Incense burning is one of the most archaic means of communication with the divine. In contemporary Taiwan, religious Taoist ceremonies make profuse use of incense sticks - sometimes of giant proportions. This is however estimated to create problems with the quality of air. As the government has issued an appeal to reduce incense burning, more than 100 000 Taiwanese devotees from around 100 temples, have taken to the streets in a show of protest, the BBC reports...
"The risks include raised levels of PM2.5, benzene and methylbenzene. [...] Last year during a Taoist pilgrimage, government monitors found levels of harmful PM2.5 - particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter - had reached more than 60 times the World Health Organization's recommended limit."
For practitioners of the religion however, the burning of incense is seen as a crucial ritual, which cannot be diminished by anti-pollution measures, especially, as some point out, when other industrial sources could be incriminated. Burning less incense equates to asking believers to honor their gods less and altogether stop communication with them.
As a Taoist devotee eloquently puts it,
"Joyce Wu, 34, said: "Gods can only feel our worship if we burn incense"