Opportunities for environmental challenges (40)
The following are excerpts from a forum of experts in environmental studies sponsored by the Korea Institute of Public Administration. – ED.
Park Eung-kyuk, Ph.D., president
Korea Institute of Public Administration
Owing to the fact that high-rises tend to use an enormous amount of energy, they must be levied with special taxes when construction permits are approved.
The energy consumed at COEX, a major convention and exhibition center in southern Seoul, is equivalent to that used in the city of Uijongbu with a population of 600,000.
As in developed countries, Korea must move in the direction of using small vehicles and increase taxes on large cars by a significant margin so that owners of smaller ones can be provided with an advantage.
Another simple measure that can be taken to preserve the environment is to reduce the amount of water used when flushing the toilet, which is an average of 12 liters, by differentiating between lighter and heavier use.
There is a legendary story that the late President Park Chung-hee inserted a brick in the toilet basin to reduce the amount of water that is flushed in the name of environmental protection.
Professor emeritus of the Environment Graduate School of Seoul National University, formerly chairman of the Korea Environment Institute
In considering fundamental problems about the environment, we need to take into account the basic economic situation and how civilization has evolved over time.
The past few centuries have been dominated by the Western civilization and there are aspects of this development that we need in terms of environmental implications.
In the process, the West affected the rest of the global culture and civilization while the Eastern culture made consistent efforts at coexistence between humans and nature.
In terms of trying to find solutions to the depletion of natural resources and finding viable applications for the development of science and technology, the Oriental culture can play a better role.
I actually began to open my eyes to environmental problems when I attended a conference in Japan in 1971 on the dangerous implications of environmental pollution to health.
In the following year, the Earth Summit was held in Stockholm which attracted global attention to where our planet is headed and what needs to be done to prevent further adverse effects.
The market economy gives rise to more and more competition but sustainability means man and nature should recognize each other’s needs to create a win-win strategy.
Professor emeritus of the Environment Graduate School of Seoul National University, formerly chairman of the presidential commission on regional development
The recognition of the importance of environmental changes goes back to the 1972 Stockholm meeting and the Roma Club reports “Man and the Environment” and “Limits to Growth,” saying that the Earth will come to its end in 2020.
As had been expected, the problems of depleting natural resources has been getting worse and worse as is environmental pollution.
Despite the warnings, the problems have been getting buried and the problems have been getting worse and worse.
It is high time that we recognize the problems at hand and find the appropriate solutions.
Another important issue is the environment in education. It has reached a stage when teachers are avoiding environmental education, probably because students are not susceptible to it.
But steps have to be taken to train teachers in environmental education and ensure that students become more aware of environmental concerns and implications.
And changes have to take place in the very way we live. Korea and the United States are about the only countries in the world where the demand for large vehicles continues to increase.
In Japan, the majority of vehicles on the road have engine displacements of less than 1,000cc and the consumption of water there is a fourth of what it is in Korea.
And we are probably the only country in world in which each household has at least three refrigerators – one that is built-in in the apartment, one being used and a kimchi fridge (a unique type of refrigerator used to store the indigenous pickled cabbage).
There must be an effective change to the way that Koreans live their lives.
Professor emeritus of the Environment Graduate School of Seoul National University, chairman of the Korea Local Government Development Institute
There is a distinctive difference between disasters such as the eruption of volcanic mountains and earthquakes and those which are man-made.
There is a need to review the relationship between nature and the environment and mankind since they are intimately related along with the resulting damage to the environment, such as pollution and ecological hazards, which are basically man-made.
It is time that we analyze the basics of the relationship between humans and nature, perhaps finding common ground along the way.
The truth is that mankind has been seeking too much convenience in life and this has inevitably led to increasing pollution.
In addition, excessive competition for economic and financial growth has also contributed to a far worse environment.
There has to be social justice between man and nature and this is particularly important in addressing the issue of environmental pollution
A combination of wisdom and courage is necessary as we address nature and our very survival. There must be greater cooperation among governments and organizations and we must live less conveniently and less competitively so as to prolong our survival and put off the end of our planet.
Professor emeritus of the Environment Graduate School of Seoul National University, former civilian chairman of the presidential commission on green growth
The Korean government has recognized the seriousness of environmental problems and has presented low carbon, green growth as a new paradigm in pursuing national development. But there seems to be a lack of understanding in prevalent issues and the fact is that the term global warming, even when expressed in Korean, is more positive than negative.
There needs to be a language with which the public can have a better and clearer understanding of the dangers that we are facing in terms of the environment.
On the part of companies, they have been reluctant to participate in the introduction of a carbon tax and laws on the emission of greenhouse gases.
Despite this reality, the truth is that the pursuit of green transportation in large cities has meant that there are not many places in the world that emit such small amounts of carbon dioxide.
Professor at Kyunghee University and visiting fellow at the Korea Institute of Public Administration
In 40 years, Korea will become a sub-tropical country with banana trees lining the streets instead of gingko trees. We used to have a climate of three warm days and four cold days in the winter but this is now something of the past.
We suddenly find ourselves in an environment in which we have summer and winter and this is perhaps because of the extreme conflict between nature and humanity where there is no form of co-prosperity whatsoever.
But not all is lost. Recently, Environment Minister Yoo Young-sook visited Nigeria where the Korean government has been funding a project for purifying polluted streams. A lot of environmental solutions are about international cooperation.
And it is perhaps no coincidence that we are holding this forum on the environment at a time when leaders of the world are attending the Earth Summit as part of the Rio+20 Conference.
Such conferences are necessary at a time when people are using terms like “hot Earth” resulting from global warming, a term that is much more powerful than warming.