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tv   Witness  LINKTV  November 17, 2021 3:00am-3:31am PST

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the last time i was in taipei was in 1993, when i was teaching english to pre-schoolers. i've heard that it's changed dramatically here, but that just seems to be how this city rolls. taipei has seen pretty much everything, and it comes in bursts of furious growth. when martial law was finally lifted in 1987, taipei saw the rise of social movements. this place was an early adopter of the importance of indigenous rights and lgbt awareness, and embraced environmentalism and green space since the '70s. since the '90s, it's been globalization, neoliberalism, and american-style development. how do all these things work together? what will be the default as taipei plots
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its future urban course? will their passion for democracy and citizen engagement continue to lead the way? there is no question about it: when you compare taipei to many other asian cities, it really stands out. while the capital of taiwan is relatively young, it has undergone major historic changes in a very short time. taipei has been governed
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by several different regimes over the past 140 years. and each of them has left an indelible mark on the city's urban fabric. the japanese implemented the initial physical layout of the city, but the political landscape was then shaken up by the chinese, who took over by the end of world war ii. with political upheaval taking place in mainland china, some 1.2 million chinese war-time refugees migrated to taipei, impacting the city in a substantial and irreversible way. the conflicts with china combined with years of internal military governance gave birth to a fiercely independent and politically engaged taiwanese population. when martial law was lifted in 1987, political awareness grew even stronger. on the municipal level, this newfound democracy led to a much-needed urban renewal, rapidly improving
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living conditions and creating an undeniably unique city in the far-east. i usually start my quest for the life-sized city far, far away from city hall, but here in taipei, i'm going to make an exception. you see, democracy here is cherished. taipei's citizens are very active and very involved, and they speak out when they want change. it creates a progressive mentality that drives the city, even within the walls of city hall. as one of taiwan's first openly gay city councillors, miao poya knows all about the challenges of shifting old ways of thinking in order to embrace a more open, inclusive future for everyone. so she made the move into municipal politics and is now one of 13 elected councillors of the social democratic party in the wenshan district. my job is to be the connection
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between the grass-roots movement and the politicians. before becoming a politician, miao poya was on the other side of the fence, with the protesters. she was part of a massive social movement now known as taiwan's sunflower movement. triggered in 2014, when student protesters occupied taiwan's national legislature for three weeks, fighting a proposed free trade agreement with china. named after the floral gift sent to protesters as a symbol of hope, the movement gained widespread public sympathy in taiwan. and the students were successful in preventing the agreement. but instead of retreating back into silence, the group and its values remained a prominent force in local politics. after the protests, many of taiwan's activists shifted their attention to institutional forms of politics,
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joining existing political parties or establishing new ones and taking up governmental positions. as a protestor or as a social activist, i only have to spend time with those people who have the same ideology as me, but as a politician i have to spend more time with those people who don't have the same ideology. i have to persuade them, communicate with them, and explain what is the common interest between us. today is the pride parade, the oldest and the biggest in asia. i join it every year. yeah, of course. this year's pride parade had over 200,000 citizens marching through the streets of taipei to celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage that took effect in may 2019. taiwan is the first country in asia to do so.
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it's a big deal, to say the least. the crew doesn't get out of this one. as of september 2019, stats revealed that a total of 2,144 same-sex marriages were registered across the country. the times in taiwan they are a changin'. and all for the better. the strength of democracy on a municipal level, here in taipei, do you think that is a tool, like a powerful tool? yeah, because taiwan is a small country, and taipei is the capital, so everything happens in taipei is not local. for example, what our mayor says will influence the people's thoughts, nation-wide, so i think it is very important at the taipei municipal level to stop the chinese influence. let's not forget that, officially, taiwan is a province of mainland china, a giant political force that has
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a complicated relationship with democracy. i think i believe in democracy because of the common ground for us to stand together and fight with china. we fought for democracy for a very long time, and especially the younger generations, because i was born in 1987, and so for the young generation like me, freedom, democracy and human rights are essentials for our lives, and we will unite across gender, across race, and anything. that is what we hope. the fight for freedom, for democracy and human rights is essential. but it's not just about big questions like same sex marriage and gender equality. it's also about the small things that make a place livable, and that make a city fit for its people. almost every important thing i have learned in my work in urbanism, i've learned from children. and i mean that quite literally.
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they are the most brilliant minds at our disposal as we're struggling to make our cities better. today, i get to see what happens when you take children seriously, as designers and design thinkers. my family, we travel to europe or the rest of asia, like japan, hong kong, or singapore, and we see a huge difference. kids in europe, they are having a lot of fun in the playgrounds; when my kid is there, she can actually spend the whole afternoon playing, whereas in taiwan she would spend like five minutes playing with the crappy plastic stuff and then come to me and say, 'mommy, can i have your mobile phone?' christine is a founding member of parks & playgrounds for children by children, which places kids at the heart of the process when it comes to designing parks. with other parents, known affectionately as "the angry mothers," she put forth a demand to the government to build more eco-friendly
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spaces that foster creativity. and, well, here we are. at the beginning, those officials were like, 'mothers, you should go home and cook for your kids' or 'you don't understand the national standards for playground. maybe you should study more and we can have this conversation.' then we went home and read everything about playground safety standards or designs for child-friendly cities, and we angry mothers - as they call us - became experts of children's needs, and we are translating children's needs into understandable stuff for the government officials. children often pitch in their ideas, but in this park, they were the main consultants in the design process from start to finish. during phase one, about sixty kids submitted their designs using different materials; once designs were selected, workshops were held on site.
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kids would play with tiles, wood or cardboard, so designers could see how they were using them. they would then present the results to the parents, for their input. phase two took about ten months, involving the kids in the actual construction. the success here is so great that the city has changed the standard of procedure for park implementation, and every single new park has to involve children from its early stages. sensory walls in the tunnel were done by the kid participants. so these are all kids' designs? the boring ones aren't. the interesting ... the boring designs weren't done by kids. anything interesting - the kids did it. this is called the garden sandpit, the official name, and it's a combination of sand and water. the water is flowing down ... yeah, from the hills. ... and you can dam it up. i get it.
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i get it so much that i literally still do this. i'm 51. i'm going to be here all week, basically. this is actually for wheelchair users. oh, they can slide in under there and play. i see a warning sign already. this is because everyone in this country was really cautious, because they don't want their kids to get hurt or they don't want their kids to have any accidents, like they bubble wrap their children, even in the playgrounds. but now we can actually use stuff like this, where kids can assess their own risk, and they can jump up and down, and you can see there are low stairs, big ones, small ones... and it tests their abilities, it tests their motor skills, and their risk assessment. like, "okay, i've got to navigate here." through ppcc, nearly 50 parks in taipei, and another 50 or so in new taipei city, the municipality surrounding taipei, were either restored or built with family participation.
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and while they're fantastic spaces, they're nonetheless confined to a specific, designated area. after helping the kids reclaim the parks, the "angry mothers" decided it was also time for children to reclaim the streets of their neighbourhoods. that's how street play events were born. this is actually the free play of cardboards, for them to build their own stuff. a mini version of the life-sized city, right? yes! that's so cool; they build houses and streets, in a way, right? yes! there's like, no limits there, that's just everybody get it - what is it? is it just paint? yeah. i'm sure that the paint that was selected was easy to wash out, right? well, the government wants it to be washable as well, because we need to make it clean, and give it back to the community. right, of course, yeah. getting the permission to close down this street - was that easy? it was terribly hard for us, at the beginning. this is the third one. in the second one, we actually made it a policy. now you can actually talk
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to the government, fill in some forms, and get the street closed for children, to play. the community college teachers can... [laughter] trying to remember your question now, because there's stuff going on all over the place, and you want to play, basically. the elder citizens are here, and the youngest citizens are here, and they can play with each other. play is the element for people to connect with each other freely and happily. there are countless tools that we can use to make our cities better. there are brilliant minds to work with - like kids - but, man, don't mess with the greatest force in the last century of urbanism: angry mothers.
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ok, go! this is the quietest metro system i've ever been on in my entire life. listen to that! when i lived here in 1993, this city was a clichéd witch's cauldron of insane traffic and congestion. that is the biggest change i've seen on this trip here. in 1996, taipei opened its first metro line. today, there are two million passenger trips per day. as a result, car traffic has dropped from 24% in 2000 to 14% in 2010.
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the city is also continuing; the red line is being expanded. taipei clearly sees the advantages of putting money into public transport. but scooters in this city still out-compete all other forms of transport and tackling that is the biggest challenge that taipei faces. so this city is scooter chaos and public transport heaven, but right there in the middle is the missing link: the bicycle as transport. you look at these bike racks and you think, "yeah, wow, this is a city that rides bikes. they haven't forgotten the bicycle as transport. but you don't really feel like this is a bicycle city; there's not a lot of dedicated infrastructure. i want to find out the state of the bicycle nation here in taipei. passionate cyclist, and co-founder of rikulau international, one of the leading
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bike brands in asia, cheng-non hsu's work focuses on making taipei a more environmentally-friendly city with bikes as transport. why are there so many bikes parked here? what is this station serving? it's national taiwan university, and there are 30,000 students here, so they come in and out, in and out. there's a big demand for bicycles here. tell me about the youbike system, because i understand it's quite a popular one; it's well used, very successful. very well used, very successful. the turnover rate is about 10 times a day. per bike? per bike. just forontext, a bike being used five times per day is considered a really big success in a bike-share system, so ten times a day - that's ... i don't think i've ever heard of another city in the world where it's that high. in my opinion, it's all about the convenience. we have a very widespread metro system, and we have like two or three hundred youbike stations in the city. on average, every 400 or 500 metres,
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you have a station. so it becomes very, very convenient. you don't need a bike of your own. you just rent one. riding on the sidewalks, right? yeah. this is a very asian thing. yeah, we learned some from tokyo. personally, i don't like it, because it's too narrow. yeah. but i mean, for me, it's not the way forward. i mean, this is good here, right? we're separated from the pedestrians and from the road. now we're kind of just out with the sharks here. wide right! but you and i, we can ride here, right? we can ride on the road. but most people don't want to. they don't feel safe, you know? and that's really the key with infrastructure: you've got to make people feel safe. you rarely see kids riding on the roads, here in taipei, because parents won't allow it.
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that's my indicator of a bicycle-friendly city. would i ride with my kids in most cities in the world? no. if i came here with my kids, we'd be taking the metro. ah! see the green lane here? this is a different world, huh? yeah. also, the sound, right? it's super quiet all of a sudden. i love this. how do you identify what taipei needs to make it more bicycle-friendly? well, we need to put more people on bicycles. the infrastructure itself: the bicycle lanes, the signs with writing compared to other motorized vehicles; and also, we need to get people away from cars and motorcycles. but i think infrastructure, like bicycle paths, we need to increase a lot more.
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five nights a week, across taipei, the music of beethoven's classic für elise signals the start of a city-wide routine. the source of this domestic musical interlude? garbage trucks. yeah, you heard me. taiwan was once known as garbage island back in the '90s; now it's the international posterchild for recycling. but in order to make all this work, you have to make waste collection convenient for the people. and here, convenience means more than 4,000 pickup locations with mobile apps that alert users to nearby pickup spots. and while recycling is good, upcycling is even better. haven't heard that term before? well, the gist of it is rooted in the age-old concept of turning something old into something new.
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and this man right here is taking it to a whole new level... arthur huang holds a master's degree in architecture from harvard, where he specialized in sustainable development and renewable energy. in 2005, he co-founded miniwhiz, a company that develops and sells materials that are 100% recycled from waste. the exterior is made from pet bottles; the fenestration is made from recycled pcs, from waste; and all the bones of the structure are made from what we call recycled steel formwork, from highway construction. i mean, you can call it a literal piece of trash, but i also think of misplaced resources, that's all. built as an exhibition hall during the 2010 taipei international flora expo, the ecoark is one impressive work. made from 1.5 million recycled plastic bottles,
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this massive pavilion is even strong enough to withstand the forces of nature including fire, earthquakes, and typhoons. the use of recycled plastic bottles isn't the only eco-friendly feature of the ecoark: the pavilion was built with low-carbon building techniques to maintain a zero-carbon footprint during operation. and with its natural ventilation, the building stays cool without the need for air conditioning. they collect and reuse rainwater to keep temperatures low. the polli-bricks also provide insulation from heat, and their transparency allows natural light to enter during the day. oh, and did i mention that solar and wind-powered systems power the 40,000 leds that light the building up at night? so, calling this place "eco-friendly" is really an understatement. this building is the future of urban design and architecture.
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the whole idea is that the whole thing can be recycled. i just undo this screw, take out the panel and i can take all this. every component is reduced back to its single material, without gluing them together. so what's the building used for now? still exhibitions, right? yes, art exhibitions. art exhibitions, okay. it's not a fine-art type. it's definitely designed for mass, public art, performing arts. what would it cost to build this? it was actually three million us dollars to begin with, and they kind of squeezed in a little here and there to push the budget to four. there's a similar-sized building right across the street, just down a couple blocks, constructed at the same time, under the government's traditional budget. that building is $40 million. all these people wasting stuff, it's just completely ridiculous. from fast fashion to all the disposable throwaways, this is one of the biggest wastes of our modern resources, technology and culture. so how do you make that
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into something that's constantly reusable, to become a valuable resource for us to build something else in the future? right now, we are taking the technology we have accumulated and we're turning it into robots, portable robotic machines, and we're actually bringing these machines to where the trash is happening. the trash-presso machine they've developed is the ultimate expression of sustainable upcycling. it's a portable, solid-waste recycling unit that can turn 50kg of plastic bottles an hour into low-cost building material for homes. from plastic bottles to floor tiles in under 60 minutes. and the cherry on top? it's solar powered. what's your best scenario for where you can go with this? the best scenario is to make trash into a currency. the more valuable the transformation is, the more valuable the trash is. then nobody will throw away trash. and then you don't ship
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trash to a third-world country anymore. and hence you reduce the carbon footprint. i feel like this will benefit the people working with us and also benefit ourselves, as a group of concerned citizens. i've had an idea for a while that i wanted to get a monitoring system to measure the pollution particles in all the cities that we travel to with the life-sized city. but the great thing about this show is, i've got a guy for that. with the help of an online community of passionate citizens, computer scientist dr. ling-jyh chen developed a low-cost, portable device that monitors air pollution, specifically fine particles, referred to as pm 2.5. it's called an airbox. we have a pm 2.5 censor inside, and we also have wi-fi connectivity,
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so for example right now i connect to my wi-fi router, a 4g router, and send data through the internet. and from the internet, we can use a smartphone app or a website or web browser to figure out what's the current, real-time air quality. in order to test the device, ling-jyh set it up close to what is known as "scooter waterfall": a ramp in taipei that is exclusively reserved for the use of, well, scooters. the riders here are commuting from new taipei city. every city has tourist attractions, right? the things you've got to see in a certain city. since we've been here this morning, there are so many people coming here - like tourists taking photos of the famous, infamous scooter waterfall. it hasn't stopped for the past 40 minutes; it's what you see there, non-stop. roughly 13,000 scooters cross taipei bridge during rush hour from seven to nine am, every single day.
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there's no doubt that pm 2.5 levels in this area are often way higher than acceptable health standards. okay, so it looks like we got some readings here. already, right there, it doesn't look good. let's get back to the basics here for a minute, starting with this whole "fine particles" thing. in a nutshell, fine particulate matter is the name for a range of particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diametre. that's why it is referred to as pm 2.5. these particles are about 30 times smaller than a single strand of human hair. they pose a health threat because they're basically invisible, and can travel deep into the lungs. in most cities, these particles come from the fuel combustion of motorized vehicles. and if you look around taipei, there's clearly no shortage of motorized vehicles. taipei has reached about
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37 or 39 microns per cubic metre, so actually it's already not healthy for people, if they stay there too long. what is the acceptable limit? 30 or 25. this is the other air box, neathe bridge. there's an elementary school next to the street. it goes up to about 36. at the school near the scooter waterfall, they can already measure that it's unhealthy? yeah. major tech companies like realtek and asuss collaborated to donate an airbox to most elementary schools and high schools across taipei. that's almost 200 schools in the city alone. the objective is to increase public awareness on environmental issues. the device can be used to measure temperature, as well as humidity and, of course, pm 2.5 levels,
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after which the data can be uploaded to a cloud platform and website. parents and children can then access the city's environmental data through the internet or smartphone app. the hardware, the software and the data is open-source, which means the device can be built by anyone with basic tech skills. so, while they might need instructions, my kids could build one in a heartbeat. and with these instructions and components available online, there are now well over 10,000 such devices worldwide. before then, we were already used to air quality, but now we know the real values behind the air quality inur environments. i think the next step is we really need to work together to improve air quality environments. then the government will start to look at the data to find patterns from the measurements and to know what happens in those areas, and how to change something to improve the air quality.
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you simply can't navigate the modern world without coming across data. when misused, or withheld, it can be oppressive, but when used correctly and shared widely, it can be a powerful tool especially when placed in the hands of the citizens. i'm going to meet some people here in taipei who believe that the road to transparency should be paved with data. g0v, that's g-0-v, is a tech community formed in 2012, thanks to a handful of programming geniuses who were exasperated by the top-down approach to political discourse. today, there are over 5,000 citizens eager to participate in taiwan's growth and governance, so g0v advocates for transparency and accessibility of information through technology.
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this community embodies the thirst for democracy that propelled the sunflower student movement in 2014. taiwanese youth are leading a new wave of digital, political action, and groups like g0v in taipei are at the helm. what is your role as a community? i think we started by being the protestor. that's why we called ourselves "gov zero" from the start, because we're trying to rebuild the government service from zero. how do you describe your core philosophy? we believe in open-source and open-culture; we believe in activism, which is by doing things first, instead of waiting for a perfect time to come; and we believe in socially-aware actions. we want to be citizens that change the society. we promote collaborations among the citizens. we like to do things together, and we want to share our results


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