Report: Taipei forums, workshops and teaching, April 2019

Last week I was in Taiwan for the final Taiwan workshops for our Royal Society of Edinburgh-Ministry of Science and Technology Joint Research Project into the spatial relationship of green infrastructure and heat hazard. I was joined by my PhD student and Research Assistant Yi-Chen Huang, and met up with Co-PI Dr Wan-Yu Shih of Ming-Chuan University to run the activities.

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Expert workshop participants coming to a consensus on the Q-Sort

We wanted to make the workshops as interactive as possible, so the first morning started with an expert workshop on social characteristics of heat vulnerability for Taiwanese cities. Thanks to support from Classic Design and Planning, we were able to invite Prof Sarah Lindley from University of Manchester to join us. Sarah talked the group through her work on the ClimateJust project in the UK, which aims to understand climate disadvantage by linking spatial environmental and social factors. With Sarah’s work as inspiration, the invited experts then worked in two small groups – and latterly as one big group – to rank a range of vulnerability drivers using the Q-Sort method. The invited experts came from a breadth of fields including urban planning, disaster risk, public health and architecture, as well as informed members of civil society. We had a full morning of heated discussion, so much so that lunch break had to be condensed – always a good sign!

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Wan-Yu and I introduce the workshop

In the afternoon we then had a public forum, with four talks on different aspects of green infrastructure and society in Taiwan. First was Po-Hung Liu of Classic Design and Planning, who set out a vision for Taipei and discussed the social and environmental opportunities which could be realised from the city’s green areas. It was then my turn to talk about the social dimensions of greenspace, drawing on the findings from the two papers Wan-Yu and I published last year. Chi-Da Wu of National Cheng Kung University spoke about the public health benefits of greenspace, before Wan-Yu gave one of her characteristically thorough and understated presentations, full of scientific rigour, on the relationship between green infrastructure and heat hazard in Taipei Metropolis. We then enjoyed a facilitated panel discussion with questions from the assembled audience.

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Wan-Yu Shih discusses her work on green infrastructure and heat hazard in Taipei at the Wednesday forum

Thursday evening was a double-header, with two hour-long lectures from myself and from Sarah on the theme of climate risk and green infrastructure in the UK. I spoke first, giving an overview of the adaptation landscape in Scotland and using the outcomes from our interview research on the RSE-MOST project to discuss how green infrastructure is helping to build a resilient Glasgow. Sarah then took us on a tour of her extensive work into green infrastructure, including her team’s newest research into how older people engage with green spaces in the UK. Thereafter, we had another enthusiastic Q&A session, with questions from the floor about differences between Taiwan and the UK; in whose benefit greenspace is managed; and even our opinions on Brexit (Sarah and I had done so well up until that point not to mention it…)

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Extolling the virtues of climate adaptation and green infrastructure champions in Glasgow, with Yi-Chen interpreting

For both days, both Yi-Chen and Wan-Yu did a great job of translating into Chinese for us, for which I am very grateful indeed – I know what a tiring and challenging job it is to translate and interpret.

I always enjoy doing a bit of teaching when I come to Taiwan, and was able to take two classes in the Department of Urban Planning and Disaster Management at MCU. The first class was with professional students on research techniques, so I talked the class through principles of research design, using the media analysis work I did when Wan-Yu and I first started collaborating as an example to spark discussion. We then ran the Q-Sort again with the class, where the students used the insights from their own jobs to help them reach consensus on how to rank the factors. The second class was with my friends from the global environmental change module – who I met back in March – where we again used the Q-Sort to get the class thinking and discussing what makes people vulnerable to heat risk. This time, there was a very animated and intense discussion between the groups, possible thanks to the good relations the students have with each other and the positive environment for learning that Wan-Yu creates in her classes.

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Showing off the outcome of the Q-Sort training with the professional class
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Global environmental change class at MCU present their findings

We are not done yet though! At the end of June, we will have another round of events in Scotland, with a workshop to be held in Edinburgh on Thursday 27 June. More details to follow soon!

AND we got another paper accepted together while in Taipei! This time, with our collaborators from Kyushu University, we are evaluating the emergence of an urban heat and greenspace research community in Fukuoka, Japan. Paper should be out soon in Geoforum.

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