Monday, October 30, 2006

Cleaning up Mt. Fuji


I have written before about Ken Noguchi who is on a mission to clean up Mt Fuji. Tonight he was on Fuji TV with a group of volunteers from Fujisan Club who are using GSP equipment to locate garbage, and then go out with trucks to pick it up. For example, they are finding about 200 tons of old tires around Mt Fuji.

Watch the news show on Fuji-News.com!

As Mt Fuji is a symbol of Japan, it is good to see that more and more Japanese people are finally starting to care about it. The cleanup campaign has also been featured on TBS and Asahi TV. About bloody time, too.

Mt Fuji garbage previous

Thursday, October 26, 2006

WWF: Ecological footprint


The 2006 WWF Living Planet report has been published. So, how are we doing here on Earth?

WWF says, "humanity is using the planet's resources faster than they can be renewed and that populations of vertebrate species have declined by about one third since 1970."

What is the ecological footprint? The WWF describes the term as follows:

"The footprint of a country includes all the cropland, grazing land, forest, and fishing grounds required to produce the food, fibre, and timber it consumes, to absorb the wastes emitted in generating the energy it uses, and to provide space for its infrastructure."

Actually Japanese people are doing rather well on this list, at 27th place. Swedish people leave the 8th largest footprint per person - not good. The United Arab Emirates tops the list, followed by the USA, Finland, Canada and Kuwait. South Korea is 30th.

Living Planet Report (pdf)

Click to enlarge the screen shot I took from the report, sorry about the bad resolution.

David Suzuki

Reuters says environmentalist David Suzuki, best known for his television programs on nature and the environment, is ready to step out of spotlight and live the simple life:

Releasing what he insists is his "very last book," a second installment to his autobiography, the 70-year-old Japanese-Canadian says he is looking forward to spending more time in the Canadian wilderness, carving wood and fishing.

He regrets that after decades of campaigning for everything from cleaner air to sustainable farming, his work has not had more impact.

"Nobody any longer knows what a sustainable future is," the bearded, bespectacled environmentalist told Reuters in a recent interview in Australia to promote his book, "David Suzuki: The Autobiography."

"I feel like we are in a giant car heading for a brick wall at 100 miles an hour and everyone in the car is arguing where they want to sit. For God's sake, someone has to say put the brakes on and turn the wheel."

Yahoo has the story here.

I recommend everyone to have a look at the David Suzuki Foundation, a website with great reports and information about environmental issues and food safety.

Listen to this CBC soundclip where David talks about his childhood, and about his mother's advice that he should be "a good dancer and a good public speaker."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Japan tuna quota halved for the next five years


Reuters reported that Japan's annual fishing quota for southern bluefin tuna will be halved for the next five years due to Tokyo's overfishing, quoting a government official:

A huge global appetite for fish, in which Japan's voracious demand plays a key role, has led to widespread overfishing and pushed many high-value species, including some species of bluefin tuna, close to the brink of extinction.

In 2005, Japan exceeded its 6,065 ton quota of southern bluefin tuna by 1,500 tons, which a Fisheries Agency official said had helped contribute to the decision that cut Tokyo's quota to 3,000 tons for five years from 2007.

"There is also a possibility that Japan may have overfished a bit in other years besides 2005 as well," the official added, citing surveys by fishing experts.

"Therefore we had no choice but to accept the decision."


South Korea and Taiwan also saw their quotas fall.

Japan tuna quota halved for the next five years

(Photo: Greenpeace Ocean Defenders)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dark Side of the Moon

Found these SIX videos that just are so marvellous, from the 2003 documentary of the making of Dark Side of the Moon. I had to share them with everyone. "The sun is the same, but you are one year older..."



Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

(Voted number one best album to make love to in 1990 by Australian radio listeners!)



And, as a bonus, Pink Floyd performing Atomic Heart Mother live in Japan, August 1971 at a music festival at Hakone Aphrodite:

Part 1

Part 2

Shakira "chemistry" in Japan!



Great artist from Colombia, do watch her song Ojos Asi from her September 2006 performance in Japan. And here is "Whenever, Wherever", a Shakira bonus video brought to you by Kurashi News From Japan. Have a great weekend!

Avoiding trans fatty acids in Japan


I got a few questions about trans fats and how to avoid them. Dr. Oshimi Takayuki in the city of Ashikawa, Hokkaido, has written about this topic Here's a buzzword for you: Trans Fat. Here is an excerpt:

Why isn't there any legislation regarding the labelling of trans fats in Japan? The risk of developing an artery-clogging disease depends on one's level of intake of saturated fats. In general, Japanese people consume far fewer saturated fats than western people. So, many food manufacturers insist they don't need to worry about the level of trans fats. But the [U.S.] Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that trans fats provide no known health benefits, so there is no safe level of trans fats, and people should consume as little as possible in order to maintain a healthy diet. With the level of trans fat in your food being undeterminable, what is there to do? Well, here are a few tips:

* Choose reduced fat and fat-free products whenever you can
* Avoid margarine
* Avoid foods containing plant oils (植物油)
* Avoid packaged foods
* Avoid fast food
* Avoid baked goods
* Avoid candy and cookies
* Avoid cereals

Feel you can't eat anything? No! You are now in Japan! Traditional Japanese foods don't contain these ingredients.

加工油脂 (Processed oil or fat) is another ingredient to avoid.
マーガリン (Margarine) is not a food, it is soap with added artificial butter flavours and other chemicals.
植物油 (Plant oils) Many plant oils such as sesame oil, olive oil or canola are of course healthy, but the oils should not be heated or processed in any way. That is the reason "virgin olive oil" is recommended since it is cold pressed in a slow and unobtrusive way that doesn't destroy the fat molecules. Unfortunately, without a trans fat label, you have no idea about the amounts that you get in your Japanese food. Bummer! I also try to avoid deep fried foods because there is no way to know if the cook is using the right temperature. Deep frying has been shown to produce acrylamides, a toxic compound.

In Japan, food oils that come from genetically modified organisms are not labelled. That's why I prefer oils from crops that are not GMOs, such as olive and sun flower, as well as avocado oil, walnut oil, and rice oil.

Living Healthy in Ashikawa is a monthly column in the newsletter which is called "Asahikawa Info." It is one of the nicest newsletters I have seen in Japan! Congratulations on an inspiring initiative that other Japanese towns ought to consider as well.

Trans fats previous

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rokkashomura Rhapsody


Rokkashomura Rhapsody is a Japanese documentary by Koizumi Shukichi and Kamanaka Hitomi. It deals with Japan's nuclear reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture. Watch the movie at 11AM on 21 October (Saturday) and 22 October (Sunday) at the Pore Pore Theatre in Higashi Nakano, Tokyo. There will be a talk with activists who are opposing the plutonium plant, as there are fears that this will lead to Japan going nuclear in the future.

Kyoto charity concert

There will be a charity concert in Kyoto on 28 October in support of AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe. For more information on the recipients of the funds raised, please go to the The Zienzele Foundation website.

The price of one ticket to this event will pay (roughly) for one AIDS orphan to attend school for a year. Now there is a really good reason to get your dancing shoes on (not compulsory) and come on down! Details of the event below:

Saturday October 28th, 5.00pm - 9.00pm
Club Metro - Keihan Marutamachi station (exit 2) Kawabata/Marutamachi
2,500 yen (including one free drink)
Student price: 2,000 yen (including one free drink) show student ID at the door
Food available at reasonable prices, courtesy of TOMS Cafe

Musical line-up will be:
Navegante - African drum and dance group - great sound of Africa
Stephen Burns - keyboardist/vocalist - smooth and soulful
Chappy and P.I.M.P - Funk and soul band - boogie on!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Eco-products at Tokyo Big Sight

Eco-Products Exhibition 2006
Meet the future of Eco-Product Development

The Eighth Annual Eco-Products 2005 Exhibition will be held from December 14th to 16th at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center, or Tokyo Big Sight, in Ariake, Tokyo. Its aim is to accelerate the expansion of green markets by exhibiting environmentally friendly products and services.

Eco product is used to denote environmentally friendly products and services. The Exhibition is organized by NEDO, JEMAI, and the Nikkei Shimbun, with support from METI, the Ministry of the Environment, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and many others.

* ENGLISH GUIDED TOURS of selected exhibitors (Eco-Products 2006) Dec 14 (Thu.) - 16 (Sat.)
Fee: Free
Place: Tokyo Big Sight - Tokyo, Japan

At this exhibition, Japan for Sustainability (JFS) will hold an English guided tour of selected exhibitors specially designed for foreigners who need a language assistance. The tour will guide you through the exhibition and assist first-hand discussions with industry experts. JFS did such tour in 2005, and there is a report here.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Reducing trans fats

The Korea Food & Drug Administration has announced revised food labeling standards which make it compulsory to show the amount of trans fats in processed food such as bread, candy, chocolate, noodles and beverages starting from Dec. 1 2007, according to Chosun Ilbo:

"We completed an investigation of some 500 kinds of food including snacks and fast food children enjoy last year before implementing the measure,”said the director in charge of nutritional evaluation at the KFDA Park Hye-kyung. We notified each food company of the result and are looking at whether they are improving. Inspections will continue until artificially produced trans fats are gone completely.”

Japan needs to start moving to protect consumers from synthetic fats, but there has been little discussion so far. The World Health Organization recommends that trans fats should not make up more than 1 percent of total calories you take a day. Without labels, consumers have no way of knowing if food companies are making an effort to reduce trans fats or not.

2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Grameen Bank

The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and Grameen Bank ”for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said, ”Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.”

The unique bank lends money to some of the poorest people in Bangladesh and helps them start their own businesses.

 

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Light blogging ahead


I'm heading back to Sweden for a week so the blog will be rather less lively than usual. I have visited almost 30 countries since my first trip with Iceland Air to the U.S. via Reykjavik in 1984. I do dislike the long-haul airtravel routine with crappy meals inside a noisy cabin, but I have always loved looking out the windows gazing at the upper surface of clouds.

And the CO2 emissions are going to be great. A couple of tonnes of CO2 just to go home and say happy birthday to my father and fix a leaking roof...


The European Parliament has debated aviation CO2 emissions:

Commercial airplanes fly at a height of between 8 to 13 km where they emit the gases which alter the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. The higher the plane flies, the more difficult it is for CO2 to break down in the atmosphere. Plane emissions are at present just 3% of the EU total but growing rapidly. If no measures are taken by 2012 “increased emissions from aviation will neutralise more that a quarter of the reductions required by the EU's Kyoto target," said British Green MEP and rapporteur Caroline Lucas.

Hybrid airplane engines? Nice idea. At the 14th European Biomass Conference in Paris, there were several presentations about biojetfuel and biokerosene. ErgoSphere is at least one blogger trying to discuss the issue of what will happen to air travel when oil runs out or gets too expensive:

Methane is the easier of the two to obtain, handle and use. We'll have a healthy supply of it for decades after natural gas wells lose their fizz. It bubbles out of thousands of landfills nationwide, and isn't going to stop unless we stop dumping garbage (which may happen). It can be liquefied at temperatures (99 K) where air is still a gas, and has a liquid density of 0.424. Hydrogen is touchier stuff, not turning to liquid until the temperature gets down to twenty... Kelvin, and is extremely light even as a liquid with a specific gravity of about 0.070. (Strangely, there's about 50% more hydrogen in a liter of liquid methane than there is in a liter of liquid hydrogen.)

Suppose we were going to fuel a 767 with this stuff, and the aircraft requires about the same amount of energy regardless of the specific fuel used. A 767-200E carries 23,980 gallons (90,770 liters) of Jet-A, which is approximately the composition of kerosene...


More airplane news: British tycoon Sir Richard Branson has urged airlines and airport operators to join his Virgin Atlantic carrier in an ambitious plan to curb the aviation industry's contribution to global warming. He says that airlines around the world have to play their part in reducing CO2 emissions given out by commercial planes by up to 25 per cent, and his letter has been addressed also to engine and aircraft manufacturers such as Rolls Royce and Boeing, and airport operators including BAA in Britain, according to ABC:

To cut fuel consumption, Virgin Atlantic even plans to reduce the weight of its aircraft through using lighter paint on the exterior and lighter fittings inside the cabin.

That includes changing oxygen bottles from metal to carbon-fibre, and removing empty champagne and beer bottles which have been drunk before the plane leaves the stand for recycling.

Sir Richard says that combined with an earlier and smoother descent by pilots coming into land, the changes would save over 150 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, or 25 per cent of the world's aviation emissions.

"With global warming, the world is heading for a catastrophe," he said.

"The aviation industry must play its part in averting that."




What fuel was Atom, aka Astroboy, using in his flying boots?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Shodoshima in the news


The death of about 500 fish in a pond in a nature preserve on Shodoshima island, Kagawa Prefecture, in the Seto Island Sea, has prompted islanders to conduct a clean-up campaign on September 8, according to the Yomiuri, as 60 volunteers removed garbage from the main roads:

"Holidaymakers visit our island, hoping to enjoy its beauty," said a Chugoku Electric Power Co. employee, who took part in the cleanup. "Abandoned trash undermines the pristine image of the island."

"We'll continue our annual island-cleaning campaign in the hope it'll help raise awareness about public manners among the residents and visitors," Kunihiko Saegusa, an association manager, said.

In summer, the chief of an environmental group on the island picks up waste in and around the beaches, as well as planting flowers almost every day.

Asked why his group is named "One Droplet," Shigekazu Mori said: "Each of us is as small as a droplet of water. But droplet upon droplet can start flowing like a big stream."


(More aerial views of Japan here and as a special bonus, truly great aerial views over at Pacific Islander: Taveuni By Air)