Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kyoto Journal Biodiversity: Online Content Video

From 10,000 Things:

With 2010 designated "The Year of Biodiversity," a crucial UN-sponsored conference on the preservation of biological diversity on our planet (COP10) will be held from October 18 through 29 in Nagoya, Japan. The award-winning, all-volunteer, non-profit English-language quarterly Kyoto Journal, has taken this conference as a call to action, an opportunity to contribute to the dialogue, which is being lopsidedly shaped by corporate interests. The result: a brilliantly designed issue with painstakingly detailed layouts sure to inspire creative solutions to the loss of biodiversity.

Issue 75 not only showcases the preservation of biodiversity in Japan through satoyama (rural areas where people have lived with the land without desecrating it), but also includes the voices of essayists, poets, photographers, and artists from all over the world working passionately to sustain biodiversity in their own lands. Issues of the journal will be distributed to delegates at COP10.

From Youtube:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Peace Boat: Not Your Usual Holiday Trip

If you want to spend time with some great people, travel the world, on a large ship, what would you do? Peace Boat is a Japanese Non Governmental Organization (NGO), with staff that has a lot of experience, having embarked on many trips around the world. They are also looking for volunteers. Founded in 1983, this is not your usual trip to a tourist location!

Emilie wrote and said they just returned from an Eco-Study program in Okinawa (Sept 22 - 26). They are now planning their next visit for the Peace Music Festa in Henoko from Oct 30-31. You can find information about the event here: Peace Music

Please feel free to resend, repost and help promote their work for COP 10 and the protection of the dugong in Okinawa. Photos here (Picasa album). US for Okinawa also has more details!

Founded by Nara native Kiyomi Tsujimoto and others at a time when Vietnam was still a major scar (boat refugees where not so welcome to settle in Japan) but Tsujimoto wanted to "promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment" by organizing educational global voyages on a ship.

For a lot of people, Peace Boat is very much a 21 century experience, with links to an era of more political activism and awareness. You must have seen their advertising posters which are everywhere in Japan, telling prospective travellers about ピースボートの地球一周の船旅 Peace Boat no chikyuu hitomeguri no funatabi (Travel once around the entire globe by boat).

Still, I was surprised that they have just met - Fidel Castro in Cuba:

Under the slogan "Learn from Past Wars to Build a Future of Peace," the Japanese Peace Boat NGO has organized international sea voyages twice a year since 1983, with the purpose of promoting peaceful solutions to world problems.

From Cubanradio-cu: Fidel Castro Meets with Members of Peace Boat

Leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro met with the members of the Peace Boat, who arrived in Havana today.

The meeting took place at the Convention Center of the Cuban capital with representatives of the solidarity brigade comprised of almost one thousand Japanese activists from the Peace Boat, which is touring several countries to strengthen bonds of friendship and solidarity.

“What we must do is to cooperate with you in everything we can, aware of the dangers humankind faces” told Cuban Revolution leader Fidel Castro some hundred Japanese members of the Peace Boat project.


More about Peace Boat on

While the programs onboard have mainly been catered for Japanese participants, a growing number of international participants have prompted the foundation of the Global Friendship Award to provide an opportunity for students of Japanese to get more out of their experience onboard.

The Global Friendship Award is offered to students of Japanese language who are enrolled at universities around the world. Students who are highly motivated to study Japanese are eligible for a 10% discount off the voyage fee. Besides having 24/7 access to the total immersion environment onboard, specially catered Japanese programs are also offered to complement current courses of study at their home university. Award recipients will have the opportunity to greatly reinforce and expand their Japanese ability, as well as engage in cultural exchange, international awareness, and the spreading of goodwill as they travel the globe aboard the Peace Boat. Learn Japanese while circumnavigating the globe! Peace Boat offers discounted global voyages for students of Japanese

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kyoto Journal: Biodiversity Japan's Satoyama & Our Shared Future

The latest issue of Kyoto Journal looks absolutely marvellous, with photos and images that match the quality of the texts. I could go on and on about how happy I feel about this - and having played a very small part in the process leading up to this issue, I found my two contributions among the articles that are featured online.

This richly informative and lavishly illustrated edition features wide-ranging contributions by more than 50 writers, photographers and artists, specially prepared for distribution this fall at COP10 in Nagoya, the UN’s 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD). An extensive 22-page section explores the ideal – and troubling present-day reality – of Japan’s satoyama: rural areas where people have lived with the land and on it without spoiling it over many generations, preserving and even promoting biodiversity. Plus over 30 diverse exclusive online reports — all downloadable.

CONTENTS OF PRINT ISSUE (excerpts on subpages, selected articles downloadable*)

WORLDS OF SATOYAMA (special section in print edition, selected articles downloadable*)

REVIEWS (downloadable)

EXCLUSIVE ONLINE REPORTS (all downloadable articles, not in print issue...)


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New Ministers - Again - For The Environment And Agriculture

Naoto Kan has appointed new Ministers for the Environment and for Agriculture, thus making things a little more tricky as Japan hosts the UN MOP5/COP10 conference on biological diversity in Nagoya next month. Not exactly the best timing, if you ask me. Changing the people in charge of a major international conference is likely to weaken the hand of the host country.

Over at the website of the Ministry of the Environment, they are showing their commitment to biodiversity:

The National Biodiversity Strategy is a national basic plan for the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. In 1995, the Government of Japan decided, as required by the Convention on Biological Diversity, the first-ever National Biodiversity Strategy, which has been reviewed twice in 2002 and 2007 so far. Since the Basic Act on Biodiversity enacted in 2008 requires the government to formulate the national biodiversity strategy, the Minister of the Environment asked the president of the Council for the review on the formulation of the national strategy. This has led the deliberation in the Biodiversity Policy-Wildlife Joint Committee of the Council, which submitted a report to the Minister on March 1. Now, "The National Biodiversity Strategy of Japan 2010" was decided by the government, based on this report.

There is more, but several days after a new minister has been appointed, their English website still shows a photo from this spring of Mr. Sakihito Ozawa, the previous Minister of the Environment... The new face to deal with Japan's environmental issues this fall is Mr. Ryu Matsumoto from Fukuoka, who does not seem to have any specific qualifications for his new job (unless you think having "participated in his family's construction business" has anything to do with sustainable development).

The Japan Times notes that Mr. Matsumoto has a "large annual income" and that he has focused on human rights issues, related to the burakumin case.

Mr. Michiro Kano, new Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, is "known for his familiarity with agriculture policy," according to The Japan Times. He served as agriculture minister in 1989.

In Nagoya, these men will be tested by the international community, who wants progress and binding rules to protect our planet's biodiversity. One problem is that so far, Japan's "strategy" has only dealt with wildlife-related issues, not directly with food-and-agriculture-related aspects of biodiversity.

Meanwhile, NHK World notes that negotiators from "...developed and developing countries have failed to narrow gaps on ways to share the benefits of products derived from biological resources." This is part of the important talks on Access and Benefit Sharing, that developing countries have long pushed for. Who is blocking progress? Developed countries with large pharmaceutical industries, and the people at companies like Monsanto, BASF, Shiseido and many more, who have already patented a number of plants from developing countries, hoping to reap huge profits.

The 4-day preparatory talks for a meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP10, ended in Montreal on Tuesday. Companies and research institutions from the industrialized nations use the biological resources found in developing countries to make new medicines.

The developing countries now say that they will not provide further resources until the industrialized nations give them a fair share of the profits from the sales of these medicines. But the industrialized countries argue that this strategy would hamper the development of new drugs.

The UN delegates failed to reach a consensus and were unable to deepen discussions on other issues. The division between the 2 sides has raised concerns that a meaningful protocol may not be adopted at next month's UN meeting in Nagoya, Japan.

NHK World: UN biodiversity talks split on bio-resources

Wikipedia: International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Note that Japan (and the United States) are still not parties to this important treaty from 2001. This is definitely something the new ministers in Tokyo should prioritize, as it has important rules for farmers' rights and how to protect the genetic resources of the food plants we all depend on for our survival. The Treaty entered into force on June 29, 2004.

FAO: The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Haruki Murakami: Norwegian Wood Film

I am looking forward to December, when the film based on Murakami Haruki's novel Norwegian Wood will be released. Back in 1988 or 1989, it was the first Japanese novel I ever read (Recently, I just reached the last chapter of Kafka on the Shore, don't tell me how it ends).

Apparently, it is the first time a song by the Beatles is used for a major Japanese film.

Variety has this to say, efter the film was shown in Venice (quote):

With his striking visual sense and gift for conjuring a mood of languid sensuality, Tran Anh Hung would seem the ideal filmmaker to tackle "Norwegian Wood," Haruki Murakami's beguiling novel of longing, loss and sexual curiosity in 1960s Japan. But while this beautiful-looking film at times succeeds in capturing its source material's delicate emo spirit, it's far less attentive to the richness of Murakami's characters -- namely, a college student haunted by one woman and ardently pursued by another. Lovely but listless picture is likely to test audience patience beyond Tran's arthouse admirers and the author's fans.

Published in 1987, "Norwegian Wood" has become Murakami's most widely read novel and is generally regarded as his most autobiographical work, despite the author's protests to the contrary. Though it unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of the student protests in Japan and elsewhere during the late '60s, the story sidelines these events to focus on a young man drifting along on a tide of emotional and erotic confusion; the character's general passivity and alienation effectively serve to critique what Murakami views as a hypocritical and jejune form of political rebellion.

Do not forget that other novel about this era, 69 by Ryu Murakami. That film is not bad at all, either, but I have a feeling that in 2010, more people are going to watch Norwegian Wood. The young people who tried to fight against the Vietnam War here in Japan, and the American military bases, have come a long way.

Peaceful Protests In Okinawa


I just found the lovely website for the film. All in Japanese, but go ahead, give it a try. He says, "I was 20 years old in 1969, and met Naoko..."

All that young suffering, all that love...

Biodiversity: Lectures In Okayama As We Prepare For Nagoya

Talking about biological diversity, food and agriculture this weekend - I like public speaking but I was in for a surprise on Friday in Fujita, Okayama, as the local radio station suddenly showed up for a live broadcast while I was in the middle of a talk with 6th graders at the Fujita Junior High School. You can imagine where their attention went as they saw a journalist enter with a microphone! (Loved talking with these kids, btw.)

After that we were rushed in a Toyota Prius to the next event, meeting farmers part of the local 農協 (Noukyou, agricultural cooperative, also known by their alphabet letters JA, Japan Agriculture).

Fujita is a huge river basin that was converted to rice and veggie cultivation with the help of a German landscape architect in the Meiji era. Great comments from some very astute onion and renkon farmers, and a lady who is known for not using chemicals for her akatombo kome (rice from a field with red dragon-flies that thrive without causing any harm to her crops).

What are they most worried about? The fact that as of today, noone from the younger generation appears to be interested in taking over. As we continued the Q&A session, one guy in his late 20s stood up and said he is thinking of taking up farming, having just moved back to Fujita recently. Isn't this the way...?

My suggestions included creating antenna shops to showcase Fujita's special produce, with their special brand. This could also influence not only consumers in cities like Tokyo but also visitors from other countries, like China, who are increasingly interested in strict rules for safe food.

Lena Lindahl from Sustainable Sweden Association, who first lived in Kyoto back in the 1980s, talked about wild animals and the connection to environmental education.

Recently, she is also very concerned about global fishery issues, after having spent some time with Isabella Lövin, introducing her book about the mad, mad world of EU fishery policies to Japanese experts.

Lena is an expert on Swedish environmental law, having translated the legislation into Japanese.

The main talk was on Saturday. Some 80-90 people turned up. Very nice organizational effort at the Okayama International Center (where I spent some time on the internet tubes, but just a little, when I was at the Sogenji temple back in 2003).

Media was a rather good surprise: the local NHK was there and filmed us for an evening news segment. So far, at least one local newspaper did an article with a photo (Yomiuri also interviewed us).

All in all, "real work" as we are getting ready for the UN summit in October in Nagoya about biodiversity, for the Cop10/Mop5 meeting with some 10,000 participants... What is at stake? Biodiversity loss rates, introduction of foreign invasive species, GMOs, genetic erosion, agricultural biodiversity & biodiversity and food...

After that, a wonderful dinner with local dishes, heated conversation, and lots of laughs.

The sashimi included sawara, a mackerel that thrives in the Seto Inland Sea south of Okayama. Considered a seasonal fish, we were delighted to get a chance to savour it together with tempura and other dishes like fresh tofu and different kinds of autumn potatoes.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Base Opponents Win Majority In Nago, Okinawa Election

From Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre blog,
"Base opponents win majority in Nago election 名護市議選、基地反対の稲嶺市長を支える与党が圧勝"
Nago City Council Election on September 12 resulted in the candicates supporting Mayor Inamine's opposition against a new base gained 16 seats, winning the majority in the 27-seat council.

The election was not a referendum on the base issue, but it sends a message to the Japanese and the U.S. governments that their heavy-handed efforts to buy off Nago's "min-i (democratic voices)" are not working. They should stop trying to convince voters of Nago, and start listening to them.
...And start respecting democratic process throughout Okinawa...


PanOrient News notes that the vote deals "a fresh blow to efforts to construct a new US Marine airbase along the pristine coastline of Henoko beach."

According to local reports, allies of Mayor Inamine secured 16 of the 27 seats in the assembly. Moreover, two other candidates, not allied with Mr. Inamine, have staked out anti-base positions. As a result, those opposing the construction of the base will outnumber those in favor by a 2-to-1 margin.

Prior to Sunday's election, the Assembly was evenly divided 12-to-12 between opponents and supporters of the base plan (three members had been noncommittal).

As recently reported by analyst Peter Ennis in his blog "Dispatch Japan," Transport Minister Seiji Maehara and the Ministry of Defense had been lobbying strongly for the pro-base candidates, and will lose face as a consequence of these results.

The people of Nago have now - for a second time this year - decisively repudiated Tokyo's plans to build a new US base in their city.
Peter Ennis also notes that the "completely-avoidable inflaming of passions by the Futenma-Henoko controversy could escalate into broader antipathy to the presence of US bases overall."

The US naval base at Yokosuka, and the US air base at Kadena, are the keys to the US military presence in East Asia, dwarfing the Futenma air base in importance. Before the Futenma-Henoko controversy, the prospects seemed remote that Yokosuka and Kadena would face any kind of serious opposition. The more the Futenma-Henoko dispute carries on, the more that danger rises.

(Image of Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine from NHK)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

More Japanese Transition Towns...

The website of NPO Transition Town has links to the activities here in Japan, with local communities thinking about what to do - fossile fuel dependency, local money, food security - and fun.

Last year in December 2009, they did Transition Training in Hayama, a workshop to discuss the issues. There are more of them than I knew, according to the website:
Transition Hub Japan

We have been meeting regularly since June 2008 and gradually making progress.

Go to our official web site in Japanese:

Some of the things that we have accomplished so far are;

* translated the Transition Primer into Japanese
* created a number of presentation material for TT in Japanese
* have done several presentation sessions for the general public
* have developed network with like-minded organizations
* developed Transition Japan website -see above link
* hosted Transition Training as well as the Train-the-Trainer last February/March with Naresh and Sophy.

Some other things that are in the pipeline are;

* applying for a NPO status under Japanese law
* translating the Transition Handbook into Japanese

We have chosen a strategy to initially focus on 3 communities that had nominated themselves to become Transition Town pioneers in Japan. They are Fujino, Hayama and Koganei City. Fujino has become the 100th Official Transition Initiative as announced in Rob Hopkins's blog on 4-September-2008.

Our hub is mainly comprised of representatives from these 3 initiatives at the moment, but we are looking to reconstruct ourselves once we have acquired the NPO status.

The towns currently listed as of September 2010 (with blogs and websites) are:

Fujino, Kanagawa
Koganei, Tokyo
Hayama, Kanagawa
Sagamiko, Kanagawa
Takao, Tokyo
Tsuru, Yamanashi
Kamakura, Kanagawa

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Community Centers In Japan: Transition Town Links?

City Halls are rather big affairs in Japan, but locally, if you live here, you must have a community center or citizens hall nearby. Most likely, if you are like me, you have never set foot in the place.

I am told they serve as a gathering place (shelter) in time of disaster, and is used for recycling activities, giving rabies vaccines to dogs, education talks, community planning talks, etc. (Thanks P)

公民館 koumin-kan (public hall, community center)
市民センータ shimin center (citizen center)

You can google using the kanji of your town name, and add any of the above, and see if there is a local hall or center near where you live.

I got to wonder about how to go about all of this after watching the transition town dvd from the UK, called In Transition. There are cases of local communities that have started to think about how to respond proactively and creatively to peak oil and climate change, "seeing them as a historic opportunity to build the world anew..." Could I actually make that happen in my small town...? Suda

(Photos from the Japanese blog blog)

In Transition 1.0
From oil dependency to local resilience

If you get the dvd, you can also watch Hidetake Enomoto speak about Transition Japan.

They have a focus on 3 communities that had nominated themselves to become Transition Town pioneers in Japan. They are Fujino, Hayama and Koganei City.

Another way going about it is being tried in Järna, Sweden. From

...towns in Europe and even the U.S. are creating local communities that support local food, business, energy, labor, supplies, and even local currency. These are known as Transition Towns. If you want to get a good overview of what this movement is, please read the description HERE, and view the following short video.

Michael Lusk from Sweden contacted me the other day. He is a member of a “core group of seven people who are working to establish transition culture locally.” I asked him if he could tell me a little about this “transition culture” that he is working on, and he has this to say:

The transition idea began around five years ago in Ireland and England as a community-based response to peak oil and climate change. Its leading text is permaculture designer Rob Hopkins’ book The Transition Handbook.

The transition movement is a large-scale self-organizing social experiment whose participants bring a great diversity of interrelated concerns revolving around local resilience. There are indications that restoring local food security is becoming the movement’s primary short-term goal. Local monetary systems are also very important both as a practical measure promoting economic stability and as a means of restoring sovereign power to the people.

The transition movement is growing quickly and is already well established in the US:

...Swedish national regulations implementing Codex Alimentarius are being used to threaten with closure our local clinic offering anthroposophical medical treatment. Swedish national regulations implementing EU-educational standards are being used to exclude important elements of the Waldorf curriculum. Experience in Europe – not to mention the Americas – makes it abundantly clear that proposed GMO “trials” will disastrously impact biodynamic farming.

Our initiative is the first transition initiative in Sweden – although we’re linking with several organizations, which have been doing aspects of transition work here for many years and also Greenpeace Sweden, which is leading the fight against GMOs in our country. Our group met for the first time around two months ago. The initiative is still in the consciousness-raising stage. That’s why we’re on the lookout for public speakers right now. We don’t have a page at yet – for the moment you just have to mail us individually.

Lokalisera dig! = Localize Yourself!

Michael Lusk

So, whether the motivation behind these communities is to address climate change, peak oil, to be able to eat healthy, non-GMO food in the middle of a depression, or to just plain get away from big government and scale down to a local level, the foundation is good. We need to combat rampant globalization with localization. This means taking responsibility for changing our lives drastically for the good. The more localized we are, the more resilient we become when the bottom completely drops out of the economy. If we are not dependent on getting our food from another country, or even 1000 miles away, we will eat when the trucks stop running. If we look to the neighbor’s kids to do the chores that we cannot do ourselves, and pay him/her with a form of local currency that can be cashed in for tomatoes at the local food stand, or for Sterling like the Totnes Pounds, we are sustainable. We become resilient. We will survive.

Remember; even if we do not all agree on every little thing, we can still come together in a common goal of survival. Join the movement to localize. Let this movement become the driving force of an alternate economic solution to a growing era of increasing debt. Are you ready for a change? Lokalisera dig! Localize yourself! NOW!

Barbara H. Peterson

Monday, September 06, 2010

Local Hero: Save Your Local Beach (1983)

Remember this film. Join Danny and Mac as they stroll along Ferness beach, Camasdarach, Scotland and discuss the implications of a world without oil.

The film is set in the fictional fishing village of Ferness on the west coast of Scotland. A young representative of an American oil company is sent to the village on a mission... The film's soundtrack, which outsold the film itself, was written by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, and is considered amongst his best work.

A very special film, from way back in the early 1980s, directed by Bill Forsyth.

A world without oil...?

No automobiles, no nylon, no polish, no detergents, no paint, no ink... No water-proof coats, and what about dry-cleaning fluids...?

I like Japanese films, but can you tell me even one motion picture from this country that touches on important themes like this?

We take so much for granted, we have so little to offer in case things get rough. I like how connected we are, but at the same time, we hardly know our neighbours. Do you say hello to the people living next door? Do you know their names? We are more familiar with news about stars and idols, than with the ordinary people living next door.

Saving your local beach, or that small satoyama forest, your local community: how would you go about it? Do you know enough about City Hall politics or local networking?

Thanks for reading Kurashi, comments and questions are much appreciated.

I started this blog back in the spring of 2005.

Food and energy issues are always on my mind.

Stay tuned.

Local Hero

Oil billionaire Happer sends Mac to a remote Scotish villiage to secure the property rights for an oil refinery they want to build. Mac teams up with Danny and starts the negotiations, the locals are keen to get their hands on the 'Silver Dollar' and can't believe their luck. However a local hermit and beach scavenger, Ben Knox, lives in a shack on the crucial beach which he also owns. Happer is more interested in the Northern Lights...

When Mac MacIntyre (Peter Riegert) is sent to Scotland's west coast to swindle the "simple" townsfolk out of their drilling rights, you know the natives are going to somehow turn the tables. Great performances throughout (including Burt Lancaster as a wonderfully crazy Texas oil magnate), a loving portrayal of small town life, and beautiful scenery will surely have you contemplating a trip to Scotland before Mac comes to grips with his direction in life. Funny, charming, and quirky, this movie is a joy ride from beginning to end.

From guerilla drive-in

Image from ついてるレオさん"Happy Life"

A great film, not a Hollywood, major American film studio production, obviously.

It doesn't get much better.

Thanks Tom for introducing, back in Suidobashi.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Biogas As Fuel Or As City Gas?

I was interviewed by TV Tokyo for a program about biogas in Sweden, to be shown on the air on September 11, 2010. Biogas has gotten a lot of attention because municipalities can easily invest in factories that convert methane from sewage or food garbage (生ごみ、namagomi) into a efficient fuel for city buses, garbage trucks, and even ambulances. This means less dependency on fossile fuels: not having to use imported gasoline or diesel is seen as a very important policy.

There are some efforts in Japan to produce biogas. Kobe started providing biogas to buses in April, 2008 and Biogas Net Japan was established by 11 major corporations in January 2008:

The establishment of Biogas Net Japan follows a series of trials carried out by the Biogas Network Consortium (established in 2005 under the aegis of The Japan Research Institute by some 30 energy related companies and plant & equipment makers with a view to making efficient use of the biogas produced by organic waste matter). These trials have reached the stage at which biogas supply can be developed as a commercial business. The Biogas Network Consortium has conducted extensive research into business models for biogas distribution that make use of sewage sludge, food waste, industrial waste, and livestock waste. It has succeeded in developing a) technologies that allow biogas to be refined to the point where it becomes equivalent in quality to town gas or natural gas and can be used in ordinary gas equipment, and b) technologies that allow the refined biogas to be put into pressurized containers and transported so that it can be used by consumers in urban areas, far from the place where it is produced.

Should biogas be used as a fuel for vehicles or rather be used to heat buildings? In Sweden, there is almost no use of gas as a heating fuel, while Japan has much infrastructure that would allow homeowners and others to use methan/biogas for heating in winter. Biogas could also be used to heat bath water without much trouble.

Depending on the conditions, biogas seems like a flexible, carbon-neutral fuel that can be used instead of oil, gasoline, or diesel, and at least to some extent help us make the difficult transition to an era when cheap oil is no longer an option.

Not everyone likes biogas, however. In Kamakura, there has been opposition to plans to build a biogas plant, as farmers worried that the many garbage trucks running back and forth would create pollution. They also seem to have little trust in City Hall, having been let down previously by other schemes. Eric L. Due and Eric Prideaux covered this story in a good article for The Japan Times back in March 2008:
Kamakura farmers hit food-waste plan
Public market vendors urge City Hall to trash planned biofuel facility

(Image: Kobelco Eco-Solutions Co.)

Friday, September 03, 2010 French Twist on Vegetables for Tokyo Locavore

Joan at writes:

A small group of people wearing aprons focus intently on one woman stirring a mixture of flour and water. At first glance she appears to be speaking to the bowl in front of her as she gives instruction on making pasta by hand, but her devotees hang on every word and motion. These locavores in training are getting a dose of DIY: the art of French cooking with Japanese vegetables.
Joan notes that Delphine also teaches students how to use what’s at hand and in season to advantage. The July class centered around zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. The September classes will feature some of the summer vegetables again – eggplants, cucumbers, and tomatoes – as well as some of the early fall harvest – komatsuna and leeks.

All the vegetables are organic and are sourced from the farm she partners with in Ibaraki-ken or other local growers. The remaining ingredients are organic whenever possible, which lets students know about organic grocers in Tokyo, too.

Le Panier de Piu:

A selected range of organic products delivered straight to your home!

The first English- and French-speaking service of organic fresh vegetables and natural products delivery aimed at the foreign community in Japan.

At any time, order your organic vegetables set and receive it next week, without subcription fee!

With Le Panier de Piu, enjoy:

- HEALTHY PRODUCTS and TRACEABILITY: all vegetables in your basket are grown without the use of pesticide and chemical fertilizer by young farmers in Ibaraki-ken.

For more information about how to order, contact Bio de Piu

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Steps On The Way Down: Akinori Ito

It is no secret that the world has reached the peak of oil production and will begin a steep descent in the near future - in 1 to 5 years depending on who one listens to. Several government and business reports issued this year have confirmed that fact. The decline will be around 10% per year and will scarcely be offset by expensive and/or dirty fuels like Alberta Tar Sands, shale oil, and "clean coal". Ethanol is a net energy loser which exists because of subsidies and also takes away food crops desperately needed in our hungry world. Wind and solar will have a role to play, but will still represent at best a few percent of the energy we use now for the foreseeable future. In the years ahead, we will "simply" have to adjust the way we do almost everything to use much less energy.

While no technological miracle is going to "save us" from the end of the oil age, there are some bright spots. To wit:

Akinori Ito, the CEO of Blest, has built a machine for turning plastic back into oil. The technology is not complex (or unique) but Ito-san's machine, and what he has done with it, does present some interesting possibilities as world oil production declines. No, it won't keep the cars rolling along. We're done with the cars - no matter what powers them.

Cars require enormous amounts of energy to be produced in the first place, plus oil to make the plastic interiors, tires and so on. The roads they run on are made from oil as well. All of it uses oil powered machinery to mine and transport the raw materials and to be maintain the roads and cars. There is no escape for cars. So ...

What makes this machine interesting to me is it's small size and the way Ito-san has travelled to places in the "2nd world" such as the Marshall Islands to introduce adults and children to the idea that plastic can be a resource. While he mentions fueling cars in the video, which resonates with first world car addicts, I can think of much more important uses for this machine (and I suspect he has too). Such as...

Putting one of these devices in a small community and feeding it with all the trash that is presently either burned in an incinerator or is being left in the environment - on the beach, along the road side, etc. - and using the volunteer labor of the local people to harvest it. The resulting oil could be used as appropriate for each locale. In the Marshall Islands, for example, it might be used for running a village generator that provides lighting and runs the village laundry, so that they no longer have to import diesel. In colder climes the oil could be used to heat homes or put to other use. The unit is small, so adaptable to each particular local situation.

In the long run, plastics will "dry up" since they come from our diminishing supplies of oil to begin with. Don't think of this as a source of energy - it isn't - but as a form of recycling that gives plastic more value. The energy needed to make the machines themselves won't always be there either. But since the machine is used at a local level and not trying to power "business as usual" forever, that would be OK.
Wouldn't it be nice to use the plastic trash of industrial consumer civilization to help ease the transition to a low energy future and clean up our mess in the process?


Perhaps future generations could enjoy trash free beaches, lakes, hiking trails, and oceans. Do we have the wisdom for that?

Eco Hype Event For Okinawa At Favela In Aoyama, Tokyo

From Emilie McGlone and Jonathan Yamauchi of US for Okinawa:

Hello Everyone,

We are sending you information about the next US for OKINAWA event!

We are now fundraising for our Okinawa Peace Project coming up soon in September! Please join us if you can and invite your friends !

■9/12 Eco Hype event at Favela in Aoyama
■9/22-26 Okinawa Peace Project, Study Program


Sunday afternoon party at Favela in Aoyama


Ryo Tsutsui (Eden / Weekend Warriorz )
Sho-hey (Octagon)
Sam Fitzgerald (P4P)
Bosh (Dial )
DJ Maada
Raha (Ooooze)

+ Live Art & Free Organic food (from Tengu/Alishan)

*Party from 16:00 - 24:00 / 2000 yen
*Discount list 1500 yen / email:

Info: Parties4Peace.comUS for Okinawa and PangeaSeed joined together for a beach-clean up and eco-friendly lunch over the weekend, they plan to organize another beach event next year for Ocean`s day (海の日) in Japan. To see more photos, click here:

PangeaSeed is a Tokyo-based grassroots organization dedicated to educating and raising international awareness on the plight of sharks. Through volunteer activism and various mediums including art, music, film, and photography, PangeaSeed aims to create an open dialog with the global community to develop an understanding of the need to preserve and protect sharks and their habitat.

PangeaSeed is the first organization in Japan to raise public awareness regarding shark conservation and preservation. We rely on the generosity of our supporters.