Friday, November 30, 2007

Who is "Roger Dahl" !?!



Roger Dahl is seriously funny. More cartoons here. Hmm... I can't find anything about him on the Internet. Who is "Roger Dahl"?? He creates the Zero Gravity strip for The Japan Times. More importantly, how does he manage to maintain such a low-profile? Not even a Wikipedia link. He deserves better. Cheers!

Gwen Muranaka is another great cartoonist for The Japan Times that makes me chuckle!



She also doubles as editor-in-chief for The Rafu Shimpo, a newspaper based in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles since 1903. Impressive. Japanese in the United States have a long history.

Water in Asia

Water is an issue that interests me a lot these days. I was buying bottled water (18 liter plastic bottles) but recently decided to switch to tapwater. It doesn't taste as good as the bottled stuff, but here in Japan, tapwater is safe to drink. And I don't want to contribute to more energy waste and pollution by having the plastic bottles delivered by truck to my doorstep.

Next week ADB is holding an international water conference in Beppu City, Japan. A team of eminent experts, led by 2006 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate Professor Asit Biswas and supported by a panel of resource persons, have prepared a report about the water issues in Asian countries:

ADB: Asian Water Development Outlook 2007

The report is trying to put on a brave face, calling it a "cautiously optimistic" look atAsia’s water future. With existing knowledge, experience, and technology, the region’s water problems are solvable. But in solving these issues, the report highlights that:

* Worldwide competition for water is increasing. But any water crisis in the future will not be caused by physical scarcity of water, but more likely by inadequate or inappropriate water governance
* There is a need to address the inherent relationships between water and other development-related sectors, e.g. energy, food, environment, as interactions among them will determine the future of Asian countries
* Climate change is creating a new level of uncertainty in water planning and management processes, and accelerated research is needed if serious water-related stresses are to be avoided
* Limited access to water is a key determinant of poverty. Yet the poor causes a significant proportion of water problems, e.g. uncontrolled deforestation. Investing in poverty reduction counters further degradation of water resources and the environment
* Stable institutional frameworks, strong political will, accelerated demand from civil society to solve water issues, adequate financial and managerial support, and intensive capacity development efforts are among the common characteristics of successful water management practices in the region

Reuters notes that developing countries in Asia could face an "unprecedented" water crisis within a decade due to mismanagement of water resources, and that the effects of climate change, rapid industrialisation and population growth on water resources could lead to health and social issues that could cost billions of dollars annually.

Reuters: Asian Nations Face "Unprecedented" Water Crisis - ADB

Japan's first carbon credit trade

Marubeni, a Japanese trading company has sold 10,000 tons worth of greenhouse gas emission rights to another company. This is Japan's first major case of carbon-credit trading. NHK World explains that carbon trading allows companies that surpass their emission-cut target to sell that excess cut. They are using an Internet-based system providing information about companies' emission rights:

Marubeni Corporation used the Web site to sell 10,000 tons worth of carbon dioxide emission rights to a domestic power company. Marubeni acquired the emission rights by funding a South Korean chemical plant's reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon-credit trading is becoming an increasingly popular method for achieving emission-cut targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

CUJ: Stop clear-cutting Tasmania's forests


Consumers Union of Japan and other groups here are concerned about the clear-cutting of old growth forest in Tasmania, Australia. This fall, a group of activists went there and met with Green Party representatives Bob Brown and Christina Milne.

Yasuaki Yamaura has written a report about his impressions from the trip. He notes that most Japanese consumers have no way of knowing where their tissue paper and office paper comes from. Australian Wilderness Society in Tasmania is a NGO with a great website, do have a look.

Do read his report, What is happening to Tasmanian Forests?

My five cents?

The road from this:



To this:



is paved with the best intentions.


More about Tasmania's amazing biodiversity here.

Update: On November 22, Australia's Federal Court dismissed the appeal against Gunn's $1.7 billion pulp mill in Tasmania. Activists vow to keep on fighting, as the Wilderness Society issued a call for law reform in response to the dismissal of its challenge to the assessment process for the controversial Tamar Valley pulp mill.

Meanwhile, after the election, former Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett, a long-standing environmental campaigner, was given a government post with responsibility for water. Climate change went to Malaysia-born Penny Wong, who becomes the country’s first Chinese-Australian cabinet minister. Australia will be very interesting to watch from now on - the new government has just announced that it will act on the Kyoto Protocol.

But, politics being what it is, Peter Garrett has actually said he is not against the Gunns' paper mill. He is a "team player"... The Green Party's Bob Brown, of course, has criticized Garrett for such views. For consumers in Japan, all of this will be very important: where does the paper we use every day come from?

False labels at Makudo

McDonalds - Makudo to Japanese customers - has falsified labels at at least four outlets in Tokyo, it was revealed yesterday. Kyodo reports that the fast food chain is investigating because out-of-date food may have been sold:

In response to an inquiry by McDonald's, staff employed by the franchisee admitted instructing subordinates to replace labels showing the actual production dates and hours with false ones, according to the company.

What is really interesting is that once again, a whistle-blower inside the company has come forward with details. I wrote about Japan's new rules for protecting whistle-blowers here.

Japan's new Whistleblower Protection Act came into force 1 April 2006.

Asahi: Four McDonald's outlets in Tokyo suspected of selling falsely labeled salads

Update: The scandal is widening, with McDonald's Chairman Eiko Harada saying that mislabeling actually has been common practice for up to six years at some outlets, not two years as was first reported.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dr. Mercola: Japanese Consumers Will Not Accept GM Food

Dr. Joseph Mercola's website and newsletter are the largest of its kind in the United States. Impressive. Recently, they noted that Japanese Consumers Will Not Accept GM Food:

Japanese consumers are opposed to genetically modified (GM) food and agriculture, and are actively building alliances to keep their country GM-free.

As far back as 1997, nearly 500,000 Japanese signed a petition opposing GM food and demanding proper labeling. By 2002, the petition grew to over 2 million signatures.

The majority of the Japanese public also wants GM foods to be labeled as such. According to a 2002 survey by the Ministry of Public Management and Home Affairs:

* 84 percent of respondents said that labeling is needed if a product is derived from GM crops -- even if the amount is very small

* 76 percent said that labeling is needed if a product is derived from GM crops, whether or not it contains any GM material (such as edible oil and soy sauce)

Much of the country’s concern about GM crops stems from the issue of GM contamination.

"Japan does not produce any GM crops. However, because Japan imports GM canola from Canada, GM contamination has already occurred and it is spreading to a much greater degree than one could imagine,” said Keisuke Amagasa of NO! GMO Campaign.

“If GM crops are cultivated, then this kind of pollution will spread even more … The clear conclusion from the findings is that cultivating or importing GM crops, leads to GM pollution and once this pollution begins, it can cause irreversible damage," he continued.

Members of the NO! GMO Campaign, an alliance of more than 80 Japanese consumer groups, along with farmers' groups and others, have visited Australia, Canada and the United States to protest GM foods.




More (with a lot of detail) at eco-farm.org: Japanese Consumers Will Not Accept GM Food (Thanks to Organic Consumers Association for the link). Originally posted by GM Watch, a UK campaign group based in Norfolk.

'GM Watch serves a critical role in countering the power and propaganda of the biotech industry. It is part of the life blood of our global alliance to protect our food and agriculture - communicating our successes, identifying emerging issues and catalysing resistance. Thank you GM Watch!'
Keisuke Amagasa, NO! GMO Campaign, Japan


Why all the protests? Watch The Future of Foods on YouTube (Part 1/7):

Food safety in the news: Tsukasa Abe


Tsukasa Abe is a food writer who made waves a few years ago with his book about the chemical additives and preservatives used in so much we buy from shops and convenience stores. The Japan Times notes that in the 1980s, he was a top salesman for a food-additive trading firm:

One day, during a rare meal at home, he was horrified to see his daughter eating his own company's additive-soaked meatballs. The experience changed his life. Quitting his job the next day, he began lecturing and writing against the evils he had been blindly perpetrating.

His book "Shokuhin no Uragawa ("The Far Side of Foodstuffs") has sold 600,000 copies.

Companies must list additives on packaging, but Abe warns there may still be extra ingredients in a product that aren't declared. He cited as an example barbecue sauce in which soy sauce is part of the ingredients. If the soy sauce contains additives, they don't have to be on the label.

While people may be tempted to fault the manufacturers, Abe said consumers are also to blame.

"Japanese are the most picky consumers in the world. Food must be readily available, look immaculate, last a long time and be inexpensive. If a slight defect is found in one of 5,000 'bento' (boxed meals), the whole lot must be recalled," he said. "Makers are forced to use additives to fulfill these requirements.
"

I don't agree - makers are not forced to use additives at all. What they should do is to think of products that don't need the long shelf-life, and make simpler stuff with less complicated ingredients. For example, Seven Eleven uses no preservatives in their own-label foods after a similar debate in 2001. Still, they sell a lot of other junk with additives, artificial sweeteners and "flavour enhancers" such as amino acids (MSG). Anyway, I'm always glad to see these issues getting attention in the media.

Ingredients to avoid: アミノ酸など (Japanese: Amino-san nado, English: Amino acids etc.)

The Japan Times: Ex-additive salesman warns of hidden dangers

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Healing Art


This was my very first oil painting. I will show it and other works at the Alishan Organic Center in December. I loved the way the paints felt, like they had a life of their own under the brush. It was a remarkable discovery and I went on to do several other canvases.

More recently, I found that acryls also give me some of that sense of "instant creation" where thinking, planning, and the brain's intellect is sidelined. OK, ok, ok. Pure and simple. We are calling this the "Healing Exhibition" and you are all most welcome. It is my third exhibition in 2007. Produced by Yamazaki-san.

The Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica) is the best known species of Camellia. It is a flowering shrub or a small tree native to Japan, Korea and China. The Camellia includes the plant whose leaves are used to produce tea (Camellia sinensis), as well as the several species grown widely for their flowers and handsome foliage.

Alishan Organic Center is located in Hidaka City where the Kanto Plain meets the mountains; we sit over-looking the meandering Koma River.

185-2 Komahongo, Hidaka-Shi, Saitama-ken, Japan, 350-1251
Tel: 0429-82-4811 Fax: 0429-82-4813

Olive Cafe
Bokuryuutei

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving - Orion



Thanksgiving - when I saw Orion against the clear black sky tonight, I felt happy, and inspired to say "thanks" that I'm living in a place where the air is clean and I can be inspired by the greatness of stars.

And thanks for reading my blog!

(Click to enlarge for a bigger "wow")

Fingerprinting foreigners


OK, I don't travel much outside of Japan these days. Too expensive, and too far, and I'm trying to cut back on CO2 emmissions. HRRM! (Climbs up on soapbox, clears throat for today's rant:) I remember having to put my thumb to the ink pad when I first applied for the Alien Registration Card that all foreigners in Japan are required to carry at all times. Seven years ago, that law was changed, and my sparkling new card, which has a lot of other fancy features, is no longer blessed with my unique imprint.

Should we all be subjected to fingerprinting as we enter Japan? Well, if Aliens need to do it, why not also Japanese citizens. The "terror law" that Japan has imposed would not have stopped Japanese citizens belonging to Aum Shinrikyo from coming up with the Tokyo Subway gas attack 12 years ago. Fingerprinting would not have stopped the Japanese citizens joining the infamous Japanese Red Army from killing innocent victims in Israel and elsewhere in the 1970s. Japanese people didn't take much responsibility for these autrocities; most people - and lawmakers - here probably have "forgotten".

So what is behind all this nonsense?

I really do not know.

Join Amnesty International or its English-speaking branch in Tokyo.

(U.S. Visit, the system that Japan appears to have copied, currently holds a repository of over 50 million persons, primarily in the form of two-finger records...)

(Photo from The Mainichi: Protesters 'flip the bird' at Justice Ministry over forced fingerprinting)

Gourmet dining

The French Michelin Guide has called Tokyo the "world leader" in gourmet dining, awarding three-star status to eight restaurants in its inaugural edition for the capital.

The dining guide gave two stars to 25 restaurants, and one star to 117. Michelin awarded stars to 150 restaurants in all, according to The Japan Times/Bloomberg:

"Tokyo has become the world leader in gourmet dining, with more 'stars' than any other city," Michelin said in a release. The city boasts 191 stars in all. Professional evaluators for the guide anonymously visited 1,500 establishments for a year and a half to compile the list.

Paris boasts 98 Michelin stars and 10 three-star restaurants. London has 50 stars with one establishment at the top rank. New York has three three-star restaurants and 49 stars in all.


Where do I apply for the job as "Professional evaluator"?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Shodanren: 46th Annual Consumer Conference


In Japan, consumers organizations have a long history. Most famous are the groups of housewives who reacted angrily at the high and unfair food prices at the black markets just after WW2. They created networks to check prices at the train stations, were food was coming into the cities, and were able to expose the racketeering and get more fair prices. Media loved it and I have a feeling the US occupation also supported their efforts. Other groups created consumer cooperatives to connect farmers to consumers in towns and cities. The Coop trucks are still a popular way for many people to get food and other items delivered to their homes.

Today, I will go and listen to the 46th Annual Consumer Conference, organized by the National Liaison Commitee of Consumer Organizations. Since 1951, Shodanren has been a force for change in Japan. I am particularly interested in the focus on food-related issues, with speakers such as Amagasa Keisuke discussing the challenges to food security from bioenergy, globalization and Free Trade Agreements. Other topics include climate change, tax and pension, and traffic safety.

Shodanren website (Japanese only)

Monday, November 19, 2007

J League update

The Urawa Reds must be thankful there are only two more rounds left to play in the season, says The Asahi, and here in Saitama we are all getting seriously worried about the main rival from Ibaraki prefecture, Kashima Antlers:

An understrength and overworked Reds limped to their third straight league draw on Sunday and saw their lead at the top of the table reduced to four points by the Kashima Antlers, 1-0 winners against Kashiwa Reysol the same day.

Kashima leapfrogged into second over Gamba Osaka, who were held to a 1-1 draw by F.C. Tokyo to remain five points adrift of the defending champions.

A goalless draw against Shimizu S-Pulse at Saitama Stadium was as good an indication as any that the Reds are physically and mentally exhausted after a taxing season.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Midday & Peace Train

Last year, British singer Yusuf (aka Cat Stevens) performed in Oslo, Norway for the Nobel Peace Prize Awards Ceremony. He has been given many awards for his work in promoting peace in the world, including the 2004 Man for Peace award and the 2007 Mediterranean Prize for Peace. I found several clips on YouTube that made me glad he decided to come back to the microphone again.

Midday

Peace Train:



Get your bags together, go bring your good friends too
Cause it is getting nearer, it soon will be with you

Now come and join the living, it is not so far from you
And its getting nearer, soon it will all be true

Now I've been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating, why can't we live in bliss

Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Zero emission cars


Are consumers ready to buy hydrogen cars, to get that guilt-free, zero emission vehicle that car makers such as Honda, GM and BMW can actually make today, 2007?

Seems not.

Honda, according to Financial Times, was planning to sell the FCX Claria for about £50,000 ($103,000), but decided to lease because, it said, "cost is still an issue".

Hydrogen-powered vehicles are one of the most appealing new car technologies because they emit only water vapour. The cars - including Honda's new vehicle - are still years from massmarket viability because of technological hurdles, safety concerns and limited refuelling infrastructure.

No, I don't think this is the car of the future. In fact, I love trains, buses and - bicycles. As I walk to my train station in the morning, I see one driver in each car, in hundreds of cars, and I wonder why people don't like walking. Humans have walked for millenia. Get a clue. Commuting is sooo old hat.

Why is it that cities all over the World are still running fleets of smelly, old-style gasoline or diesel buses? Public taxes could quickly change that, through clever investment, if voters paid attention to new technology. Instead of "concept cars" I want to see "concept buses" and other novel ideas for 21st Century public transportation. Hydrogen bus - now there is a thought.



Having said that, I still think Honda's design is rather nice, even yummy. Almost as yummy as the Volvo ReCharge Concept (Swedish only) car developed at Volvo Concept and Monitoring Center (VMCC) in Camarillo, California (although it may not be ready until 2015, according to Ichiro Sugioka, project leader, who notes that top speed will be 160 km/h, with 9 second acceleration from 0-100km/h).

FT: Honda to put its zero-emission hydrogen car on roads next year

Japan Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Demonstration Project (English website)

Admission free
10:00 - 17:00/Closed: Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays
Get off at the Yokohama Karyoku Hatsudensho bus stop on City Bus #17, departing from the Tsurumi Station (JR) (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Peak Oil in Japan

Japan is not as dependent on oil as many other countries, due to energy conserving efforts and a rather frugal attitude. However, without cheap oil, Japan's export-oriented industry would be in serious trouble. Food imports will also become increasingly expensive, as we are already finding this fall.

I did a quick search on google and found over 50,000 hits for ピークオイル (peak oil). Here are the covers of a few books on the topic, published in Japanese over the past 2-3 years.



Jeremy Legget: Half Gone (2005) and Linda McQuaig: It's the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil, and Fight for the Planet (2004) are two titles that you can probably find in your local bookshop.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

International Bad Product Awards

Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Mattel and Takeda Pharmaceuticals top the list of international brands guilty of abusing consumer rights, according to Consumers International. The announcement came as 400 delegates from national consumer organisations and governments, convened in Sydney to attend CI’s World Congress.

And.. This year’s winner is:

Takeda Pharmaceuticals – for taking advantage of poor US regulation and advertising sleeping pills to children, despite health warnings about pediatric use.

Consumers International said the top prize went to the US subsidiary of Japanese firm Takeda Pharmaceuticals for promoting a sleeping drug for children.

The company ran a television advertisement in the United States which used images of children, chalk boards and a school bus to sell its drug Rozerem.

The "back-to-school" advertisements, which complied with US law, promoted the sleeping pills to parents without including health warnings for children, Consumers International said.

AFP/Inquirer.net: Sleeping pills for kids top global list of bad products

Three runners up also were announced: Kellogg's was awarded for the worldwide use of cartoon-type characters and product tie-ins aimed at children, despite high levels of sugar and salt in its food products. Coca-Cola was criticised for marketing of its bottled water, Dasani, "despite admitting it comes from the same sources as local tap water". CI also critizised toy company Mattel for its handling of the ongoing global recall of 21 million products and "stonewalling" US congressional investigations.

Over at The Consumerist, people are commenting on the awards, noting that Pepsi also sells bottled tapwater, called Aquafina.

"Japan has stricter rules and does not allow such TV commercials for pharmaceutical products," notes Michiyo Koketsu from Consumers Union of Japan. "However, we are concerned about the risk that similar commercials will be approved in the near future. We will keep watching and expect more corporate social responsibility, not less."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Surprise!


The event in Shiba Park, Tokyo, on Sunday was fun, with lots of space for music and dance. Maybe I felt that there where more broschures and pamphlets than - food... When the Earth Market Day events are held in Yoyogi, they get a lot of people joining by accident, just passing by. I like that a lot. I wonder why they picked central Tokyo for this Earth & Peace Festival...

Let's hope this festival can continue to develop. Cheers!



Greenpeace Japan is collecting signatures to protest against genetically modified foods. You can ask them for a petition that you and your friends can sign. Give them a call or send an email or download the document here (pdf). Read more here: Greenpeace Japan No GMO Petition. More information about the petition here. Do print it out and collect signatures, and send it back to Greenpeace Japan by fax or postal mail.

The True Food Guide helps you avoid GMOs and tells you which companies have committed to GMO-free ingredients.

トゥルーフード・ガイド無料プレゼント中

I also like Earthday Money - these people are serious about creating a different economy, using our own local currency, to avoid the Yen/Euro/Dollar. Local money is good if we want to support farmers and others providing services in our neighbourhood.

And more surprise! I just found TechToys Video Podcast, who have made 4 cool videos from the Earthday Market Event in 2006. Nice job with music and a good sense of the "vibes" from the people present in Yoyogi, Tokyo:

Earth Day 4


Earth Day 3

Earth Day 2

Earth Day 1

土と平和の祭典
大切な種 (in Japanese)



Watch more photos from Shiba Park at Mats blog. He works at Japan's biggest organic food company Radish Boya. More in English about their home delivery system in the Zmag article by Hiroko Oikawa here:

The network, now operated as part of the Kan Network, was first launched in 1988 by an NGO, Nihon Recycle Undou Shimin no Kai, or Japan Citizens' Movement for Recycling, a group that has been introducing innovative ideas such as flea markets since 1977. The group has been deeply concerned with the conservation of the earth's environment and people's health. Over the years, it has expanded its range of activities to various areas as part of a larger group called the Nihon Ecology Network.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bruckner arriving in Heaven




I will listen to Mozart and Bruckner at Bunkamura Hall, Shibuya Sunday Nov. 11. Tokyo Phil , conducted by Korean maestro Myung-Whun Chung.

Neat poster!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Earth & Peace Festival on November 11



Earth & Peace Festival

“Society changes by each and every person putting a seed into the Earth”

Operation Seeding is a campaign that started at the traditional bean-throwing festival on February 3, 2007. Now it is time for our harvest festival. The Earth & Peace Festival will be held on Sunday, November 11, 2007 at Shiba Kouen in Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan.

Update: The Japan Times Sowing seeds of organic action

A live, open-air concert has been organized by the singer Yae, who practices farming in Kamogawa, Chiba prefecture. A spectacular and wonderful show will be presented by musicians and special guests on a stage with a solar power system. At the bamboo tent area you can enjoy and see the potential of farming by strolling along the farmers’ market, with booths explaining agro-tourism, fair trade, food mileage, etc. Of course, you can taste delicious and soul-warming food and drinks in the food area.

By linking ”Earth & Peace” to ”Farming Happiness” we can feel our connection to the Earth, while promoting a safe and sustainable lifestyle. This festival will bring to each and every person a sense of joy of living with the Earth.

Please come and join the festival!

Date: November 11, 2007 Sunday 10:00-18:00
* The festival will be held regardless of rain or bad weather

Place: Shiba Kouen, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan (click for map)

Access:
1 minute from Shiba Kouen station (Toei Mita Line)
5 minutes from Daimon station (Toei Asakusa Line and Toei Oedo Line)
10 minutes from Hamamatsucho station (JR Line)

Musicians:
Susan Osborn with Kentaro Kihara
Ikue Asasaki
Kokon
Sayoko Otonara
Tokiko Kato
Yae
And more

Guest speakers:
Sevan Suzuki (Environment activist)
Naoki Shiomi (Han No Han X – Half Farming Half Other)
Teruo Kurosaki (Screening Pad)
Toshiyuki Nagashima (Actor/Blue Sky Market)
Koichi Nakatani (Earth Walker)
And more

Artists:
Namaiki (Creative Unit)
Candle JUNE (Candle artist)

*Performers and guests subject to change

Farmers Market:
AFAS Certification Center Co, Ltd
Daichi Co., Ltd.
Tokyo Morning Market
Toziba
Radish bo-ya Co., Ltd.
Network Nouen
And more

Food stands:
Macocorocha-ya
Cafe Slow
Daichi
Toziba
And many more

*Please bring your own bag, chopsticks, cup & plate.

Operation Seeding (Tanemaki Daisakusen)
Address: 5-16-10-1003 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 151-0051 Japan
TEL 03-3351-2712 FAX 03-5637-7789

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Rising oil prices


The Japan Times has interviewed several experts in an interesting article today, noting that the ongoing price surge is expected to carry the crude oil price to well over $100 per barrel as early as this month:

"If this situation does not change, oil supply could become scarce in two to three years," further driving up prices, according to Akio Shibata, deputy director at Marubeni Research Institute.

The Japan Times: Rising oil prices threaten health of wide range of companies

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal gets it (mostly) right about how Japan Looks Beyond U.S.:

Though still export-dependent, Japan's economy is less U.S.-dependent than before. In 2000, 30% of Japan's exports went to the U.S. This year only 20% will -- probably less than its exports to China, including Hong Kong, for the first time.

This trade shift means that if the U.S. economy alone goes bad, growth for Japan "will become more difficult but not catastrophic," says Macquarie Securities economist Richard Jerram.


But, putting the two stories together (which I am sure a lot of people are doing right now), it seems clear that with sustained high fuel prices, Japan will have to reevaluate how to stay rich. The problem of being the World's second largest economy is similar to being second in a car race - you get the "pull" from being behind the leader, and when that "pull" is gone, you no longer get the benefit of the free ride. Depending on exports to China is not going to be an attractive option as China also feels the pain of high energy costs and other Peak Oil synergy effects.

(Photo: Yomiuri Rising gas prices top 150 yen per liter)

Monday, November 05, 2007

NHK: Japanese industries to cut CO2

NHK reports today that Japanese industries will strive to cut carbon dioxide emissions to meet the 2012 target set by the Kyoto Protocol. The very significant pledge for a reduction at 18.57 million tons was reported at a meeting of the environment and industry ministries on Monday:

Twenty-two industrial sectors, including petrochemical firms and electrical appliance makers, will add 15.73 million tons to the voluntary target of 2.84 million tons they announced in the previous fiscal year. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan is required to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent from the 1990 levels. During the 5-year period beginning next April, Japan will need to further reduce emissions by about 15 million tons to meet the target of 34 million tons.

NHK, in its usual dry, uninspiring way, doesn't realize that this is a very significant story. If Japan's industrial sector is serious about such cuts, it will have a major influence on the way other countries will deal with global warming. Why is NHK so afraid of stating the obvious - this is big news.

Reuters also runs the story today, noting that Japan is already among the world's most energy efficient countries. Japan curbed its greenhouse gas emissions by 1.3 percent last year, putting Japan closer to its Kyoto Protocol goal. Also, in October, Japanese trucking firms, home builders, instant noodle makers and sugar manufacturers promised to take additional measures to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help the country meet climate change goals. Chemical makers, paper makers and oil refiners have made similar pledges this fall.

Vice Environment Minister Yoshio Tamura said the government would not abandon its commitments.

"We've never thought of giving up, and are now working to write down extra measures, to be drafted by December and finalized by March, to enable us to meet the goal," Tamura told Reuters.


Reuters: Japan greenhouse emissions dip, still lag target

Reuters: More Japanese industries raise CO2 emission cut targets

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The joke is on us

I found a bunch of jokes on The Oil Drum to cheer everyone up as oil prices reached $95/barrel:

Two economists find themselves locked in a basement. They're not sure what time it is, because it's dark and they can't read their watches. They think it's nearly dinner time, cause they're starting to feel hungry. But they're not worried; they are not starting to panic - because they know that their demand will create sandwiches for them!

Two economists are stranded on a small deserted island. No observable food ready to grab and eat. No water (...) There are some raw materials: rocks, trees with leaves (no ripe coconuts), sand and they have their clothes as well as eyeglasses. In short order the economists establish a monetary system between themselves and begin exchanging futures options using sea shells as their tokens. At the end of the first day they proclaim it to be "good" for they have created a robust "healthy" economy.

An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn't happen today.

Q: Why did God create economists?
A: In order to make weather forecasters look good.

Definition of an Economist: Someone who knows a little math, but doesn't have enough personality to become an accountant.

Q: How many economists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: None, the invisible hand will do it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Shima Uta (Island Song)



Traditional Japanese song from Okinawa performed by Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus.

Wow. Streaming online radio (from Brazil) with Okinawan and Japanese music - is this Internet at its best or WHAT!:

Radio Lequios

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Local governments meeting in South Korea


What is your town or city doing to create a better, safer environment and sustainable development - after all, they are using your tax money, aren't they? This week, a major international meeting was held in South Korea to discuss a number of issues, including global warming.

UPI Asia: Feature: World's local governments vow to combat climate change

Delegates from 136 countries, representing local governments, vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use renewable and clean energy sources to combat climate change, at the second World Congress of the United Cities and Local Governments. Some 2,000 mayors, councilors, and other officials of local autonomies from around the world attended the four-day Congress, in the South Korean resort island of Jeju, which concluded today.

In the world's largest meeting of local administrators, participants vowed to make concerted efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, use renewable and clean energy sources, and invest more in technological innovations. "For if we do not act now to mitigate the consequences of global warming, the results could be devastating," was the declaration adopted, under the theme, "Changing cities are driving our world."

The unanimous consensus in general meetings was that one of the main issues facing world citiesof world's local leaders for the upcoming U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties, in December
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Founded in 2004, the Barcelona-based UCLG, is the world's biggest local government organization, representing over half the world's population. It has been called the united voice and world advocate of democratic local self-government. I do hope our local government leaders can talk to each other, find a common language (in spite of all the obvious language and interpretation troubles...) and send a clear, democratic message to national leaders and global players - the World is ready for change.

Do visit the UCLG website and find out what local politicians are doing.

Never, never, think that your opinion does not matter.