Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Japan's Economy Needs A Green Revolution
How will Japan get out of the current economic crisis? The recession? The strong yen means exports are down, and major companies are announcing big cuts and layoffs. The car industry reports 30-40% lower sales. Oh, well, what's new.
SO THE GOOD NEWS is that Japan is quietly becoming a more sustainable, ecological country again. I talk to a lot of people who are fond of traditions, and wish for some recognition of the way Japan used to be. Where is the neogambaru? Some would say the Edo era is the model, and others claim that slow life or a u-turn, moving back to the countryside, is the solution. In terms of technology, Japan is still number one, with four Nobel prize winners this year, and the most patent applications of any nation. Japan is indeed a fun place to be if you are a thinker, innovator, designer, or environmental activist. And there is a lot to do!
If only the politicians had a green vision: they could announce a major national reform to deal with Japan's energy dependency, focus on supporting renewable energy like solar and wind power, say clearly that Japan should reduce its reliance on Middle East oil, reduce CO2 emissions, and announce a huge shift for the economy - from heavy manufacturing to services.
Japan already has the world's best internet, with broadband almost everyhere. Iceland and Korea are doing pretty good too, and Japan could announce programs to hook up with other like-minded countries and really start a revolution where the internet-based economy takes off. You would need something like pay-pal to work all over Asia, globally, finally, but much better. You would need banking that didn't charge an arm and a leg when you tried to transfer money from Japan. (A few years ago I tried to wire money from a Japanese post office to Korea, and was told it was impossible: I had to use a bank instead. Wow. Welcome to the 20th century!)
A green revolution in Japan would mean a focus on rural development, on farm stays and forest tourism, on mountain climbing, hiking and skiing (remember all the Australians skiing in Hokkaido? Well done!) and on scuba diving in Okinawa. You would learn survival skills, involving rice farming, making tofu and miso, and how to brew your own sake. This is a country with 60% forests and mountains - where are the tours to the hinterland? Where are the temple stay programs? The ecolodges?
The JR Railpass is great for foreign visitors, but those of us who live and work here cannot get it. Where is the logic in that? And where is the train link to the Asian continent, and the bullet trains to Europe replacing the 100 year old Siberian Railroad? How about the 120 million Japanese people, who would love to get a discount and go on a Shinkansen trip - how often does that happen? Where are the buses? Wait, you want everyone to go on a vacation after they retire??
Support insulation for Japanese homes, make sure home owners get financing for making their homes earthquake proof. Schools should be rebuilt. Start funding organic, sustainable, environmentally-friendly farming instead of the massive pesticide- and fertilizer-based production support, that WTO rules are killing anyway.
You wonder why the birthrate is low? Invest in healthcare and kindergartens and daycare centers, and support local efforts to create bicycle lanes, bus lanes, pavements and sidewalks, and close off streets in city centers from cars (Car sharing? Never heard of it in Japan).
Make Japan safe and friendly for young mothers, and the kids will start coming. Japan doesn't need 100 taxis to idle in front of every train station. Small hybrid buses or electric trams could do the job just as well. A green revolution could make Japan great again. Imagine the pride and joy. Imagine...
Blogs I Like
- Ad B: Japan Navigator
- Adventures of a (Swedish) Salariman in Tokyo
- Amy: Blue Lotus
- Boing Boing: Wonderful Things
- Brendan: UNU OurWorld 2.0
- Hiroko & Rick: Itadakimasu
- Jared B: Tokyo Green Space
- Joan: Popcorn Homestead
- Jon: Toshogu or As I See Japan... From L.A.
- Justin B: The Rational Pessimist (Climate & Risk)
- Kat: Food Adventures in Japan
- Ken: KenElwood in semi-rural Japan
- Mari: Watashi to Tokyo
- MTC: Shisaku
- Otakimura: In The Pines
- P: Pacific Islander
- Peko Peko: Kyoto Foodie
- Richard H: Spike Japan
- Risa & Kirk: Savory Japan
- Robert: Pure Land Mountain
- Shizuoka Gourmet
- Ten Thousand Things
- Tom: Kitchen Garden in Japan
Links I Like
- News: About Sweden in English
- News: BBC
- News: Der Spiegel (Germany) in English
- News: Deutche Welle
- News: FT Asia (UK, EU)
- News: Kyoto Journal (Japan)
- News: NHK World Society & Others (Japan)
- News: People's Daily (China)
- News: Telegraph (UK)
- News: The Local (Sweden)
- News: Yomiuri Online (Japan)
- News: Yonhap (Korea)
- NGOs/News: Organic Consumers Association (US)
- NGOs: Amnesty
- NGOs: Consumers Union (US) Food
- NGOs: Consumers Union of Japan
- NGOs: Greenpeace
- NGOs: Greenz.jp
- NGOs: Japan for Sustainability
- NGOs: Japan Organic Agriculture Association
- NGOs: Japan Vegetarian Society
- Shops: Alishan Organic Center
- Shops: Eco to Waza (GreenJapan)
- Shops: Warabe Mura
- Stuff: Japan Probe