Arseny Bulakov, the chairman of the St. Petersburg Tolkien Society, called the production “a very revealing artifact” of its era: “filmed in destitute times, without stage settings, with costumes gathered from acquaintances — and at the same time with great respect for Tolkien and love for his world.”
Mr. Bulakov said it reminded him “of the early years of Tolkienists” in Russia. “Not getting paid for half a year, dressed in old sweaters, they nevertheless got together to talk about hobbits and elves, to rewrite elvish poems by hand, to try to invent what was impossible to truly know about the world.”
Tolkien’s books were hard to find for decades in the Soviet Union, with no official translation of “The Hobbit” until 1976 — “with a few ideological adaptations,” according to Mark Hooker, the author of “Tolkien Through Russian Eyes.” But the “Rings” trilogy was “essentially banned” for decades, he said, perhaps because of its religious themes or the depiction of disparate Western allies uniting against a sinister power from the East.
In 1982, an authorized and abridged translation of “Fellowship” became a best seller, Mr. Hooker said. Translators started making unofficial, samizdat versions in the years that followed — translating and typing out the entire text on their own.
“Khraniteli” was broadcast at a moment of “great systemic turmoil” as the Soviet Union was dismantled, and part of “the flood of ideas that rushed in to fill the vacuum,” Mr. Hooker said. “For the average Russian, the world had turned upside-down.”
Irina Nazarova, an artist who saw the original broadcast in 1991, told the BBC that in retrospect, the “absurd costumes, a film devoid of direction or editing, woeful makeup and acting — it all screams of a country in collapse.”
Mr. Hooker compared the production itself to a samizdat translation, “with all the rough edges.” Among them are wobbling cameras, as though the hobbits were filming their journey with a camcorder, and sudden cuts to a narrator who, smoking a pipe or smiling silently, sometimes seems content to leave his audience in the dark.
WASHINGTON — President Biden outlined a vast expansion of federal spending on Friday, calling for a 16 percent increase in domestic programs as he tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.
The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.
Mr. Biden’s first spending proposal to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity. It would direct billions of dollars toward reducing inequities in housing and education, as well as making sure every government agency puts climate change at the front of its agenda.
It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget document the White House will release this spring. And it does not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan or other efforts he has yet to roll out, which are aimed at workers and families.
Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.
But Mr. Biden’s plan, while incomplete as a budget, could provide a blueprint for Democrats who narrowly control the House and Senate and are anxious to reassert their spending priorities after four years of a Republican White House.
Democratic leaders in Congress hailed the plan on Friday and suggested they would incorporate it into government spending bills for the 2022 fiscal year. The plan “proposes long overdue and historic investments in jobs, worker training, schools, food security, infrastructure and housing,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Shalanda D. Young, who is serving as Mr. Biden’s acting budget director, told congressional leaders that the discretionary spending process would be an “important opportunity to continue laying a stronger foundation for the future and reversing a legacy of chronic disinvestment in crucial priorities.”
The administration is focusing on education spending in particular, seeing that as a way to help children escape poverty. Mr. Biden asked Congress to bolster funding to high-poverty schools by $20 billion, which it describes as the largest year-over-year increase to the Title I program since its inception under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The program provides funding for schools that have high numbers of students from low-income families, most often by providing remedial programs and support staff.
The plan also seeks billions of dollars in increases to early-childhood education, to programs serving students with disabilities and to efforts to staff schools with nurses, counselors and mental health professionals — described as an attempt to help children recover from the pandemic, but also a longstanding priority for teachers’ unions.
Mr. Biden heralded the education funding in remarks to reporters at the White House. “The data shows that it puts a child from a household that is a lower-income household in a position if they start school — not day care — but school at 3 and 4 years old, there’s overwhelming evidence that they will compete all the way through high school and beyond,” he said.
There is no talk in the plans of tying federal dollars to accountability measures for teachers and schools, as they often were under President Barack Obama.
his vision of having every cabinet chief, whether they are military leaders, diplomats, fiscal regulators or federal housing planners, charged with incorporating climate change into their missions.
The proposal aims to embed climate programs into agencies that are not usually seen as at the forefront of tackling global warming, like the Agriculture and Labor Departments. That money would be in addition to clean energy spending in Mr. Biden’s proposed infrastructure legislation, which would pour about $500 billion on programs such as increasing electric vehicle production and building climate-resilient roads and bridges.
Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve, for supplies and efforts to restructure it that began last year. Nearly $7 billion would create an agency meant to research diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Reporting was contributed by Coral Davenport, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Lisa Friedman, Brad Plumer, Christopher Flavelle, Mark Walker, Dana Goldstein, Mark Walker, Noah Weiland, Margot Sanger-Katz, Lara Jakes, Noam Scheiber, Katie Benner and Emily Cochrane.
Just months after returning to the skies, Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet is facing another setback.
Boeing said Friday that it had notified 16 airlines and other customers of a potential electrical problem with the Max and recommended that they temporarily stop flying some planes. The company refused to say how many planes were affected, but four U.S. airlines said they would stop using nearly 70 Max jets. Boeing would not say how long the planes would be sidelined.
Airlines and Boeing have tried hard in the last several months to convince passengers that the Max is safe. This latest problem is sure to spur further doubt among some travelers about the plane.
“It’s a Max, so everybody is interested and that makes perfect sense, but this is the aviation maintenance system working the way that it should,” said John Cox, a former airline pilot and crash investigator and chief executive of Safety Operating Systems, an aviation consulting firm.
Boeing said the affected airlines should verify that a component of the electrical power system on certain Max planes was sufficiently fastened. Airlines had resumed flying the jet after it was grounded for nearly two years because of a pair of accidents that killed nearly 350 people.
have complained of careless practices there in the past, including debris left dangerously close to electrical wiring of the 787 Dreamliner, a large plane used on long flights.
The families of those killed in the crashes have been critical of both Boeing and the F.A.A., saying neither has done enough to root out the problems that caused the crashes.
“Boeing proclaims to be a changed company, but it’s clear their culture is built around cutting corners and putting profits over safety,” Yalena Lopez-Lewis, whose husband, Antoine, died in the crash in Ethiopia, said in a statement on Friday. “Since the deaths of 346 people, their sole focus has not been safety but to perform the bare minimum for regulators to allow it back in the air. This grounding illustrates that the Max is still unsafe to fly.”
After working to fix the Max and restore its credibility with airlines and regulators for much of the past two years, Boeing has been on an upswing in recent weeks. United said it was speeding up deliveries of the Max and expanding its order to 180 planes in the coming years. Europe and the United States agreed to temporarily suspend tariffs in a long-running dispute over Boeing and its rival Airbus. And February was the first month in more than a year in which Boeing reported net positive commercial airplane sales.
The company’s stock is up about 17 percent for the year.
Federal officials have said they still expect enough supply from the two other authorized vaccine manufacturers to be able to fulfill President Biden’s promise of having enough doses for all adults in the country by the end of May.
Nonetheless, states were counting on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to fill important gaps in vaccination campaigns. Easier to store and transport — the vaccine can be kept at normal refrigeration temperatures for three months — states had begun using it in transformative ways, on homeless populations, migrant workers and college students.
Federal administrators divide vaccine doses nationwide based on each state’s adult population. That means that California will bear the brunt of the reduction: After receiving 572,700 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, it will get only 67,600 next week, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
In Texas, the allocation will drop to 46,300 from 392,100. Florida, which received 313,200 shots this week, will get 37,000 next week. Guam, which received 16,900 doses this week, will receive none next week.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that she had urged President Biden to surge Covid-19 vaccines into her state, where a worst-in-the-nation outbreak has filled hospitals and forced some schools to close. “At this point that’s not being deployed, but I am not giving up,” Ms. Whitmer said, describing a Thursday evening call with the president. “Today it’s Michigan and the Midwest. Tomorrow it could be another section of our country.”
Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat whom the president considered as a potential running mate, took pains to praise aspects of Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response at a Friday news conference. But Ms. Whitmer said a rapid influx of shots, particularly the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, was essential to tamping down case numbers even as she resisted additional restrictions on gatherings and businesses.
Jeff Zients, the White House Covid coordinator, said at a news briefing on Friday that the administration does not plan to shift additional vaccine doses to hard-hit states like Michigan, which is slated to get another 17,500 Johnson & Johnson doses next week, an 88 percent drop compared to the nearly 148,000 doses it received this week, according to C.D.C. data.
NEW DELHI — When the coronavirus first struck India last year, the country enforced one of the world’s strictest national lockdowns. The warning was clear: A fast spread in a population of 1.3 billion would be devastating.
Though damaging and ultimately flawed, the lockdown and other efforts appeared to work. Infections dropped and deaths remained low. Officials and the public dropped their guard. Experts warned fruitlessly that the government’s haphazard approach would bring a crisis when a new wave appeared.
Now the crisis is here.
India on Friday reported a daily record of 131,878 new infections as Covid-19 races out of control. Deaths, while still relatively low, are rising. Vaccinations, a mammoth task in such a large nation, are dangerously behind schedule. Hospital beds are running short.
Parts of the country are reinforcing lockdowns. Scientists are rushing to track new strains, including the more hazardous variants found in Britain and South Africa, that may be hastening the spread. But the authorities have declared contact tracing in some places to be simply impossible.
now behind the United States and Brazil.) The economic blowback of the resulting lockdown was devastating.
But the numbers at the time actually understated the first wave, scientists now say, and deaths in India never matched levels of the United States or Britain. Leaders began acting as if the problem had been solved.
Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, boasted of a major stockpile of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which makes up the bulk of the country’s drive. The government even launched a “vaccine diplomacy” campaign that sent doses to other countries.
But the initial rollout within India was slowed by complacency and plagued with public skepticism, including questions about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and lack of disclosure about an Indian-developed dose. Now the vaccination program is not matching the spread. The Serum Institute has said that practically all of its daily production of about two million doses will over the next two months go to the government, delaying commitments to other countries.
Several Indian states now worry that their vaccines stocks will run out. Mumbai, India’s largest city, had shut more than half of its vaccination centers, local media reported on Friday. The central government’s health minister lashed out at the states, reassuring that there would be no shortage and that more supplies were in the pipeline.
hit the campaign trail for state elections. Prime Minister Modi has addressed more than 20 rallies, each with thousands of often-unmasked people.
On Wednesday, Delhi officials said that even a solo car driver would be punished for not wearing a mask properly. The same day, Amit Shah, the country’s de facto No. 2 leader, drove through a campaign crowd in the state of West Bengal, waving without a mask and throwing rose petals.
The government also gave the go ahead for a long Hindu religious festival called Kumbh Mela, which runs through the end of April. Between one million to five million people attend the festival each day in the city of Hardiwar, on the banks of the river Ganges in the state of Uttarakhand.
no one would face restrictions as “the faith in God will overcome the fear of Covid-19.” Days later, Mr. Rawat tested positive for Covid.
The positivity rate of random tests is rising at the festival, and more than 300 participants have tested positive, said Dr. Arjun Singh Senger, a health officer at the festival.
The sheer speed of new infections has surprised health officials, who wonder whether variants might be a factor. Answering that question will be difficult. India has put only about 1 percent of its cases through genome sequencing tests, according to Dr. Reddy, of the Public Health Foundation of India, but researchers require a minimum of 5 percent to determine what is circulating.
So far, the government has found variants from the U.K. and South Africa as well as a local mutation. Limited information suggests that more infectious variants are circulating in India, as well, Dr. Reddy said.
Even if the variants have not yet been a major part of the new wave of infections, they have cast a shadow over India’s crucial vaccination drive. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been rejected by South Africa ineffective against that variant.
“This time, the speed is much faster than the last time,” said Dr. Vinod K. Paul, the head of India’s Covid response task force. “The next four weeks are very, very crucial for us.”
As concerns about climate change push the world economy toward a lower-carbon future, investing in oil may seem a risky bet. For the long term, that may be true.
Yet for the moment, at least, oil and gas prices appear likely to continue to rise as the economy recovers from the pandemic-driven shutdown of millions of businesses, big and small.
These countervailing trends — increasing demand now and falling demand at some point, perhaps in the not-too-distant future — create a dilemma for investors.
The good news is that an array of traditional mutual funds and exchange-traded funds are available to help them navigate these uncertain waters. Some funds focus on slices of the industry, such as extracting crude oil and gas from the ground or delivering refined products to consumers. Others focus on so-called integrated companies that do it all. Some spice their holdings with some exposure to wind, solar or other alternative energy sources.
International Energy Agency forecast that oil consumption was not likely to return to prepandemic levels in developed economies.
“World oil markets are rebalancing after the Covid-19 crisis spurred an unprecedented collapse in demand in 2020, but they may never return to ‘normal,’” the I.E.A. said in its “Oil 2021” report. “Rapid changes in behavior from the pandemic and a stronger drive by governments toward a low-carbon future have caused a dramatic downward shift in expectations for oil demand over the next six years.”
alternative energy funds. Many enable investors to zero in on discrete segments of the industry.
The biggest holdings of the Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy E.T.F. are producers of raw materials for solar cells and rechargeable batteries or builders and operators of large-scale solar projects. The $2.9 billion fund yields 0.49 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.7 percent.
The First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund focuses on applied green technology. Its biggest holdings are Tesla, the American maker of electric automobiles; NIO, a Chinese rival in that field; and Plug Power, which makes hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles. Also a $2.9 billion fund, it yields 0.24 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.6 percent.
The First Trust Global Wind Energy E.T.F., as its name suggests, targets wind turbine manufacturers and servicers, led by the Spanish-German joint venture Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark, as well as operators such as Northland Power of Canada. This $423 million fund yields 0.92 percent and has an expense ratio of 0.61 percent.
The European Union’s regulator, the European Medicines Agency, has so far declined to approve the Russian vaccine for use and only two members of the bloc, Hungary and Slovakia, have placed orders for Sputnik V. Serbia, which is not a member of the bloc, has also ordered Sputnik V and begun using it in a mass inoculation program that has been far more successful than the stumbling efforts of most European Union states.
Even Germany, a stickler for procedure, has expressed growing interest in Sputnik V. Health Minister Jens Spahn told the public broadcaster WDR on Thursday that he would like to start bilateral talks with Russia over a potential purchase of the vaccine, which would go through only if it is approved by the European Medicines Agency.
The previous day, Markus Söder, the governor of Bavaria, said his government had signed a preliminary agreement to buy 2.5 million doses of the vaccine, which are to be produced at a Russian-owned plant in the southern state. That deal, too, is contingent on E.M.A. approval.
Sputnik V is manufactured at seven locations in Russia, and also at plants in India and South Korea. A number of other countries have signed manufacturing contracts, including Brazil, Turkey and Serbia. Russia has consistently delivered fewer doses of the vaccine than initially promised, suggesting glitches in manufacturing. Producing vaccines at scale is a difficult process and ramping up production has presented problems for Western vaccines, too.
Noting that about 40 countries are using or scheduled to use the Russian vaccine, the Slovak regulatory agency asserted that “these vaccines are only associated by the name.” That raised questions about deviations from the formula reviewed in The Lancet.
“The comparability and consistency of different batches produced at different locations has not been demonstrated,” the Slovak regulator said. “In several cases, they appear to be vaccines with different properties (lyophilisate versus solution, single-dose ampoules versus multi-dose vials, different storage conditions, composition and method of manufacture).”
The Slovak statement could damage Russia’s efforts to establish Sputnik V as a reliable brand. It could also exacerbate lingering doubts left by the vaccine’s highly politicized rollout in Russia, where President Vladimir V. Putin announced that the drug was ready for use in August, before clinical trials had finished.
filed first-time claims for state jobless benefits last week, an increase of 18,000, the Labor Department said. It was the second consecutive weekly increase after new claims hit a pandemic low.
At the same time, 152,000 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 85,000.
Neither figure is seasonally adjusted.
Claims rose above one million early in the year but havecome down since then, helped by the spread of vaccinations, the easing of restrictions on businesses in many states and the arrival of stimulus funds.
Most individuals received payments of $1,400 in recent weeks as part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion relief package, and the funds should bolster consumer spending in the coming months.
On Friday, the government reported that employers added 916,000 jobs in March, twice February’s gain and the most since August. The unemployment rate dipped to 6 percent, the lowest since the pandemic began, with nearly 350,000 people rejoining the labor force.
Still, there is plenty of ground to make up.
Even after March’s job gains, the economy is 8.4 million jobs short of where it was in February 2020. Entire sectors, like travel and leisure, as well as restaurants and bars, are only beginning to recover from the millions of job losses that followed the pandemic’s arrival.
The union seeking to represent workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama said late Wednesday that there were 3,215 ballots cast — or about 55 percent of the roughly 5,800 workers who were eligible to vote.
The ballots are expected to be counted by hand starting either Thursday afternoon or Friday morning in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, according to the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. Hundreds of ballots are being contested, mostly by Amazon, the union said.
The vote counting will be shown on a videoconference call to a small number of outsiders, including journalists, in addition to representatives from the union and the company.
Union elections are typically held in person, but the labor board determined that the election should be conducted by mail to minimize risks during the pandemic. The ballots were sent to workers in early February and were due at the agency before March 30. Since then, Amazon and the union have had a chance to challenge whether particular worker were eligible to vote.
When the public counting is done, the agency will announce the formal results if the margin of victory for one side is greater than the number of contested ballots.
If the margin is narrower, then it could take two to three weeks for the N.L.R.B. to hold a hearing to sort through the contested ballots and take evidence from both sides on whether they should be counted.
Officials are calling Taiwan’s drought its worst in more than half a century. And it is exposing the enormous challenges involved in hosting the island’s semiconductor industry, which is an increasingly indispensable node in the global supply chains for smartphones, cars and other keystones of modern life.
Chip makers use lots of water to clean their factories and wafers, the thin slices of silicon that make up the basis of the chips, Raymond Zhong and Amy Chang Chien report for The New York Times. In 2019, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s facilities in Hsinchu consumed 63,000 tons of water a day, according to the company, or more than 10 percent of the supply from two local reservoirs.
In recent months, the government has:
But the most sweeping measure has been the halt on irrigation, which affects 183,000 acres of farmland, around a fifth of Taiwan’s irrigated land.
The Taiwanese public appears to have decided that rice farming is less important, both for the island and the world, than semiconductors. The government is subsidizing growers for the lost income. But Chuang Cheng-deng, 55, worries that the thwarted harvest will drive customers to seek out other suppliers, which could mean years of depressed earnings.
Prosecutors are accusing the French arm of Ikea, the Swedish home furnishings giant, and some of its former executives of engineering a “system of espionage” from 2009 to 2012, in a criminal trial that has riveted public attention in France.
The alleged snooping was used to investigate employees and union organizers, check up on workers on medical leave and size up customers seeking refunds for botched orders, Liz Alderman reports for The New York Times. A former military operative was hired to execute some of the more clandestine operations.
In all, 15 people are charged. A verdict from a panel of judges is scheduled for June 15.
The case stoked outrage in 2012 after the emails were leaked to the French news media, and Ikea promptly fired several executives in its French unit, including its chief executive. There is no evidence that similar surveillance happened in any of the other 52 countries where the global retailer hones a fresh-faced image of stylish thriftiness served with Swedish meatballs.
Victims’ lawyers described a methodic operation that ran along two tracks: one involving background and criminal checks of job candidates and employees without their knowledge, and another targeting union leaders and members.
Ikea’s lawyer, Emmanuel Daoud, denied that systemwide surveillance had been carried out at Ikea’s stores in France. He argued that any privacy violations had been the work of a single person, Jean-François Paris, the French unit’s head of risk management.
Emails and receipts showed that Mr. Paris handed much of the legwork to Jean-Pierre Fourès, who surveilled hundreds of job applicants, gleaning information from social media and other sources to speed vetting and hiring. He also did background checks on unsuspecting customers who tangled with Ikea over big refunds. He insisted that he had never broken the law in gathering background material.
The surveillance encompassed career workers. In one case, Mr. Fourès was hired to investigate whether Ikea France’s deputy director of communications and merchandising, who was on a yearlong sick leave recovering from hepatitis C, had faked the severity of her illness when managers learned she had traveled to Morocco.
Carnival Cruise Line, the largest cruise operator in the United States, is optimistic that several of its U.S.-based lines will be up and running by July, it said on Wednesday as it reported its first quarter financials. Booking volumes for future Carnival cruises were about 90 percent higher in the first quarter of 2021 than in the previous quarter, “reflecting both the significant pent-up demand and long-term potential for cruising,” Arnold Donald, the chief executive of Carnival Corporation, the cruise line’s parent company, said in a statement on Wednesday. The company reported a net loss of $2 billion for the first quarter of 2021.
Unions representing employees at two prominent podcasting companies owned by Spotify, the audiostreaming giant, announced Wednesday that they had ratified their first labor contracts. The larger of the two unions, with 65 employees, is at The Ringer, a sports and pop culture website with a podcasting network. The second union, at the podcast production company Gimlet Media, has just under 50 employees. The two groups were among the first in the podcasting industry to unionize, and both are represented by the Writers Guild of America, East.
S&P 500 futures were up on Thursday, pointing to a rise when Wall Street trading starts, a day after the benchmark index set another record the previous day. Investors are awaiting the latest weekly jobless claims report, which could provide a fresh measure of a strengthening economy.
European markets were mostly higher and Asian stocks had a mostly positive day. Oil futures were lower, and Treasury yields slipped.
Investors on Wednesday were buoyed by remarks in the minutes of the Federal Reserve officials’ meeting last month, which suggested policies that have supported the markets and businesses through the pandemic were not about to be removed.
Fed policymakers have said they want to see “substantial further progress” toward their employment and inflation goals before scaling back the accommodative measures.
Weekly jobless claims numbers, to be released later on Thursday, come amid growing confidence about hiring in the U.S. economy. The payrolls report for March showed an impressive gain of 916,000 jobs. But even with that improvement, the economy is still 8.4 million jobs short of where it was in February 2020.
Investors are also digesting more details of President Biden’s corporate tax plan, which aims to raise as much as $2.5 trillion over 15 years. It includes a strict new minimum tax on global profits and cracking down on companies that try to move profits offshore.
Stocks, bonds and oil
In European, trading the Stoxx Europe 600 was 0.4 higher after hitting a record high at the close of trading on Wednesday. In Britain, the FTSE 100 was also 0.4 percent higher. In Asia, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong ended the day 1.2 percent higher.
In New York, S&P 500 futures were 0.3 percent higher, after the index rose 0.2 percent on Wednesday.
Oil futures were slipping, as rising coronavirus infections weigh on projections of oil demand. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was 0.2 percent lower at $63 a barrel, and the U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, fell 0.5 percent, to $59.47 a barrel.
Yields on 10-year Treasury notes were down more than 2 basis points, to 1.64 percent.
HSINCHU, Taiwan — Chuang Cheng-deng’s modest rice farm is a stone’s throw from the nerve center of Taiwan’s computer chip industry, whose products power a huge share of the world’s iPhones and other gadgets.
This year, Mr. Chuang is paying the price for his high-tech neighbors’ economic importance. Gripped by drought and scrambling to save water for homes and factories, Taiwan has shut off irrigation across tens of thousands of acres of farmland.
The authorities are compensating growers for the lost income. But Mr. Chuang, 55, worries that the thwarted harvest will drive customers to seek out other suppliers, which could mean years of depressed earnings.
“The government is using money to seal farmers’ mouths shut,” he said, surveying his parched brown fields.
already strained by surging demand for electronics, the added uncertainty about Taiwan’s water supply is not likely to ease concerns about the tech world’s reliance on the island and on one chip maker in particular: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.
Intel and other big names. The company said last week that it would invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity, which will likely further strengthen its commanding presence in the market.
TSMC says the drought has not affected its production so far. But with Taiwan’s rainfall becoming no more predictable even as its tech industry grows, the island is having to go to greater and greater lengths to keep the water flowing.
In recent months, the government has flown planes and burned chemicals to seed the clouds above reservoirs. It has built a seawater desalination plant in Hsinchu, home to TSMC’s headquarters, and a pipeline connecting the city with the rainier north. It has ordered industries to cut use. In some places it has reduced water pressure and begun shutting off supplies for two days each week. Some companies, including TSMC, have hauled in truckloads of water from other areas.
But the most sweeping measure has been the halt on irrigation, which affects 183,000 acres of farmland, around a fifth of Taiwan’s irrigated land.
project to increase irrigation efficiency.
That Taiwan, one of the developed world’s rainiest places, should lack for water is a paradox verging on tragedy.
2015, and before that in 2004.
“If in another two or three years, the same conditions reappear, then we can say, ‘Ah, Taiwan has definitely entered an era of major water shortages,’” said You Jiing-yun, a civil engineering professor at National Taiwan University. “Right now, it’s wait and see.”
according to the company, or more than 10 percent of the supply from two local reservoirs, Baoshan and Baoshan Second Reservoir. TSMC recycled more than 86 percent of the water from its manufacturing processes that year, it said, and conserved 3.6 million tons more than it did the year before by increasing recycling and adopting other new measures. But that amount is still small next to the 63 million tons it consumed in 2019 across its Taiwan facilities.
government figures show. Most Western Europeans use less than that, though Americans use more, according to World Bank data.
Mr. Wang of the Water Resources Agency said: “Adjusting water prices has a big effect on society’s more vulnerable groups, so when making adjustments, we are extremely cautious.” Taiwan’s premier said last month that the government would look into imposing extra fees on 1,800 water-intensive factories.
Lee Hong-yuan, a hydraulic engineering professor who previously served as Taiwan’s interior minister, also blames a bureaucratic morass that makes it hard to build new wastewater recycling plants and to modernize the pipeline network.
“Other small countries are all extremely flexible,” Mr. Lee said, but “we have a big country’s operating logic.” He believes this is because Taiwan’s government was set up decades ago, after the Chinese civil war, with the goal of ruling the whole of China. It has since shed that ambition, but not the bureaucracy.
Taiwan’s southwest is both an agricultural heartland and a rising center of industry. TSMC’s most advanced chip facilities are in the southern city of Tainan.
The nearby Tsengwen Reservoir has shrunk to a marshy stream in some parts. Along a scenic strip known as Lovers’ Park, the floor of the reservoir has become a vast moonscape. The water volume is around 11.6 percent of capacity, according to government data.
In farming towns near Tainan, many growers said they were content to be living on the government’s dime, at least for now. They clear the weeds from their fallowed fields. They drink tea with friends and go on long bike rides.
But they are also reckoning with their futures. The Taiwanese public appears to have decided that rice farming is less important, both for the island and the world, than semiconductors. The heavens — or larger economic forces, at least — seem to be telling the farmers it is time to find other work.
“Fertilizer is getting more expensive. Pesticide is getting more expensive,” said Hsieh Tsai-shan, 74, a rice grower. “Being a farmer is truly the worst.”
Serene farmland surrounds the village of Jingliao, which became a popular tourist spot after appearing in a documentary about farmers’ changing lives.
There is only one cow left in town. It spends its days pulling visitors, not plowing fields.
“Around here, 70 counts as young,” said Yang Kuei-chuan, 69, a rice farmer.
Both of Mr. Yang’s sons work for industrial companies.
“If Taiwan didn’t have any industry and relied on agriculture, we all might have starved to death by now,” Mr. Yang said.
Greenland’s left-wing environmentalist party, Inuit Ataqatigiit, won a victory in national elections on Tuesday after campaigning against the development of a contentious rare earths mine partly backed by China.
The party, which had been in the opposition, won 37 percent of the vote over the longtime incumbents, the center-left Siumut party. The environmentalists will need to negotiate a coalition to form a government, but observers said their election win in Greenland, a semiautonomous territory of Denmark that sits on a rich vein of untapped uranium and rare earth minerals, signaled concerns from voters over the impact of mining.
“The people have spoken,” Múte B. Egede, the leader of Inuit Ataqatigiit, told the Danish broadcaster DR, adding that voters had made their position clear and that the mining project in Kvanefjeld in the country’s south would be halted.
Greenland Minerals, an Australian company behind the project, has said the mine has the “potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths,” adding that it would create uranium as a byproduct. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the vote.
rare earths, a crucial part of the high-tech global supply chain and used in the manufacture of everything from cellphones to rechargeable batteries, is currently dominated by China. Shenghe Resources, a Chinese rare earth company, owns 11 percent of Greenland Minerals.
Opposition to the Greenland mine, which the incumbent Siumut party had supported, played a primary role in its defeat, its leader, Erik Jensen, conceded in an interview with the Danish station TV2.
The mining project has been in development for years, with the government approving drilling for research, but not issuing final approval for the mine.
Among Greenlanders, opposition to the mine had grown over potential exposure of a unique, fragile area to “radioactive pollution and toxic waste,” said Dwayne Menezes, director of the Polar Research and Policy Initiative, a London-based think tank. “What they’re opposed to is dirty mining.”
The election result sent a clear message, Mr. Menezes added: Mining companies that want access to Greenland’s deposits will have to abide by stringent environmental standards and should look to give Greenlanders a “viable alternative.”
its polar seas become more navigable and as the melting ice unveils newly accessible resources, including the rare earths that play an essential part in the production of many alternative energy sources.
“On a global level, we are going to need to address head on this tension between Indigenous communities and the materials we are going to most need for a climate-stressed planet,” said Aimee Boulanger, executive director of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, a nonprofit.
Given China’s dominance over the global rare earth production and supply, Mr. Menezes said that Western countries should be looking for ways to enhance their partnerships with resource-rich Greenland to keep it in “their sphere of influence.”
Two years ago, Greenland’s lucrative resources and its increasing strategic importance led President Donald J. Trump to muse about purchasing the island. Greenland’s government, however, made clear that it was not for sale.
“We’re open for business, not for sale,” the island’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on Twitter at the time.