrastructure, intergenerational, media, procedural, racial, reproductive -- contribute to environmental injustice in this setting?
1. What is the setting of this case? What are its assets?
Yunlin County (雲林縣, population 670,000) is a county located in western Taiwan. An estimated 68% of Yunlin are farmland, situated within the Chianan Plain, the largest plain on the island. The county is well known for its agriculture, livestock, and rich fishing grounds (Wikipedia 2021).
Important landmarks are the Xilou Bridge and the Chaotian Temple, the main temple for worshipping Mazu, the Sea Goddess (Taiwan Tourism Bureau 2021).
This case study primarily focuses on Mailiao, a rural township in the northwest of the county which is home to intense industrial production, but also a series of environmental advocacy groups, including the Yunlin County Neritic Zone Aquaculture Association (雲林縣淺海養殖協會). Important community assets and sites of organizing are Gongfan Temple and the independent café and bookstore 麥仔簝獨立書店.
2. What environmental threats are there in this setting?
Rapid industrialization has been a key development in Taiwan after the lifting of martial law in 1987, leading to issues of waste disposal, deforestation, and emissions of polluting industries, especially semiconductor and petrochemical production (Grano 2015).
There have been several studies of environmental health related to Formosa Plastics’ Sixth Naphtha Cracker Complex, documenting high air pollution burden on Mailiao and Taixi townships (Lin et al. 2020)
Further, recent research has further focused both on the impact of climate change in Yunlin County, including both erosion of coastlines and flood risk (Lee & Lin 2020), as well as dramatic water shortages related to intense water demands for agriculture and the electronics industry (Huang et al. 2011), compounded by sustained droughts since 2020 (USDA 2020).
In 2019, a forest fire on a former military training area led the evacuation of fives villages in Mecklenburg-Hither Pomerania, Germany. “Most […] disasters, or most damages in them, are characteristic rather than accidental features of the places and societies where they occur.” (Hewitt 1983) The case shows the interaction of “long emergencies of slow violence” (Nixon 2011, 3) and the manifestations of spectacular disasters like the forest fire.
The evacuation lasted for days as exploding UXOs made fire suppression nearly impossible. The contamination with UXOs in the area goes back to the 1930s and arms industry under the Nazi preparations for World War II. Already contaminated after massive bombings in World War II the area was used for military training by three different armed forces until 2013. With this local disaster several “slow disasters” of more than seven decades come into view such as mining, resource extraction, “unnatural” reforestation initiatives after World War II that together with the problems of UXOs produced the disaster of 2019.