Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Japan looks to developing countries for whaling support

4 March, 2008

Whale of a time

With most of the developed world clearly set against Japan’s continuing whaling escapades, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs flew delegates from twelve developing countries to Tokyo on Monday for a seminar in the hope that they may join the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and increase support for the resumption of “sustainable” whaling.

Unsurprisingly, Greenpeace was not in the least bit pleased:

“[This meeting] is a clear signal that Japan’s only concern is to roll back decades of protection for whales and resume commercial whaling.”
-Rob Nicoll, whales campaigner for Greenpeace Australia and the Pacific

Full story from BBC News Online: “Japan seeks new allies on whaling

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Whaling ain’t what it used to be

13 February, 2008

Bit ‘o humpback, sir?

As mentioned in our previous report on Japanese whaling (“Why Japan hunts whales“), the market for whale meat in Japan is negligible. An article in today’s Daily Telegraph (Australia) provides further evidence for this today, claiming that Japanese whalers are going bankrupt thanks to a lack of demand for their “scientific” produce:

JAPAN’s whale killers are going broke and have been forced to slash prices because no one wants to eat their growing mountain of whale meat.

The farcical truth of Japan’s whaling industry was exposed yesterday by Japanese media reports that the Institute for Cetacean Research is struggling to repay $37 million in government subsidies.

(Daily Telegraph Article: Japanese Whalers Going Broke)

Tokyo hit by snow, for once

4 February, 2008

Snow in Tokyo

East Asia is currently suffering a very harsh winter, with some parts of China seeing their heaviest snowfalls in 100 years. Even Tokyo is suffering, which is a rare event indeed.

More than 200 people were injured and one man died after yesterday’s snowfall in the Kanto region. Road and rail services were affected, although most routes were back to normal by this afternoon.

No further snow is forecast for Tokyo this week.

(Further information from AFP: “One dead, more than 200 injured in Japan snow“)

Wood – it’s the future

26 January, 2008

Wooden car

Japan intends to use wood biomass to produce fuels and other products currently made from petrol.

The Ministry of Agriculture will provide 1.2 billion yen in the next financial year on projects that will improve the efficiency of cellulosic plants, which use enzymes to break down waste wood into ethanol.

Why Japan hunts whales

24 January, 2008

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda today defended his country’s “scientific” whaling programme to the BBC, claiming that Japan was not breaking any laws by continuing to hunt whales around Antarctica. He also levelled criticism at environmentalists’ and foreign governments’ reactions to the issue:

“I don’t think it is right for the discussions to turn emotional, especially with the recent violent act against the Japanese research vessel. Should that lead to more emotionally-charged debate, then I feel that would be very unfortunate. So we should try to continue with our efforts to try to explain that we are engaged in this research whaling activity from a scientific viewpoint.”

Despite the extensive news coverage, many Japanese I spoke to about whaling had no firm opinion: some were strongly opposed to it, of course, but the majority – especially the older generation – viewed the killing of whales as no better or worse than killing other marine species (it is worth noting that young people in Japan hardly ever eat whale meat, in fact few I spoke to had even tried it).

Whale meat is not exactly the most popular – or most expensive – food on the menu in restaurants. In 2005 schools in Wakayama began offering whale meat to their students. However, the meat first had to be fried in breadcrumbs or minced into burgers before before the kids would even touch it.

So, why does Japan spend so much time and money with whaling, when it is so damaging to its reputation among the international community? “Preserving traditional Japanese culture” is a common excuse, though it’s more likely due to the incestuous nature of relations between the Japanese government and the fishing industry. Employees from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries often land themselves cushy jobs in the private sector for a much higher salary than they could ever achieve as a civil servant. Companies in the fishing industry, on the other hand, gain valuable inside knowledge and, hopefully, a sympathetic ear in the halls of power.

(BBC News article: “Japanese premier defends whaling”)

China blamed for worsening smog in Japan

28 November, 2007

According to the Japan Times, this year has seen a record number of photochemical smog warnings issued across Japan, with China apparently being the main culprit.

Chinese power stationWith China’s rapid economic growth, scientists are concerned that pollution from Chinese power stations and industry is having an increasingly damaging effect on the health and well-being of people, animals and agriculture here.

Japan is currently a world leader in energy efficiency. The country uses one-third of the amount of energy that the U.S. needs to produce one unit of GDP, and one-ninth of the amount needed by China. The Japanese government claims energy production is now 30% more efficient than in 1973.

However, Japan is not quite as environmentally conscious as these figures may suggest. More than 77% of the country’s rubbish is incinerated, partially offsetting any reduction in emissions. The Japanese are also increasingly seeking a more luxurious lifestyle, which places further strain on a country with little natural resources of its own.

Japan committed itself to cutting emissions to 94% of 1990 levels by 2012. However, emissions are currently almost 8% above 1990 levels, making this target difficult to achieve. Meanwhile, China’s output of nitrous oxide – the gas primary responsible for smog – has increased almost four-fold in the past 25 years. Prevailing winds carry airborne pollution east, with the west coast being particularly badly affected.