1002   Insight talk

Science Communication for Just Transition - Strategies and Challenges of Petrochemical Fenceline Communities in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Author: Wen-Ling Hong
National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology , Taiwan

Kaohsiung houses the most significant share of the petrochemical industry in Taiwan. We study three petrochemical fenceline communities through the lens of science communication. The Houjing refinery was closed after a long intensive protest; the Dashe site is undergoing downgrading review; the Dalinpu site is expanding. These fenceline communities are older, with a population around 10,000-20000. Social and economic status are around the national median. To consider just transition and promote anticipatory governance, identifying pollutions and raising awareness is always essential but controversial and complicated. Houjing community used the compensation from the petrochemical company to recruit scientists to identify air and groundwater pollution using FTIR and GC-MS. The locals familiarized themselves with the science of pollution and used it to demand improvement. For more than 20 years, their continuous efforts resulted in the first successful community-led decommission of a large petrochemical site. In Dashe, no resource is allocated for systematic study, and little scientific data are available. Community engagement of the environmental issues is weak. In Dalinpu, which is surrounded by many plants, identifying the source of pollution is nearly impossible. Furthermore, a recent epidemiological study found high arsenic levels in residents' blood, but the cause remains a mystery. An ongoing plan is to relocate the Dalinpu community because of unacceptable health risks and environmental carrying capacity. Social structures play essential roles in the public understanding of science. In Houjing, religious networks and local leaders' narratives greatly influence interpreting and communicating the science data in the community. The petrochemical industry's just transition is a pressing issue, but the resource is much needed to facilitate residents' awareness and anticipatory governance.

Co-author: Jr-Ping Wang
National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan

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