chapter  5
Paradoxes of conservation and comparison: Taiwan, environmental crises, and world literatures
ByKAREN THORNBER
Pages 23

Much creative writing from Taiwan and elsewhere suggests that the most obvious contrasts in human attitudes toward the natural world, especially perceptions about ideal relationships of people with environments, occur between seemingly cohesive groups with opposing ideologies. Particularly notable in this regard is the Ma-ori writer Patricia Grace’s prize-winning and well-traveled novel Potiki (1986), which describes the struggles of the Ma-ori indigenous people to protect tribal lands and customs, first from New Zealand’s government and military and then from the “Dollarmen.” The latter are property speculators who hope to transform coastal ecosystems and neighboring hills by building high rises, shopping malls, and golf courses, and offering “every type of water and boating activity.”2 With several minor exceptions, Potiki draws sharp distinctions between indigenous peoples and outsiders, predictably portraying the former as protectors and the latter as destroyers of both native cultures and the natural world.3 One of the Ma-ori declares:

The hills and sea did not belong to us but we wished to see them kept clean and free … [We] did not want the company to make zoos and circuses in the sea, or to put noise and pollution there, or to line the shore with palaces and castles, and souvenir shops, or to have restaurants rotating above the sea, lit up at night like star crafts landing their invaders on the shore.4