N8 reviews: Two Trees Make a Forest

🌲木(mù) + 🌲木(mù) = 🌲🌲林(lín)

Hey Garbage Folks!

Before I get on with this week’s newsletter, we have some exciting news:

A new Trashmaster is joining us! It’s 🥁 *drumrooooooooooll* — Alisha!

Alisha is an environmental researcher focusing on conservation, policy, and environmental justice. She’s going to be helping us with factchecking, and developing new episode ideas for the show. Expect some articles coming from her in the future as well!

Alright! Now onto the newsletter ♻️📚

🌲Our first book episode🌲

Two Trees Also Make a Lovely Book

Being Nature N8, I obviously love nature books. But, as I grew older, I found out that there’s a trend among these books: they tend to be written by men, their landscapes are stripped of people, and the writing overwhelming worships the idea of an untouched “nature”. Jessica J. Lee breaks away from that. Two Trees Make a Forest is nature writing for a different world: its nature is inseparable from people.

Two Trees Make a Forest combines a detailed natural history of Taiwan with its colonial past, a complicated history of independence sewn into the complexity of China, and all its resulting implications of immigration, forced or voluntary.

The book follows Jessica’s family, particularly her grandparents as they flee from China to Taiwan, before ultimately immigrating to Canada. In it I saw a story of feeling displaced from your roots, cut off, searching for your family tree and trying to graft the branches back on.

It’s something I deeply relate with, although in the inverse. With no blood-family in Taiwan, I have felt a new life slowly come to be on this island over the years, like a history gifted to me and weaved into my own.

What I liked most about Two Trees is that it captures the complex nature of nature in Taiwan. There is no wilderness and there is abundant wilderness. People have lived on this land for 10,000 years — their story tells us a nature both destructive and reverent, distant yet connected. In one moment, Jessica reads and reinterprets a passage from Brush Talks from Dream Brook, a text written by Song dynasty author Shen Kuo. To me, this scene really reveals that complexity:

In one passage, [Kuo] told the story of a cluster of mollusks brought up from the riverbed by a fisher- man, layered like fish scales into a solid shape. The fisherman pried open the shells and found inside a pristine copy of the Buddhist Diamond Sutra, a book of spiritual discourses. The pages had survived the river in their calcified cage. I thought, reading this, that our fleeting human worlds are so easily swallowed up by nature, our fate fastened to its course. What we believe to be culture is only ever a fragment of natural world that we have sectioned off, enclosed, pearl-like, for posterity.

As Jessica brought up in our interview, the nature-culture divide is and has always been artificial. We cling to that divide, yet its consequences clearly have not been serving us very well: look at how we’ve exploited our environments, as if our survival is completely independent of its wellbeing.

There just simply isn’t room for nature writing without people, anymore. We need more books like these. We need more books that talk about Taiwan, not as a geopolitical hot potato, but as what it truly is, one of the most beautiful and bio-diverse places on Earth.

During our interview and in the book Jessica also references probably the most famous nature writer in Taiwan: Wu Ming-yi. I have only read one of his books: Man With the Compound Eyes, which follows the story of an indigenous person who gets caught on a giant plastic island as it crashes into Taiwan. Think surrealist nature writing set in Taiwan.

It’s a truly fantastic book if you’re still hungry for more after Two Trees, and between both of these you will be well-versed in the state of nature in Taiwan… or at least as well-versed in this as Nature N8.

So check out the book, and let us know if there would be more books you recommend!

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And Environs

TSMC Commits to use 100% Renewable Electricity (Climate Group)

  • TSMC becomes first semiconductor company worldwide to join RE100, committing to source 100% renewable power globally;

  • Historic commitment expected to shift support for renewables across the region: eyes now on industry peers to see if they will up their ambition

Last time we talked about that huge PPA deal that TSMC signed, well, they want full RE this time by going all the way. That’s right 100%. This is huge. They might even be the largest member of RE100.

The big question now is, who is next? (Looking at you, Samsung.) This could set off a competition between big tech suppliers, and would literally transform energy generation in Asia. Here’s to hoping for more to come!

For more Taiwan Ecology…

Why Not follow Taiwan Birds?

This isn’t news, just a suggestion for a cool Twitter account. Let him know we sent you!

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