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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Sustainable Fisheries: Japanese Experience" DVD available from PARC

Utase-bune taken at Notsuke Bay, Hokkaido To avoid eel grass being damaged by propellers, fisher folks of Notsuke only use the power of the wind and tides when capturing shrimp. The volume of catch is strictly limited according to seasonal surveys.

The Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), a Tokyo-based social justice NGO, has released a new DVD "Sustainable Fisheries; Japanese Experience," both in English and in Japanese. This short documentary takes a look at grassroots and governmental efforts to create sustainable fisheries in Japan within a global and comparative context:
Nowadays, the disappearance of marine resources is a serious concern around the world.

This video analyzes the system within which marine resources are consumed and distributed in Japan, as well as how this system requires a huge amount of fish catch--thereby resulting in a depletion of resources.

With the goal in mind of finding alternative ways to fish, we covered various examples of sustainable fisheries that find ways to capture fish while still being able to maintain precious resources.

Such examples include making their own rules with which to regulate themselves; defending the ocean from reclamation; enriching local communities by implementing a system whereby profits are distributed amongst the community equally; and a system of fixed-net fisheries that leaves schools of fish untouched.

The video also introduces the Japanese Fishery Rights system, and explains how the Japanese Fishery Act incorporates the customs of community resource management, while also highlighting the important role that these rights have played in conserving the marine environment.

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Video information:

Title: "Sustainable Fisheries; Japanese Experience"
  Directed by Suzuki Toshiaki
Produced by Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), Aug. 2009

35min, DVD (NTSC or PAL)
Price $20 for developing countries, $60 for developed countries

Contents:

Chapter 1: What's Happening to Fish around the World?
  The Japanese Diet and the State of World Fishing
  Are Fish Disappearing?
  Japan's Fisheries and Fishery Resources

Chapter2: Fishery Rights and Customs as a Way to Conserve the Blessings of the Sea
  A Commitment to Nature: Haruku Island, Indonesia
  Self-regulation of the Fishing Seasons: Himeshima Island, Japan
  Self-regulation: The Three-Year Moratorium on Hatahata Fishing in Akita, Japan
  Fishery Rights, Built on Customs
  Defending Nature: Onyujima, Japan

Chapter3: Sharing the Blessings of the Sea
  Community-Building with Fishery Resources
  Cross-Border Management of Marine Resources: The Disappearance of Yellowtail from Odawara, Japan
  Protecting the Sea to Secure Our Lives

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency & A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change

"The world itself has a role to play in our awakening. Its very brokenness and need call to us, summoning us to walk out of the prison of self-concern."

-- Joanna Macy

In a new book and recent declaration, Buddhist leaders are urging people to pay attention to and work individually and collectively to end global warming.

Editors John Stanley, David R. Loy, and Gyurme Dorje bring together voices of the world's leading Buddhist teachers in A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency, released by Wisdom Publication in August to precede the United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December.

The Dalai Lama, Robert Aitken, Gyalwang Karmapa XVII, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Chatral Rinpoche, Sakya Trizin, Thich Nhat Hanh, Joanna Macy, Joseph Goldstein, Lin Jensen, and others address ending energy waste; deforestation; reforestation; renewable energy; and breaking the addiction to fossil fuels––within a framework of interconnectedness; individual and collective responsibility; and awakening awareness.

An excerpt from Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche's "Minimum Needs and Maximum Contentment:"
All religions are based upon principles that constitute an ethical way of life. Our current lifestyle does not uphold the human spirit and does not support an ethical way of living. In response, religions around the world must advance a strong spiritual approach to climate change based upon common principles of an ethical way of life: we are not against wealth or business in themselves. We simply point out that that it’s good for business to lose a bit of that excess weight. It’s good for business to make a positive contribution to the world. And it’s good for individuals to examine their own consciousness in terms of what sustains them while living on this planet.

The karma of global warming is not nature turning against us—we have turned against ourselves. We are doing something hostile to nature. It is not that “God has turned against us”— Hurricane Katrina was a manifestation of global warming. If we wish to avoid such disasters, we have to take corrective measures now. Our climate itself is now in our own hands.
An excerpt from Ringu Tulku Rinpoche's "The Bodhisattva Path at a Time of Crisis:"
When society degenerates, the world becomes worse. Peoples’ negative emotions and actions become raw, aggressive, greedy, and deluded. Environmental damage accumulates, militarism and war come to the fore, disease, famine, and diminishing lifespan begin to increase. Excessive greed causes us to disrespectfully take everything from the earth or sea, while ignoring the pollution we cause. This collective negativity harms ourselves, of course, and in the case of global warming, the damage will extend long into the future of ourselves and others. Consumerism relies upon fundamental confusion, amplified by advertising. The resulting over-consumption sows the seeds of self-destruction, as we can now see in the Arctic. The sea ice has melted so much that there is a waterway all round the top of the world. Instead of taking urgent stock of what this may mean for the survival of the world we know, the neighboring countries have started to fight about who gets any oil reserves beneath the ocean.

Emptiness, interdependence, impermanence, and the dreamlike nature of things do not prevent us from taking altruistic or positive action. It may be like a dream, but it still affects beings… If there is environmental or climate collapse, everybody will assuredly be affected — some more, some less, but there will be an unprecedented negative impact. Clearly it is a vitally important bodhisattva activity to prevent a universal disaster like the collapse of our living world.
The Ecological Buddhism: A Buddhist Response to Global Warming website's "Buddhist Climate Project" webpage provides more information and excerpts; and the accompanying "A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change:"
In the run-up to the crucial U.N. Climate Treaty Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, the Declaration that follows will present to the world's media a unique spiritual view of climate change and our urgent responsibility to address the solutions. It emerged from the contributions of over 20 Buddhist teachers of all traditions to the book A Buddhist Respose to the Climate Emergency. "The Time to Act is Now "was composed as a pan-Buddhist statement by Zen teacher Dr David Tetsuun Loy and senior Theravadin teacher Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi with scientific input from Dr John Stanley. The Dalai Lama was the first to sign this Declaration. We invite all concerned members of the international Buddhist community to study the document and add their voice by co-signing it at the end of this page...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

25% by 2020 -- Yes Japan Can! • World's Greenhouse Emissions Up in 2008


Greenpeace Banner at G-20 in Pittsburgh

It looks like Japan (emits around 4% of the world's greenhouse gases) and China (bypassed the US as the #1 emitter in 2006) are the only economic powers at least trying to speak seriously about stopping global warming. Greenpeace's Climate Rescue Blog states: "...key countries like Germany, France and the US are lagging far behind."

Although some Japanese corporate voices naysay Hatoyama's goal and although Japan has fallen behind 1997 Kyoto Protocol targets––Andrew DeWitt, a Rikkyo University professor, and Iida Tetsunari, head of the Tokyo-based Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, make a case for Hatoyama's case for a 25% cut in Japanese greenhouse gases by 2020 at Japan Focus.

But can one nation make enough of a difference?

Rising levels of emission in 2008 shocked the world's scientists, who expected a decrease from the global economic downturn, according to the Los Angeles Times:
The world pumped up emissions of the chief human-produced global warming gas last year, setting a course that could push beyond leading scientists' projected worst-case scenario, international researchers said Thursday.

The new numbers, which some scientists called "scary," were a surprise because experts thought an economic downturn would slow energy use. Instead, carbon dioxide output rose 3% from 2006 to 2007.

That amount exceeds the most dire outlook for emissions from burning coal and oil and related activities as projected by a Nobel Prize-winning group of international scientists in 2007.

Meanwhile, forests and oceans, which suck up carbon dioxide, are doing so at lower rates, scientists said. If those trends continue, the world will be on track for the highest predicted rises in temperature and sea level.
China was responsible for more than half of these increase because of heavy industries. Additionally, many countries have shifted their manufacturing (thus, their carbon emissions) to China:
"We're shipping jobs offshore from the U.S., but we're also shipping carbon dioxide emissions with them," Marland said. "China is making fertilizer and cement and steel, and all of those are heavy energy-intensive industries."

Developing countries not asked to reduce greenhouse gases by the 1997 Kyoto treaty -- China and India are among them -- now account for 53% of carbon dioxide pollution. That group of nations surpassed industrialized ones in carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, an analysis of older figures shows.

India is in position to beat Russia for the No. 3 carbon dioxide polluter behind the U.S., Marland said. Indonesia's levels are increasing rapidly.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

John Junkerman: "Article 9, Japanese Pacifism, and American Militarism" at the International House of Japan on Sept. 29, 2009

John Junkerman will be speaking on September 29, at the International House of Japan in Tokyo on "Article 9, Japanese Pacifism, and American Militarism."

Speaker: John Junkerman, Film Director
Moderator: LEE Jong Won, Professor, Rikkyo University
Date & Time: Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 7:00 pm
Venue: Iwasaki Koyata Memorial Hall, International House of Japan
Admission: Free
Language: English (no Japanese translation provided)
Born in Milwaukee, the United States, Mr. Junkerman is a leading
American filmmaker attempting to raise public awareness through his
films on various socio-political and historical issues facing Japan and
the global community. His first film was Hellfire—A Journey from
Hiroshima
(1986). A co-production with John Dower, the noted historian,
it is based on his interviews with Iri and Toshi Maruki, Japanese
artists known for their “Genbaku no zu (Hiroshima Murals),” paintings
dealing with the aftermath of the atomic bombing, and was nominated for
an Academy Award in 1988. His Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our
Times
(2002) gives viewers a rare opportunity to listen to and reflect
on the critical discourse of Noam Chomsky, one of the most important
public intellectuals and political dissidents of our time.

Introducing his film Japan’s Peace Constitution(2005), in this
lecture/discussion meeting Mr. Junkerman will talk about the
Constitution’s Article 9 within the broad context of Japanese pacifism
and American militarism.

Contact:

Program Department
International House of Japan
5-11-16 Roppongi, Minato-ku Tokyo 106-0032 Japan
Tel: +81-3-3470-3211 Fax: +81-3470-3170
E-mail: program@i-house.or.jp

http://www.i-house.or.jp/en/ProgramActivities/japan_ihj/index.htm

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nuclear Industry Status Report 2009: The renaissance of nuclear energy is much exaggerated (with the possible exception of Monju)

News from nuclear energy analyst Mycle Schneider at the The Right Livelihood (Alternative Nobel) Award website:
"The renaissance of nuclear energy, much trumpeted by its supporters, is not taking place. The only thing frequently revived is the announcement.”

It is with these words that the German Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety released the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2009, a project directed by Mycle Schneider (RLA 1997).

The study provides the facts and figures of nuclear power around the world that fly in the face of the stunning international nuclear revival propaganda.

435 units operate in the world, that is 9 less than in 2002. For the first time in nuclear history not a single new nuclear unit in the world has been connected to the grid for over two years. One quarter of the units officially under construction have been listed there for over 20 years and over one half has had repeated delays. The economic costs have sky-rocketed rather than gone down as in the case of other energy industries.
The site has a link to the full report.

Schneider won the 1997 Right Livelihood Award jointly with the late Takagi Jinzaburo, who invited Schneider to the 1991 International Conference on Plutonium in Omiya. The two saw similarities in France's and Japan's treatment of nuclear power; they began work together on the issues of waste and plutonium shipments between the two countries:

With Japan and France hosting the two remaining large-scale interests in plutonium use, and MOX (uranium-plutonium mixed oxide fuel) being the only use for plutonium outside fast breeder reactors (FBRs), Schneider started work with Takagi on a two-year intensive international research project on 'A Comprehensive Social Impact Assessment of MOX in Light Water Reactors', which was realeased in November 1997. In December 1997, France shut down its Superphénix FBR. In Japan, after several accidents and scandals, public confidence in the industry decreased dramatically.
Takagi, a nuclear chemist, created the Tokyo-based non-profit Citizen's Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) after working for several years working in the nuclear industry. Directing CNIC until his death in 2000, Takagi reported findings in CNIC publications including SNIC Monthly in Japanese and the bimonthly Nuke Info Tokyo in English. He was a pioneer in peace ecology––perceiving the intersections between environmental, human rights, and peace issues. He spearheaded international cooperation between NGOs addressing nuclear energy and worked to out the truth about the extent of Chernobyl's radiation-caused cancers:
Takagi and CNIC concentrated since 1988 on the Japanese plutonium programme. Takagi organised the International Conference on Plutonium (1991), the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sea Shipments of Japanese Plutonium (1992) and the Aomori International Symposium on Japanese Plutonium (1994) and produced the proposal for a Moratorium on Japan's Plutonium Utilisation Programme. These activities contributed to the recent scale-down of Japan's plutonium programme. Takagi also helped other Asian NGOs to obtain correct scientific information on the risks and environmental implications of nuclear energy.

Following the IAEA 1991 report that claimed "radiation from the Chernobyl accident had almost no effect on the local population", Takagi produced a paper estimating that 100,000-200,000 extra cancers in former USSR countries are a result of this accident. To follow up, CNIC was co-organiser, with the Belarus Academy of Sciences and a number of Japanese scientists, of the 1994 Belarus-Japan Symposium 'Acute and Late Consequences of Nuclear Catastrophes: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl'.
In 1995, media turned to Takagi and the CNIC as a reliable source of information after a nuclear accident at a prototype fast-breeder reactor at Monju in western Japan where authorities attempted a cover-up.

Local residents filed a lawsuit against the government: asking for the nullification of the original permission to build the reactor at Monju. In 2003, they prevailed at the level of Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High court (the first Japanese public victory in a lawsuit concerning a nuclear reactor). The court reasoned the safety screening of a government agency before the reactor's construction was inadequate. However, in 2005, the Japanese Supreme Court reversed this ruling. Despite continued local resident opposition, the Japanese government wants to reopen the Monju experimental breeder reactor in 2010.

The worst nuclear (criticality) accident in Japan took place in 1999 at the Tokai waste disposal facility, followed by another attempted cover-up, and then a MITI-imposed moratorium on fast-breeder development. Public confidence in nuclear energy plummeted as costs of reprocessing escalated--putting the brakes on nuclear energy development in Japan. The Tokai nuclear power plant remains decommissioned and is scheduled to be dismantled.

In March 2009, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station (the world's biggest) was shut down by fire (its eighth) since closure almost two years ago by an earthquake.

Pluthermal generation at Tomari nuclear power plant in Hokkaido is under testing now and faces local citizen opposition from the "Know Pluthermal" Shiribeshi Citizens' Network.

-- Jean Downey

Japanese Groups working for a Nuclear-Free World

Iwashima Island residents are not the only Japanese citizens opposing the construction of a new nuclear power plant in their area. Elsewhere Japanese citizens have formed a number of grassroots groups opposing existing and proposed nuclear power plants. The Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) profiles the following:

They include:

 • "Know Pluthermal" Shiribeshi Citizens' Network (Hokkaido)

• the National Network Against Nuclear Energy (formed in March 1978)

• The Committee to Consider Pluthermal and Saga's Next 100 Years (although Genkai-3 in Hokkaido is scheduled to become the first nuclear power plant in Japan to implement pluthermal, many people are continuing to raise concerns about issues of safety, economics, and whether pluthermal is necessary in the first place)

• Kariwa Women for the Protection of Life

• Anti-Nuclear Kagoshima Network

• Daichi Stop Nuclear Power Committee ("Nuclear energy is incompatible with organic agriculture)

• Stop Rokkasho Japan (initiated by musician Ryuichi Sakamoto)

• No to Radioactive Waste! Committee for a Prefectural Ordinance

• KO-OK Productions: film-makers who say, "Radiation is not OK"

• Phase-Out Nuclear Energy Downtown Network

• Kansai Relief for Chernobyl Hibakusha: linking Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl to create a world without nuclear victims

• The Shizuoka Network of Citizens Opposed to the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant (focuses on the question of whether the Hamaoka NPP is capable of withstanding the widely predicted Tokai Earthquake

• The Iwate Committee to Protect the Sanriku Sea from Radiation (concerned about ocean pollution from radioactive liquid waste from the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant)

• The Chernobyl Children's Fund

•  Acorn Forestry Club (doing business while opposing nuclear power in a nuclear town)

• Nagano Soft Energy Resource Center (a meeting place for people thinking about and taking action on energy and environment issues)

• The Association for the Preservation of Nagashima's Nature

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Please Support the Residents & Indian Porpoises: Help Stop the Nuclear Power Station at Iwaishima Island


People of Iwaishima Island blocking the ocean and the road to stop the construction

Via PARC (the Pacific Asia Resource Center) and the people of Iwaijima Island, on the Inland Sea, in Yamaguchi Prefecture:
Stop the Reclamation for the Nuclear Power Station! Support the People of Iwaishima Island!

The beautiful ocean in Yamaguchi Prefecture is at risk of reclamation for the new nuclear power station. The company tried to start the construction in Sep.10 2009, yet the fisherfolks and residents of Iwaishima Island has been blocking it with all their effort. They are calling for the support to recall this planned power station. On Sep.10 2009, people of Iwaishima island surrounded huge barges of the electric company that are trying to start reclamation of the sea, using 30 of their small fish boats. At the land, other residents kept holding sit-in, showing their strong will to protect their ocean where filled by blessing of the nature.

In 1982, the plan to build a nuclear power station at Kaminoseki-cho, Yamaguchi Pref, western part of Japan was brought up. The plan is to reclaim a beautiful oceanfront area where the Indian porpoises, a small whales lives.

People of Iwaishima island, only 3.5 km away from the planned nuclear power station, have been fishing in this ocean for centuries for their livelihood. 90% of residents in Iwaishima have strongly opposed this plan for over 25 years and want to protect the ocean.

In 2008, Yamaguchi prefecture published the permission for the reclaimation to Chugoku Electric Power Co, Inc. With this permission, the Chugoku Electric Power tried to start the reclamation today, Sep.10th 2009, yet they haven't even apply for the permission to set up the atomic reactor.

On this day, the efforts of people from Iwaishima stopped the commencement of work. Still, it is clear that the Chugoku Electruc Power is going to try again and again.

Not only Indian porpoises, but also so many precious animals such as Japanese Murrelets are living with the blessing of this ocean. It is a rich fishing ground as well. Once ocean is reclaimed, we can never get this ocean back.

The Chugoku Electruc Power and Yamaguchi Prefecture have been saying the environmentalist movement is only supported by local people, therefore, they could force this project to go on. Please support this movement of people from Iwaishima Island by sending emails or calling to the related companies and local government offices below. Pressure from outside could great support changing the situation.

**********************************************************************

■Yamaguchi Prefectural government
Bureau of Infrastructure (to stop the reclamation)
Tel: +81-83-933-3810 Fax: +81-83-933-3829
Bureau of Environment (to conserve environment or precious animals)
Tel: +81-83-933-3050 Fax: +81-83-933-3069

■Chugoku Electric Power co. INC.
Mail Form
Tel: +81-82-241-0211 Fax: +81-82-523-6185

■Kaminoseki town office
Tel: +81-820-62-0311 Fax: +81-820-62-1600

Monday, September 21, 2009

International Day of Peace: Which Countries are the Most Peaceful?

Today is the "International Day of Peace" celebrated by millions around the world; unknown to millions around the world.

According to the Global Peace Index, Japan is the 7th most peaceful country in the world––following New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, and Sweden.

In Asia, Singapore rates 23rd; Malaysia 26th; South Korea 33rd; Taiwan 37th; Vietnam 39th; Bhutan 40th; China 74th; Mongolia 89th; Phillipines 114th; Thailand 118th; India 122nd; Pakistan 137th; and Afghanistan 143rd (last from the bottom place which goes to Iraq).

However, one has to wonder about the methodology of these ratings as the GPI puts the US––the world's largest arms dealer still at war in Iraq after invading it without provocation in 2003; now escalating conflict in Afghanistan––at only 83rd--while Iraq is rated last. Why should a country that experiences invasion and resulting ongoing violent conflict be rated less peaceful than the invading country?

And shouldn't peaceful points be deducted if a nation proudly profits from weapons manufacturing? Arms sales originating from Sweden (6th most peaceful) exploded last year. US weapons manufacturers made record sales in 2009. The US was the world's largest arm exporter in 2008, followed by Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, according to the data released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (www.sipri.org ). The UK's "first-class defense industry" had the most sales in 2007, according to the Times.

The US manufacturer Boeing was the top arms producer in 2007, with arms sales of $30.5 billion: "It's a great time to be in the fighter business." Lockheed Martin reported $42.7 billion in sales in 2008, with the supposedly second and third most peaceful nations of Denmark and Norway joining the United States, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, and Australia to co-finance the F-35 jet fighter. Japan and South Korea will be among the buyers.

It also doesn't look like spending on weapons was taken into consideration either. Global arms spending hit a record in 2008:
...Global military spending reached a record $1,464 billion last year with the United States taking up by far the biggest share of the total, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said on Monday.

Arms shipments were up 4 percent worldwide from 2007 and 45 percent higher than in 1999, the think tank said in its annual study of the global arms trade.

"The idea of the 'war on terror' has encouraged many countries to see their problems through a highly militarized lens, using this to justify high military spending," Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of the Military Expenditure Project at the think tank said in a statement.

"Meanwhile, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $903 billion in additional military spending by the USA alone."

The United States accounted for 58 percent of the worldwide increase between 1999 and 2008. China and Russia both nearly tripled their military spending over the decade, SIPRI said.

Other countries such as India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Brazil, South Korea, Algeria and Britain also contributed substantially to the total increase....
The Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation put world spending on arms at $1.47 trillion in 2008. The US at $711 billion accounted for 48% of the world's spending on military weapons--followed by China, Russia, the UK, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and India.

And shouldn't mega-nonpeaceful points be deducted for maintaining weapons of mass destruction? Almost 2,000 nuclear warheads (of over 8,000 operational warheads) are kept on high alert and capable of being launched immediately. All together, the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan and Israel are holding onto a total of around 25,000 nuclear weapons.

Heinz Insu Fenkl: Seeing North Korea and South Korea through comics

Korean-American author, Korean literature scholar, and anthropologist Heinz Fenkl Insu has posted some fascinating translations of North Korean and South Korean comics (manhwa) at his website.

His evocative introduction to "Great General Mighty Wing" posted at Words Without Borders: The Online Journal of International Literature, reveals historical and symbolic contexts of the comics. Fenkl writes North Korean comics remind him of the South Korean comics he read during his childhood in South Korea of the 1960's:
I grew up in South Korea in the 1960s during the Park Chung-hee years, back in the day when comic books, or manhwa, were classified as one of the great social evils along with alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, and prostitution. I lived in a neighborhood in Korea’s largest camp town, just outside the American Army base called ASCOM, so I witnessed the full range of these social evils, sometimes on a daily basis. But I was only a kid, and I generally avoided the other social evils by hanging out at the local manhwabang, the "comic book room," a neighborhood institution where all the young local delinquents—mostly teenage thugs and schoolboys playing hooky—could be found.

South Korea called itself a democracy in those days, though it was a tenuous one that technically became a military dictatorship the year my family left, 1972, when Park installed the Yushin Constitution and disbanded parliament. He had taken power through the May 16th "bloodless" coup in 1961 while student protests were destabilizing the interim administration after the downfall of Syngman Rhee.

In the 1960s, Korea was still recovering from the devastating civil war that had left the country split in two and forever separated nearly ten million families. The South saw the North as a nation of fanatical Reds ruled by a megalomaniacal dictator whose major ambition was to infiltrate assassin spies below the DMZ and destabilize the struggling, peace-loving, capitalist, democratic counterpart. The atmosphere in the South was constantly tense, based on both a perceived and real threat. In the 1968 assassination attempt on Park, known as "The Blue House Raid," thirty-one infiltrators came within sight of Park’s residence. The national manhunt that ensued after their botched mission resulted in the deaths of sixty-eight South Koreans and three Americans. In 1974, in another attempt, a North Korean assassin missed him and killed Park’s wife. Ironically, it was a member of Park’s own KCIA that finally assassinated him in 1979...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Progressive South Koreans seek to revive Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine" policy of reconciliation

Longtime East Asian correspondent and KJ contributor Donald Kirk reports on the range of views coming out of South Korea regarding possible bilateral talks between the U.S. and North Korea in a Sept. 19 article for the Asia Times:
...The South's President Lee Myung-bak and his Unification Minister, Hyun In-taek, have been saying, warily, that, sure, they don't mind if the US does whatever it can to speed up the process, but North Korea had better give up its nukes first - and forget about bypassing South Korea on the way.

South Korea's suspicion that the whole idea of bilateral dialogue is North Korea's way of simply attempting to gain recognition of its status as a nuclear power worries US diplomats. They don't want to appear to be cold-shouldering their South Korean ally while kowtowing to Kim Jong-il for a bilateral process that's likely to go nowhere fast...
However, many influential South Korean progressives (including Paik Nak-chung, a retired professor of English literature and iconic figure in the democracy movement, and Lim Dong-won, the key architect of Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy) refuse to give up hope on reconciliation and reunification. A coalition of former high-ranking officials, scholars, and civic group figures supporting engagement with North Korea seeks to bring conservatives and progressives together in respectful search for and negotiation of alternatives. They've launched the Korean Peninsula Peace Forum, which held its inaugural meeting earlier in September:
...The forum, co-chaired by Paik Nak-chung and Lim Dong-won, has been convened for the purpose of refocusing the pro-engagement camp, which have dispersed under a continuous “anti-Sunshine Policy assault” since the launch of the Lee Myung-bak administration, and for building a base to realize inter-Korean reconciliation and a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

In a resolution adopted at the meeting held at the Korea Press Center in Seoul’s Jung-gu, the Korean Peninsula Peace Forum said it would seek peace, mutual prosperity and peaceful reunification on the Korean Peninsula and develop the engagement policy necessary to realize these goals. The resolution also calls on the Lee Myung-bak administration to switch its current North Korea policy into one of active reconciliation and cooperation for peace in Korea and to improve inter-Korean relations. Moreover, it calls on both the U.S. Barack Obama administration to adopt an active and flexible attitude in negotiations with North Korea, and the North Korean authorities to return to the six-party talks.

Some 120 figures participated in the forum’s first meeting, including former unification ministers Han Wan-sang, Lim Dong-won, Jeong Se-hyun, Lee Jong-seok, and Lee Jae-joung. Baek Jong-chun, former presidential secretary for security, Ven. Jigwan, executive chief of the Jogye Order of Buddhism, Kim Sang-geun, South Korean co-representative on the Committee for the Implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration, Hong Chong-gil, president of the North-South Sharing Movement and Chung Hyun-baek, director of Women Making Peace were also present...
The Korean Peninsula Peace Forum recently met at the US Capitol, sharing thoughts on various approaches to reunification--and voicing both hope and doubt whether this is possible anytime soon--according to Kirk:
..an array of speakers, most of them from the liberal Korean reconciliation movement, urged bilateral dialogue to bring about a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War in place of the truce signed by the US, North Korea and China in July 1953. (Rhee Syngman, then president of South Korea, refused to agree to the truce, which he said made permanent the division of the Korean Peninsula)...

Others at the forum were far more outspoken, harking back to the "Sunshine" policy of reconciliation initiated by the late Kim Dae-jung during his presidency from 1998 to 2003.

Park Won-soon, executive director of the Hope Institute of South Korea, charged the Lee Myung-bak government "just took steps to reverse the course of national reconciliation and cooperation in Korea". He called on the Lee government to "seize the opportunity newly created" by Bill Clinton and "the North Korean leadership for resuming dialogue and cooperation" and urged the US government "to take bold initiatives in their Korea policy..."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taiwan leads the way in Asia: "Meat-free Mondays" (the world's biggest producer of harmful carbons is cattle) starts during Global Climate Week

Two Taiwanese authors, Su Hsiao-huan and Hsu Jen-hsiu, have started a regional and transnational campaign to address global warming by urging people to stop eating meat every Monday starting September 21 (the first day of Global Climate Week):
...Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization showed the biggest producer of harmful carbons in the world was not the petrochemical industry or not even cars, but cattle breeding, responsible for 18 percent of emissions, Su said.

The activists aim to have restaurants offer menus that contain at least one third vegetarian meals. Airlines could also make Mondays meatless, while supermarkets and convenience stores could reserve special sections for vegetarian products, the newspaper reported...

The rising consumption of meat led to the destruction of more forests to make way for fields for cattle to graze in, and the process of preparing meats and frozen foods contributed to the release of noxious gases in the atmosphere, the campaigners said.

If Taiwan could set an example and find followers throughout the region, the country could make a worthwhile contribution to the fight against global warming and climate change, Su said..."
Yoko Ono and Paul and Stella McCartney have already taken a similar campaign globally:
...To produce a single kilogram of beef, farmers have to feed a cow 15kg of grain and 30kg of forage. It is a highly intensive business that is ultimately not sustainable. Livestock production is responsible for 70 per cent of the deforestation of the Amazon jungle and, by 2050, the world’s livestock population is expected to rise from 60 billion farm animals to 120 billion. It is a scary fact when you consider that a single cow can produce 500 litres of methane per day, which has around 25 times the global warming impact of CO2.

“I think we forget more and more that we are animals,” says Stella, “and we are part of a planetary system where all of the animals are on this planet together and you are made to feel like a hippy-dippy jerk that should go and live in a tipi for even making a point of remembering...”
The cheerful UK-based Meatless Mondays site is great for "flexitarians"––people who don't want to stop eating meat completely for whatever reasons--but who want to support efforts to protect our environment.

Also in an attempt to raise popular awareness that we need to work collectively to stop global warming--the UN's Seal the Deal campaign hopes to galvanize global support for reaching a comprehensive global climate agreement in Copenhagen in December:
Climate change affects us all. Nine out of every ten disasters recorded are now climate related. Rising temperatures and more frequent floods, droughts and storms affect millions of people’s lives. This is set against a backdrop of financial and food insecurity.

On December 7, governments will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark to respond to one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. The main question will be how protect the planet and create a green economy that will lead to long-term prosperity

Reaching a deal by the time the meeting ends on December 18 will depend not only on complex political negotiations, but also on public pressure from around the globe. The United Nations has launched “Seal the Deal” campaign that encourages users to sign an online, global petition which will be presented by civil society to governments of the world.

The petition will serve as a reminder that our leaders must negotiate a fair, balanced and effective agreement in Copenhagen, and that they must seal a deal to power green growth, protect our planet and build a more sustainable, prosperous global economy that will benefit all nations and people.
Hopefully, in the future, more environmentalist NGOs and governments will acknowledge and address the multiple roles (carbon emissions, destruction of rainforests for ranches, transporting meat long distances) in which the multinational meat industry contributes to global warming.

–– Jean Downey

2nd Asian Queer Film Festival Screens in Tokyo

The Asian Queer Film Festival makes its second run from September 19-23, 2009 at Kinneatic, a cozy and artsy gallery in Tokyo's Harajuku neighborhood that specializes in independent films.

From the festival website:

The biennial Asian Queer Film Festival began in Japan in 2007 and is devoted exclusively to screening queer films from Asia. The films for AQFF are selected with an eye to supporting Asian indies writers, so independently produced films are prominent in the AQFF lineup. What makes AQFF even more exciting is that most of the films are being shown in Japan for the first time. Sexual minorities in Asia have been harshly repressed, so there are not many opportunities to see and know more about them, yet they certainly exist, and in a variety of different ways, are starting to raise their voices to be heard. For all of us who identify with and as Asian sexual minorities, this is one of the few chances in Japan to see films that explore our sexuality. Through this exhibition of visual culture, we can deepen our understanding of sexual minorities in Asia today.

For more information, see the festival website's English page.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Join the World March for Peace & Nonviolence • Abolition Flame Ready to Go • Japanese leg scheduled for Oct. 17-19 (Everyone welcome!)


A new global nuclear abolition and peace movement begins today.

At a school in the non-nuclear country of New Zealand, Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey is lighting the Abolition Flame with fire taken from the Peace Flame at the Hiroshima Peace Park. The Hiroshima Peace Flame was lit from the embers of the 1945 nuclear explosion in memory of those who perished and will remain alight until all nuclear weapons are eliminated.

Mayor Harvey's visit to Japan coincided with the annual assembly of Mayors for Peace, an international movement of 3,104 cities calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Mayor Harvey explains the significance of location of the ceremony is to bring the message of peace to youth:
“The flame is a message about what kind of world we want these children to inherit…our homes, neighbourhoods and schools are responsible for passing on a peaceful culture.”
On Oct. 2 (the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth and the UN Day for Peace and Nonviolence), World March for Peace and Nonviolence marchers starting at the Gandhi statue in Wellington, New Zealand will take the Abolition Flame around the world before reaching New York for the 2010 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (signed by most countries in the world; includes an obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament).

The World March for Peace is the first of its kind--a transnational march for the end of nuclear weapons and all forms (economic, racial, religious, sexual, psychological) of violence. It will continue for 90 days and span 90 countries, ending in the Andes Moutains on January 2, 2010. A permanent base of a hundred people of different nationalities--joined by others throughout the world––as the march passes through their locality, will complete the journey.

Sato Makiko is in charge of the Japan leg (Oct 17-19) of the march which will touch down in Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Tokyo. Makiko said she's still finalizing plans and welcomes all interested participants and supporters. So far, Mayors for Peace, Peace Boat, the International Campaign to Ban Uraniun Weapons, HANWA (Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition) and Peace Not War Japan have joined. For additional information (in Japanese): http://www.anatakara.com/petition/index2.html. We'll also post the latest at this site in English.

More background from the Organizers:
Why:

Because we can end world hunger with 10% of what is spent on arms. Imagine how life would be if 30-50% of the arms budget went toward improving people’s lives instead of being used for destruction.

Because eliminating wars and violence means leaving human pre-history behind and taking a giant step forward in the evolution of our species.

Because in this aspiration we are accompanied by the strength of the voices of hundreds of prior generations who suffered the consequences of war, and whose echo continues to be heard today in all those places where it continues to leave its sinister trail of dead, disappeared, disabled, refugees and displaced.

Because a “world without wars” is an image that opens the future and seeks to become reality in every corner of the planet, as violence gives way to dialogue.

The moment has come for the voiceless to be heard! Out of agonizing and urgent need, millions of human beings are crying out for an end to wars and violence.

We can make that happen by uniting all the forces of pacifism and active non-violence worldwide.

Who is participating:

The March was initiated by “World Without Wars”- an international organization launched by the Humanist Movement - that has been working for 15 years in the fields of pacifism and non-violence.

The World March, however, will be created and shaped by everyone. Open to any person, organization, collective, group, political party, business, etc., that shares the same aspirations and sensibility, this project is not something closed. Instead, it is a journey that will be progressively enriched as different initiatives set their contributions in motion...

What is going to happen:

As it passes through cities there will be all kinds of forums, conferences and events (sporting, cultural, social, etc.) that will be organised according to the local initiatives that are emerging.

At this time hundreds of projects have already been set in motion by different individuals and organizations.

What are our goals and objectives:

To denounce the dangerous world situation that is leading us closer and closer to nuclear war, which would be the greatest catastrophe in human history – a dead end.

To give a voice to the majority of world citizens who want peace. Although the majority of the human race opposes the arms race, we are not sending out a unified signal. Instead we are letting ourselves be manipulated by a powerful minority and suffering the consequences. The time has come to stand together and show our opposition. Join a multitude of others in sending a clear signal, and your voice will have to be heard!

To achieve: the worldwide eradication of nuclear weapons; the immediate withdrawal of invading troops from occupied territories; the progressive and proportional reduction of conventional weapons; the signing of non-aggression treaties among nations and the renunciation by governments of war as a way to resolve conflicts.

To expose the many other forms of violence (economic, racial, sexual, religious…) that are currently hidden or disguised by their perpetrators; and to provide a way for all who suffer such violence to be heard.

To create global awareness - as has already happened with environmental issues - of the urgent need to condemn of all forms of violence and bring about real Peace.
-- Jean Downey

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peace Activist Farmers challenge Japan Air Force - "Armed forces aren't good for the human race."

John M. Glionna's article, "Farmers wage turf battle with Japan air force," in the Sept. 10, 2009 Los Angeles Times describes one small part of Japan's widespread grassroots peace movement. The article spotlights farmer Umezawa Masaru who recently turned down an offer of $5 million for his farmland in Hyakuri:
...The 60-year-old farmer is one of several local antiwar activists who over the last half a century have waged an often-tense turf battle with the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan's military is known.

Residents here say the military co-opted much of the area's farmland to build the air base in the 1950s, casually pushing aside hardworking farmers like so many pawns on a chessboard. Many argue that the base itself is illegal. Controversial Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution prohibits the nation from maintaining armed forces with war potential, they insist.

And so in a bold defensive maneuver, they have surrounded the base and inhabit its confines. While Umezawa's family and another hold on to land within the base, other families operate farms around its borders.

In the face of stiff resistance from the landowners, the government has followed a less-controversial policy of trying to buy land rather than seizing it by eminent domain. But the activists have refused to sell -- even when offered double the market value...

Still others have used their property to create "peace parks" within the air base, a patchwork of well-manicured oases from which they watch the young jet jockeys in the cockpits of their multimillion-dollar military hardware.

"We're a small army of people," Umezawa said, "but we've much more willpower than they do."

Umezawa believes he has to make a stand. "Armed forces just aren't good for the human race," he said...
Japanese people––across a wide stratum of society––have struggled for decades in opposition to renewed remilitarization initiated by the U.S. Occupation in tandem with US-supported militarist LDP politicians in 1947. Under the Cold War policy of "reverse course" the Occupation backpeddled from initial idealistic American goals to promote demilitarization and democracy in Japan.

(In Ann Wright's May 2008 article for the Veterans for Peace website, she depicts a larger (national and global) context of Japanese citizen actions agains militarism, telling the story of farmers protesting a U.S. artillery range in Hokkaido:
...On the roof of the building for all military aircraft flying over and for those on the land to see, Mr. Kawase has painted in huge Japanese script, the text of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution: "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of forces as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized...”)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Taiji (killing dolphins is not a Japanese tradition) & Beyond: Saving Dolphins & Whales throughout our Planet

So far, Taiji fishermen have slaughtered pilot whales, but some dolphins have been spared, according to Sea Shepherd––concluding some progress has been made. But it's not enough.

AFP's report of the start of the dolphin slaughter at Taiji inaccurately framed the story as if all Japanese people side with dolphin slaughter as a matter of "tradition." That's like thinking all Canadians side with baby seal hunters, or all French people eat horses as a matter of "tradition."

The conflict at Taiji is not about a culture war between Japan and the rest of the world––over the ostensible tradition of killing dolphins. Many Japanese dolphin sympathizers (including multi-generational vegetarian Buddhists, PETA Asia-Pacific supporters, and members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society) side with millions of people worldwide who want to end the dolphin and pilot whale killings at Taiji.

Instead, the real purpose of the Japanese government's support of the Taiji slaughter is about the fishing industry's elimination of natural predatory competition and providing some extra income to Taiji fishermen from the sale of the dolphins to marine amusement parks. Taiji is one brutal facet of a larger conflict between dolphins (and other sea animals) and the global fishing industry.

Media attention generated by Ric O'Barry's activist documentary The Cove depicting the dolphin killings at Taiji as a cultural issue obscures the big picture context of this planetary drama with related scenes playing out worldwide. In Florida, angry fishermen made headlines this past summer by pipe bombing and shooting bottle-nosed dolphins playfully pulling fish from their lines. Around the world, commercial fishing nets kill 300,000 dolphins, porpoises and whales (and millions of other sea animals including endangered loggerhead turtles and sharks) every year:
“Almost 1,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die every day in nets and fishing gear. That’s one every two minutes," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF's Global Species Programme. "Some species are being pushed to the brink of extinction. Urgent action is needed - and we developed this ranking to help governments and aid agencies know where their money and efforts can really make a difference." 
The large scale deaths of sea mammals is euphemistically called "cetacean bycatch." And political leaders, commercial fishermen's organisations, supermarkets, fish processors, and consumers of fish are not addressing this tragedy. Some fisheries even use captured dolphins as bait to catch more fish. Environmental pollution and insensitive development projects also impact cetaceans.


(Baiji Photo © Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Dolphins at special risk include the Pink Dolphins of Hong Kong; Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins and Bottlenose Dolphins in the Indian Ocean; Irrawaddy dolphins in the Malampaya Sound in the Philippines, the Mekong river, the Mahakam river in Indonesia, and a few thousand newly discovered Irrawady dolphins along the Bangladesh coast. The Yangtze River dolphin (the Baiji) is the world's most endangered cetacean––or the most recently extinct. 2002 marked the last documented sighting of the species; 2006 surveys failed to find any in its native Yangtze River––the Three Gorges Dam destroyed its habitat. According to the ICNU Red List of Threatened Species, fishing nets, electric fishing practices, boat propeller strikes, dam construction, river siltation (from deforestation and agricultural expansion), and pollution all contributed to the Baiji's plight. (The ICNU asserted in July that the global wildlife and biodiversity crisis is worse than the economic crisis. The reasons: overfishing, overhunting and loss of habitat. One third of the ocean's sharks are also at risk, killed by the same commercial fishing nets killing cetaceans). Dolphin species are also at risk in Hawaii, Tahiti, Patagonia, Peru, New Zealand, and the North Atlantic (where 50-70% of the native whales bear scars from net entanglement).

Contrary to Taiji fisherman who claim dolphin killing is a traditional practice, the director of The Cove rightly notes that the Taiji slaughter only goes back to the Meiji regime (1868-1912)––when the authoritarian government instituted a slew of "invented traditions" intended to undermine more established forms of Japanese culture. Before the Meiji era, the Tokugawa shogunate (1600-1868) prohibited meat-eating (associated with Christianity and European culture). Previously, Buddhist and folk Shinto precepts inculcated a widespread reverent attitude towards animals and nature. Meiji leaders attempted to subvert these faith traditions in their attempt to redirect religious allegiance to the cult of State Shinto they created. Moreover, large-scale dolphin killings at Taiji only began in 1969,  (Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson underscores that whaling is also not a traditional Japanese practice: "Modern pelagic whaling was initiated by General Douglas MacArthur in 1946. He established the modern whaling fleet."

O'Barry's global spotlight on Taiji is crucial for heightening awareness about dolphins and other cetaceans. The spotlight needs to grow larger and include the other hundreds of thousands of dolphins and other sea creatures being killed as collateral damage by the worldwide fishing industry.

According to Paul Watson, the reason Canadian salmon fishermen kill baby seals in British Columbia is to eliminate natural predatory competitors for Atlantic salmon brought to those waters by the fishing industry (as well as make side income from selling the pelts to the Canadian fur industry which already kills 300,000 baby seals on the East Coast along with 2 million other animals every year). Which is worse––being harpooned by a Japanese fisherman; or struggling to death in a fishing net (suffering from broken beaks and torn fins); or being clubbed and skinned alive by a Canadian fisherman? And how must a captured dolphin feel when taken from its family and sold to a marine amusement park or "swim-with dolphin" programs at theme parks, harbors, gambling casinos and even shopping malls?


Twenty years ago, Hardy Jones, founder of BlueVoice.org, went to Taiji––returning repeatedly seeking to end the capture of dolphins and pilot whales in Japan. BlueVoice.org has not only taken on the issue of intentional hunts of dolphins and whales, but also the fishing net and industrial pollution kills of cetaceans around the world. Its wonderful website offers a number of online videos on saving dolphins and pilot whales; of dolphins in captivity; and just being "Among Dolphins."

To the extent of sometimes verbally and physically clashing with fishermen and whale hunters (and even fellow environmentalist NGO Greenpeace because it chooses to "witness" but not directly confront its opposition and allegedly provides non-vegetarian food for its crew), Sea Shepherd Conservation Society pursues even larger goals of safeguarding all marine species and ecosystems all over the planet. Its website and a supporting site (Ocean Sentry) provides forthright, up-to-date news (and suggestions for action) on this subject.

 - JD

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Can nations with death penalties contribute to world peace?

Today Amnesty International called for Japan to abolish its death penalty––stating that Japan continues to execute mentally ill prisoners.

Over two thirds of the world's countries have abolished capital punishment either in law or practice. Only a few industrialized countries (notably the U.S. and China, as well as Japan) use it.

These Asian countries also maintain the death penalty: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

These Asian countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes: Cambodia, 1989; Hong Kong, 1993; Nepal, 1997; Bhutan, 2004; Philippines, 2006; and Uzbekistan, 2008.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Destroying & Saving Other Species (& Ourselves)

In Alice Walker's book, The Color Purple, the protagonist tells her oppressor: "Everything you do to me, you do to yourself." For decades, ecologists have been telling us the human destruction of the natural world harms us as well.

An article in the Guardian yesterday puts hunting and loss of habitat at the top of a range of human-made threats to biodiversity––numbering endangered species by country:
...The data below shows that 11,686 species were classed as "endangered" in 2006. Of these, the US hosts the lion's share with 10% in that country. Just over 6% of the total species are in Brazil, reflecting the pressure that widespread deforestation is causing in the highly biodiverse region.

The tiny island nation of Singapore has a large number of threatened animals considering its size. Its 100 endangered species works out at over 20 per million people present on the island (compared with less than 4 per million in the United States...
Incredibly, the global consumption of frog's legs has put frogs at risk of extinction. The French eat 4,000 tons annually. People in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and China also eat tremendous numbers. Most of these frogs are hunted in the wild:
"...Amphibians are the most threatened animal group; about one third of all amphibian species are now listed as threatened, against 23% of mammals and 12% of birds," says Corey Bradshaw, an associate professor at the Environment Institute of the University of Adelaide and a member of the team that carried out the research into human frog consumption that was published earlier this year in the journal Conservation Biology. "The principle drivers of extinction, we always assumed, were habitat loss and disease. Human harvesting, we thought, was minor. Then we started digging, and we realised there's this massive global trade that no one really knows much about. It's staggering. So as well as destroying where they live, we're now eating them to death..."

Indonesia is today the world's largest exporter of frogs by far, shipping more than 5,000 tonnes each year. Some of these may be farmed, but not many...
In Asia, the number of officially threatened species are:

• Afghanistan - 38
• Bangladesh - 111
• China - 804
• India - 569
• Indonesia - 857
• Japan - 215
• Malaysia - 917
• Nepal - 85
• Pakistan - 86
• Philippines - 417
• Singapore - 100
• Thailand - 250
• Vietnam - 310

Captive breeding programs are showing some success, according to the article. Japan For Sustainability recently reported on Hokkaido's Maruyama Zoo program to breed stellar sea eagles. The zoo is also breeding the great purple emperor, golden-ringed dragonflies, and Japanese crayfish.

Activist documentaries like The End of the Line (reveals the impact of overfishing; the website provides an online action center) and The Cove (exposes the annual slaughter of 23,000 dolphins at Taiji, Japan) are helping to build a counter-movement to save animals.

The struggle over the destruction and saving of animals is being played out on an increasingly globalized stage. I would never have guessed this, but there's a Japan link in the survival of the polar bear.

Three international wildlife organizations, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International, and Defenders of Wildlife are lobbying the United States to help stop the international trade in polar bears––hides, trophies, rugs and other polar bear parts. They want the US to submit a proposal to stop the trade at next year's meeting of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on 13-25 March, 2010 in Qatar. Defenders of Wildlife has an online action.

A decreasing number of polar bears (now around 20,000 to 25,000) live in the wild live within five countries: Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russian Federation, and the United States. Melting sea ice from global warming threatens their habitat. Some scientists say the complete loss of summer sea ice will result in the demise of polar bears before the end of this century.

Because of grassroots pressure, the United States finally listed the polar bear as a threatened species under its Endangered Species Act in 2008. This ended the importation to the United States of of polar bears killed by American trophy hunters responsible for large-scale commercial killing of polar bears. (American trophy hunting is a bizarre subculture and cottage industry; every year wealthy American hunters kill tens of thousands of wild animals, representing hundreds of different species––including endangered animals––in foreign countries).

Now the focus of activists has turned to the international trade in polar bear parts-skin, fur, claws, skulls and even stuffed bears. Most of the 400 polar bear skins come from Canada and go to Japan.

Beyond Japan, Asian (particularly Chinese) demand has dramatically elevated the rate of poaching of wild African animals: rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine and ivory is used for decorative purposes. In July, Kenyan authorities impounded $1 million worth of rhino horns and elephant tusks. And now activists are trying to halt the killing and export of American black bears intended for the Chinese market in gallbladders and paws (again for consumption).

Some may ask what do animals have to do with the culture of peace. The answer lies in the empathy, compassion, and the kinds of interconnections (life-affirmative or life-destructive) we are all continuously co-creating.

- JD