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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lydia Venieri: "Phosphor Stars in White Nights" juxtaposes reality of Israeli & US phosphorus bombings of Gaza & Iraq with imagery of innocence

Starting December 27 last year, Israel rained phosphorus bombs for 22 days on a defenseless civilian population in Gaza: 1,440 killed; 5,000 wounded; 50,000 left homeless.

Similarly, the US and the UK dropped phosphorus bombs on Iraq, especially Fallujah.

Attuned to the irony that phosphorus bombs appear beautifully star-like in the air before they hit people on the ground and sensitive to the suffering of innocent civilians in these places--Athens-born, New York-based visual artist Lydia Venieri has created "Tomorrow ~ Phosphor Stars in White Nights."

Toy deer stare at the sparkling, violent explosions above them with alarm in this series of photographs on satin which show at the Venetia Kapernekas Gallery in New York CIty, from 16 December 2009 to 6 February 2010.
Tomorrow is a video featuring deers staring at an exploding sky while singing an altruistic and nostalgic song of friendship called "Tomorrow". The deers are chosen for their symbolic representation of suburban innocence and sacredness like the soul of a burnt forest. In the background, the night sky is lit up not by fire works, but by a deadly rain of phosphor bombs illegally dropped on the Gaza and Iraqi population.

While the deers sing "Tomorrow," Lydia Venieri adds a track of a young Israeli soldier’s voice. Although the soldier is defending his country in war, his conscience forces him to denounce the use of phosphor bombs, exemplifying the artist’s search for the embodiment of global human conscience.

The series "Phosphor Stars in White Nights" is derived from the video Tomorrow, where Venieri uses the allegory of the images of the deers with their wide open eyes, beating hearts and standing ears to continue her exploration of fear as transmitted and disseminated through the information apparatus of the media. In background, Gaza appears as if from a scene of One Thousand and One Nights.  In war’s nefarious festivity, Venieri plays again with juxtapositions: drawing her audience in with the dolls’ extreme innocence, then without mercy, taking them down the wrong path of the fairy tale where the dream becomes a nightmare.

Venieri is well known for her evocative sculpture installations, bridging mythology with current events. She combines humor with self-reflection on the human condition of our times, through characters taken from mythology, history, fairy tales and her daily life. In Venieri’s stories, dreams reinforce reality and reality reinforces dreams.

For the past eight years, Venieri has been using images of genocide, suicide bombings and the devastation caused by war pulled directly from the headlines of CNN and other news outlets to create hyper-realistic photographs.  The constructed photographs engage viewers in a world addressing technology and human perception, in relation to the dissemination of images and information.  Her work delves into the political, borders on the poetic, saturated with absurdity that leaves the viewer with plenty of questions and yet no concrete answers. Her work questions the media’s distortion of reality by how images of war and terror are represented, as she juxtaposes the photographs of war with seemingly naïve images of children’s dolls...

Currently she shows her work with Vanessa Quang Gallery in Paris, Stux Gallery in New York and Terra Tokyo Gallery in Tokyo.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Japanese Governmental Ainu Policy Promotion Panel to include 5 Ainu members

The Hatoyama administration announced on December 25th that it will create an "Ainu Policy Promotion Panel" that will carry on the work of the "'Expert' meeting panel on Ainu policy" that was abolished by the same administration this November 2009. The panel met from June 2008-June 2009 and released its final report in July 2009. The report has been greatly criticized by the Ainu community for a variety of reasons. The Asahikawa Ainu Association and the Ramat Ainu Organization note in their petition (available for signing until January 31st 2010) calling for the restoration of Ainu indigenous rights in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
This internal colonization of Ainu Mosir within Japanese borders and subsequent imperial assimilation policy set the precedent for the annexation of the Ryukyu Islands, the colonization of Taiwan and Korea as well as the invasion of China and other parts of Asia. Nevertheless, the Expert Panel on Ainu Policy's final report does not utter a word about the suffering and sacrifice of the Ainu people due to the governmental policy to annihilate and assimilate them into Japanese people. The report also neglects to discuss the responsibility of the emperor and Japanese government as perpetrators in usurping Ainu independence and dismantling their entire social, economic and political system. Moreover, there is no mention of the indignities that the Ainu suffered such as being coerced into using Japanese, and being forced to change their names and receive imperial assimilatory education, as well as having their traditional lifestyle and indigenous customs and practices prohibited. Furthermore, the report implies that the Ainu people are responsible for being robbed of their land, language and culture while also illegitimately insinuating that the lack of the concept of land-ownership or a written language made them ill-fit for modernization.
The "Expert" Meeting was far from an expert meeting, with only one Ainu person included out twelve members, some of whom knew very little about the Ainu people or the issues they face. The Ainu member was the president of the Hokkaidō Ainu Association, Katō Tadashi. However, considering that the Hokkaidō Ainu Association membership is only 14.4% of the known Ainu population (many Ainu people do not declare their ethnic background on government censuses), at have registered themselves as being Ainu), it is a stretch to believe that Mr. Katō could have represented the varied interests and aspirations of all Ainu people. See Mark Winchester's article at the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus for further critical analysis of the 'Expert' Meeting.

In response to the dismay with the panel and its report, the Hatoyama government abolished it along with other policy panels from the previous Aso administration. The new Ainu Policy Promotion Panel is to include five Ainu members. It is still unknown who the five members will be, but this is a step in the right direction. See Jiji news for information in Japanese. (This article is no longer available at this link. The original article has been copied onto this link at Liralen42)

-Jennifer Teeter

Friday, December 25, 2009

Palestinian Christians: We say love, mutual trust, peace, definitive reconciliation, justice & security is possible in Israel & Palestine

The December 11, 2009 Kairos Document is a beautiful statement of hope and love from Palestinian Christians and a call for the Israeli government to end the military occupation of Palestine:
...Our numbers are few but our message is great and important. Our land is in urgent need of love. Our love is a message to the Muslim and to the Jew, as well as to the world.

5.4.1 Our message to the Muslims is a message of love and of living together and a call to reject fanaticism and extremism. It is also a message to the world that Muslims are neither to be stereotyped as the enemy nor caricatured as terrorists but rather to be lived with in peace and engaged with in dialogue.

5.4.2 Our message to the Jews tells them: Even though we have fought one another in the recent past and still struggle today, we are able to love and live together. We can organize our political life, with all its complexity, according to the logic of this love and its power, after ending the occupation and establishing justice.

5.4.3 The word of faith says to anyone engaged in political activity: human beings were not made for hatred. It is not permitted to hate, neither is it permitted to kill or to be killed. The culture of love is the culture of accepting the other. Through it we perfect ourselves and the foundations of society are established...

9. A call to our Palestinian people and to the Israelis

9.1 This is a call to see the face of God in each one of God’s creatures and overcome the barriers of fear or race in order to establish a constructive dialogue and not remain within the cycle of never-ending manoeuvres that aim to keep the situation as it is. Our appeal is to reach a common vision, built on equality and sharing, not on superiority, negation of the other or aggression, using the pretext of fear and security. We say that love is possible and mutual trust is possible. Thus, peace is possible and definitive reconciliation also. Thus, justice and security will be attained for all...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Over 600 Kyotoites attend 12.22 Emergency Meeting in Kyoto: Do not allow ethnic discrimination - Kyoto Korean school incident

I went to yesterday's Emergency Meeting against the attacks at the school and it was beyond inspiring. Over 600 people attended and the hall was packed, people scrunching together on the floor and lining up along the sides of the auditorium. Considering that the meeting was announced only one week in advance and the day right before a national holiday, I think that is an amazing turn out. There is no doubt that the movement against ethnic discrimination in Japan will continue to grow and the people of Japan will not allow a hateful incident like that carried out by a small group of ultra right-wing nationalists on December 4th to happen again.

-Jen Teeter

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Akira Maeda & Hundreds of Tokyoites Respond to Ultra-rightists in Kyoto: "We Should Raise our Voices and Act so Racism does not Prevail."

Via Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre Blog has posted Akira Maeda's: "A Tokyo Meeting In Response to the Racists' Attack on the Korean School in Kyoto:"
Akira Maeda, a law professor of Tokyo Zokei University reported the meeting held starting at 6 PM, December 19 in Tokyo called "12.19 Emergency Report Meeting: Do not allow racial discrimination - Kyoto Korean school incident." The meeting took place at Tokyo Shigoto Centre in Iidabashi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, in response to the recent incident of this right-wing and xenophobic group zaitokukai's public harassment of a Korean school in Kyoto. According to Akira Maeda, the meeting was attended by about 200 people, and probably 240, including security volunteers. About 30 people could not get in because the room was too full. Following is an English summary of Maeda's report of the meeting (Translation: Satoko Norimatsu). The original text in Japanese is below the translation.

1) A successful meeting

The 10-minute video clip of the incident was played, and the Principal of Kyoto Korean school reported the incident. It was made clear that the claim by "zaitokukai" regarding the use of the public park was ungrounded. Then Maeda explained what hate crime was. Then Kim Donghak, Chair of the Association of Korean Human Right in Japan, presented the historical concept of discrimination against Koreans and against Korean schools. At the end, Shigeru Tokoi, the head of the steering committee of the Human Rights Seminar, suggested what we Japanese must do (Maeda was going in and out to look after the security issue so could not report the details of all the speeches.)

2) Security by Police

On the morning of the 19th, a request for security provision was made to the Kojimachi Branch of the Metropolitan Police Department. The police officer in charge said, "We have already had information about right-wing campaign occurring, so we were going to be there anyway. We will take care of outside of the building. We would like the organizers to take care of inside. Let's have a meeting beforehand."

Police arrived and started to get ready around 3PM. Police and we had a meeting at 4:30PM. We were told that the police would not let the right-wingers enter the building, but a few might still slip in, and that it was our responsibility to eliminate those who disrupted the event. Many police officers were deployed at in front of the building. We were satisfied with the level of security the police provided. After the event, the police officer in charge came and told us that they were leaving, but would still keep an eye on the place as there was a slight possibility that the right-wingers would come back.

The security provided by the Kojimachi Branch of the Police Department was well-controlled and systematic. Their professionalism for protecting the safety of citizens was remarkable. It was unlike the cases in Mitaka and Kyoto.

3) Security at Shigoto Centre

Shigoto Centre, where the meeting was held, looked after the security matter well too. They posted warning posters, their staff members were equipped with handheld microphones and armbands, and the security company increased the staff to five. The employees of the Centre and the security staff patrolled in front of the entrance and in the entrance lobby with firm and controlled manners. They stayed until our meeting was over and made sure everyone left the facility safely. We were so grateful for the devotion that these people showed for our safety.

4) Our own security

At the seminar meeting, we provided our own security measures. The event proceeded smoothly, without the kind of trouble we were expecting. However, several right-wingers did manage to get into the building. There were already a few at 2 PM. By 5 PM, they broke into the hallways and in front of the elevator hall. Some were ranting in the hallway. Two entered the seminar room, but we detected them before the start of the meeting, and asked them to leave. They went back and forth in the hallway, but left without doing anything.

5) Zaitokukai (short for "Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai," meaning "Association of citizens who would not tolerate the privileges of foreign residents." They typically refer to Korean residents in Japan when they refer to "zainichi," or "foreign residents.")

The right-wingers parked their campaign trucks in front of the main entrance of the building, and making loud noises. There were about 30 of them. There were probably about 50 of them in total, including those who were in the building. We were told that they had brought the letter of protest, so we decided to receive it. When the police told the group that we had the intention to receive the letter, they suddenly decided not to submit it. We didn't know what that meant.

6) Gratitude

We had so much support and cooperation from so many people to make this meeting happen. We are grateful for the Kojimachi Branch of Police Department, staff members of Shigoto Centre and their security staff, and those citizens who volunteered to help with security. We appreciate the participants who came from afar on a Sunday evening and shared our determination for not tolerating the Korean school incident. We also apologize for those who could not enter the seminar room. Thanks also to those who sent us the numerous emails of support, and to the people all over the country who condemn this incident and the exclusionist nationalism behind it.

7) What We Should Do Now

There will be a meeting on December 22 held in Kyoto, where the incident happened. There will be activities in Osaka as well.

Racism, racial discrimination and exclusionist nationalism usually manifest in abnormally aggressive behaviours against their targets, and they are at the same time expression of human weakness. The kind of mentality to reaffirm one's sense of superiority by despising, demeaning, and disgracing others is perhaps latent in many of the people. This could explain why the hate crimes committed by this kind of extreme group is effective to a certain extent. If we let this "disease" be as it is now, it might spread across the whole society quickly. We should raise our voices and act so that racism would not prevail.

Thank you everybody.

Akira Maeda
Akira Maeda has also published at Japanfocus.org: "Trying Bush's War Crimes: The International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan"--a still timely article, especially given the Obama administration's escalation of the US war in Afghanistan.

"It's You" - a poem by Misato Hamamura

The following poem was written by Misato Hamamura, a freshman in Tokyo Keizai University's 21st Century Liberal Education Program who is in my English Presentation course. She was inspired to write this piece after visiting Nepal as part of her university’s off-campus international program this summer.

While stark in imagery, her poem gives great hope regarding the power of individuals to reach into their own hearts and create a better world. She presented the poem in class earlier this month, which happened to be her 19th birthday.

It’s You

Humans are ugly.
Money, cheating, lying, greed, absolute power, violence…
Too many weaknesses.
Humans are ugly.

The earth is a factory.
This factory manufactures a great number of guns.
He pointed his gun at me.
She pointed her gun at me.
Someone cried, “Call the police!”
Someone said, “This is like a play with really great dialogue.”
Someone cried, “KILL!”

No one was putting their theories into action.

Humans are beautiful.
Hope, dreams, fathers, mothers, love, peace…
A lot of children.
A lot of smiles.
Humans are beautiful.

The earth is a factory.
This factory manufactures a great number of futures.
Someone said, “This is the birthday of our good fortune.”
Someone said, “Stars are twinkling in the sky.”
Someone cried, “Happiness!”

My hope is humans.
My hope is tomorrow.
My hope is children.

My hope is you.
It’s you.

Following the reading of her poem, Misato facilitated an engaged discussion among class members on the connections between materialism and a loss of soul, and how people in Japan might learn from those in more spiritual-based countries such as Nepal.

Misato (who is pictured below to the far right, at a World March for Peace and Nonviolence event recently held in Tokyo) is presently studying how the issue of poverty serves as the underlying cause of other social problems. She would like to visit the United States, where she hopes to see anti-poverty initiatives in action. She is also studying Korean, and plans to visit Korea in order to promote positive ties between Korean and Japanese youth.

She is one hope-inspiring example of the many young people around the world who are engaged in positive social change, and her poem is a thoughtful call to action for each one of us.- Kimberly Hughes

Monday, December 21, 2009

Secret Lantern Society Winter Solstice Lantern Festival tonight in Vancouver

Vancouver's Secret Lantern Society's annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival has to be the most beautiful, inclusive communal solstice celebration in the world:
One festival, five neighbourhoods

The dance of the sun and earth has inspired celebrations of the human spirit, expressed through art and music, throughout the ages. Honouring many cultural traditions, the annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival illuminates the longest night of the year with lanterns, fire, singing, drumming, music, and dancing.

On December 21st come celebrate the return of the sun with a glowing constellation of lanterns shining in five Vancouver neighbourhoods. These five little festivals are community-based and reflect the unique nature of each neighbourhood. Intimate and accessible, each invites participation and each holds special attractions.


People carry colorful, handmade lanterns visible across Falls Creek from different venues--including Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens (perfect yin & yang)--to the rhythms of street bands. Honoring Vancouver's multicultural heritage, performers and musicians of First Nations, Chinese, Persian, Ukrainian, Japanese, African, English, African, and Muslim heritage entertain solstice-goers.

Combined with its attunement to the natural rhythm of the seasons--the celebration of the return of the sun, the source of light and energy that makes life possible on earth, on the darkest night of the year--and all that amazing creativity, this celebration brings together the manifestation of so much that is beautiful in life. Many Vancouverites work at community and peace building: healing the city's traumatic history that includes the head tax discrimination against Chinese immigrants; the removal and incarceration of Japanese Canadians in the 1940's; redressing Pacific War history; and supporting the Global Article 9 Movement that aims to end ongoing and prevent future war trauma.

(Labyrinth of Light--The labyrinth has long been used for meditation, prayer and sites of ritual in various cultures around the world. The winter solstice labyrinth invites you to warm yourself in a self-guided ceremony intended to help release old attachments and envision new possibilities as the darkest night of the year births a new season. Image: Secret Lantern Society)

Candle-night: It's Winter Solstice--Turn Off the Lights & Take It Slow


Candle-night, a winter (and summer) solstice event in Japan, Korea, and Mauritanius is a thoughtful, introspective, connecting, beautiful celebration:
We call for Candle Night Summer/Winter Solstice.

Turn off your lights for two hours from 8 to 10 p.m. on the evenings of the summer and winter solstices.

Do something special . . .
Read a book with your child by candlelight.
Enjoy a quiet dinner with a special person.
This night can mean many things for many people.
A time to save energy, to think about peace,
to think about people in distant lands
who share our planet.

Pulling the plug opens the window to a new world.
Awakens us to human freedom and diversity.
It is a process of discovery about our potential.
However you spend them, for just two hours, join us.
Turning off the lights, and help us spread
a gentle wave of candlelight around the earth.

On the evenings of the summer and winter solstices, for two hours from 8 to 10 p.m. Turn off the lights. Take it slow.
The creators ask people to be mindful of the natural rhythms of day and night and the seasons. In being attuned to the renewable sources of natural energy in our lives--the sun--we rediscover the renewable sources of energy within ourselves and live on a deeper, restorative, cosmic level that was meant for us. (The best way to to live naturally is to go to sleep when the sun goes down and awaken when the sun rises, according to holistic health perspectives).

By awakening and developing this natural connection to our world's natural rhythms, we awaken sensitivity to our own natural rhythms--resulting in the kinds of transformative states of consciousness::
Shin'ichi Tsuji:

"At a time of dynamic shifting of food, energy resources, finance, and etc. in the world, it is important to think locally, not globally. In this difficult time, it is also important to review our way of life through Candle Night, feeling connected to the world."

Kazuyoshi Fujita:

"Now is the time for us to protect the primary industry before a global food crisis develops, and also time to think about life's diversity. On Candle Night Summer Solstice 2008, the Tokyo Tower, a symbolic building in Tokyo turned out their lights. Why are lights-out events necessary? This is what each of us should think about."

Miyako Maekita:

"Recently, I visited some rural areas and I strongly feel that we should put more focus on local democracy. These areas also need our attention as along with as the capital, Tokyo. It is time to use democracy more effectively. Candle Night remains to be a platform, providing many alternatives to all of us."

Shin'ichi Takemura:

"What is real happiness? This is a type of question people hesitate to ask in ordinary settings. However, a small effort can be effective for creating the atmosphere. For example, by turning off the TV during meals, you can be peaceful. Candlescape offers a platform for people all around the world to share their feelings. I hope people will connect with each other on the globe.

Junko Edahiro:

The crisis we are now facing will not be solved quickly. We need to think about what real happiness is. Global warming itself is not a problem but a symptom. The real problem is that humanity wants to grow limitless on limited Earth. The true value of Candle Night is that it can give us an opportunity to think about what really matters to us by spending slow time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Charles Douglas Lummis on U.S. Military Expansion @ Osaka (Tues, Dec 22) @ Kyoto (Wed, Dec 23)

Charles Douglas Lummis at a book signing event

Charles Douglas Lummis, a San Francisco born, resident of Okinawa who contributed extensively to the anti-Vietnam movement in Japan has been invited to speak in Kyoto and Osaka this week about U.S. military expansion. He is prolific author, most well-known for his book Radical Democracy and for his outspokenness about his experience in the U.S. Military as noted in his self-introduction at the Oakland Table:
I entered U.C. Berkeley in 1954 on a Navy ROTC contract, and accordingly, when I graduated in 1958 I entered the U.S. Marines for three years, the third of which I spent in a military base on Okinawa. (Much of my life since then has been spent trying to figure out how I could have let such a thing happen.)
In a recent article entitled Yes We Can (But We Won't): Obama, Hatoyama, and Okinawa, Lummis writes about the resilience of Henoko and Futenma residents in opposing U.S. military bases.

Tuesday, December 23rd, Osaka: The Relocation of Futenma & Okinawa's Burden

Two Kansai organizations, the Citizens Group Against the Imposition of Bases in Okinawa and Osaka Action to Prevent the Construction of Bases in Henoko have invited Lummis to share his thoughts on the burdens that Okinawans face because of U.S. military colonization.

The event will take place at the Hirao Okinawan Kaikan which is in the heart of the vibrant Okinawan community in the Taisho ward in Osaka. This Okinawan community was created after after  amplification of Japanese colonization during the Taisho Era (1912-1925) brought economic crisis to the Ryukyu islands. This period is otherwise known as the "Sotetsu Jigoku," or "Cycad Hell" because the cycad was the only food that many Okinawans could find to eat at the time.

Mass starvation forced many Okinawans to migrate to Osaka in search of work in factories, although they were often turned away from employers, many of whom displayed signs on their windows stating "Ryukyuans and Koreans need not apply!" Facing ethnic discrimination and difficulties finding work, Japanese assimilation policies wreaked havoc on Okinawan culture and language.

However, after ownership of the Ryukyus was transferred to Japan in the 1970s, a grassroots movement in the Taisho ward gained strength and started a housing movement to address Okinawan homelessness while the community began revitalizing its culture making the Taisho district a hub for lovers of the Okinawan festival dance Eisa.

This event on such an important issue in a region so rich in cultural survival is one not to be missed.

To get to the Hirao Okinawa Kaikan, get off the train at JR or Subway Taishou (大正) Station and then take the bus at platform 4 or 5 to Hirao (平尾)
A map in Japanese can be found on this page.

Event start: 7pm (Doors open at 6:30pm)
Entrance fee: 1000yen

For more information about the Osaka event contact the Okinawa Bunko.
Telephone: (06)6552-6709

Wednesday, December 23rd, Kyoto: U.S. Military Realignment and Okinawa

The Kyoto Organization Against the Strengthening of the Imperial System has also invited Lummis to speak in Kyoto on Wednesday, December 23rd at the Kyoto Buraku Liberation Center which is located five minutes walk on foot to the north of Kuramaguchi Station.

Event start: 1pm (Doors open at 12:30pm)
Entrance Fee: 500yen
- Posted by Jen Teeter

Saturday, December 19, 2009

“Lights for Rights”: Event Highlighting Refugee Rights December 20th in Tokyo


The Japan Association for Refugees invites supporters to attend an event at Baron Hall in Tokyo’s Jiyugaoka district on Sunday from 2—3:30 PM in conjunction with its “Lights for Rights” campaign.

Lights for Rights was born from the simple hope of securing rights that are routinely denied to people living as refugees in Japan—often including such basic human rights as shelter, food and work. Aiming to raise awareness regarding the reality of these living conditions, the campaign’s name suggests imagery of light being shone upon the refugees to help ensure a more hopeful future.

Sunday’s event will feature aromatherapy using herbs from Eastern Africa, to be followed by a talk on the issues facing refugees from these countries who are currently living in Japan. The event is a collaboration with Green Flask Co. Ltd. Entry costs 1000 yen, which will be donated entirely to the Japan Association for Refugees. Registration is limited to 24 people, and reservations must be made in advance at 03-5483-7400 or education@greenflask.com. The event information page is available in Japanese here.

There are several additional ways to get involved with the Lights for Rights campaign. JAR offers training courses for those wishing to help provide refugee assistance, as well as workshops where refugees introduce the culture of their home countries, and discussion sessions to help encourage communication between refugees and their communities.

Support may also be provided for the program by purchasing illustrated postcards and stamps designed by the refugees, or T-shirts bearing the Lights for Rights logo. Information is available in Japanese on the Lights for Rights page, and the Japan Association for Refugees has an English language section of its website here.

- Kimberly Hughes

Friday, December 18, 2009

REDD in the Copenhagen agreement (equates monoculture plantations with "forests")--threatens indigenous peoples and biodiversity--especially in Asia

REDD--as framed in this week's U.N. climate agreement --threatens indigenous peoples, rainforests, and biodiversity, according to environmentalists and indigenous leaders.

Indigenous representatives went to Copenhagen to voice concerns about REDD ("Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation")--stating that without proper legal protections, REDD programs would displace indigenous communities, the natural keepers of forested lands, and replace old-growth rainforests and their natural habitats with monoculture plantations devoid of endangered plant and animal species.

One reason for their concern is that four powerful countries with records of insensitivity towards indigenous rights -- the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealands -- voted against the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Copenhagen outline includes language referencing the 2007 declaration and recommends that indigenous knowledge and rights "should" be respected. However advocates for indigenous peoples hoped the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the new international climate agreement treaty, would contain stronger language that indigenous peoples could cite in the event of rights violations:
"'Should' is much, much weaker than ‘parties shall,'" said Nathaniel Dyer, a policy advisor for Rainforest Foundation UK. "It's important because this is what lawyers will pore over when the violations occur..."

Nations that advocated for the U.N. declaration language included Bolivia, Columbia, Paraguay, the Philippines, and Venezuela, Tauli-Corpuz said.

The chair of REDD negotiations, Dean Tony La Vina of the Manila-based Ateneo School of Government, said on Sunday that legal "safeguards" - protections for biodiversity and transparency, as well as indigenous peoples' rights - would be addressed when ministers and heads of state work through the negotiation text during the rest of this week.

"I'm pretty confident we can work on those safeguards. REDD will not succeed if you don't respect the rights of indigenous peoples, if you don't maintain biodiversity, and if you don't ensure proper governance," La Vina said.

He added, however, that indigenous peoples' rights have largely been removed from the negotiation agenda in Copenhagen and were instead addressed in previous sessions. "We haven't had a debate on indigenous peoples in this session," he said.
However those safeguards ensuring protection of indigenous rights, rainforests, and biodiversity were not addressed. Instead, the agreement greenwashes the conversion of actual forests into monocultural plantations where indigenous peoples, forced off their lands, are forced to work as exploited laborers. This is a 21st-century incarnation of what European conquistadors did to native peoples during the first age of global imperialism.

Margaret Swink of Rainforest Action Network said in an email interview, that while RAN is neither for nor against REDD, "If there is going to be a REDD, it must be part of a wider deal that contains deep fossil reductions. We also believe that any REDD deal needs to include strong provisions to protect indigenous rights. We believe that indigenous people are the best custodians of the world's forests and that all of their rights should be respected in any forest agreement that the UN considers.

Environmentalists and indigenous leaders underscore related problems with REDD, according to Jeremy Hance at Mongabay:
The political definition of forest under REDD will allow rainforests to be converted to monoculture plantations, if the plantation falls under the REDD definition of "forest."

Southeast Asia oil palm plantations would be considered forests under REDD's current definition--even though the conversion of rainforest into oil palm plantations releases significant amounts of carbon (oil palm plantation store 50-90 percent less carbon than forests). In addition, conversion from rainforest to oil palm plantations causes other impacts, such as drastic biodiversity loss. "Countries can clear massive amounts of forest and still claim that deforestation had not occurred," said Peter A Minang, ASB Global Coordinator, who has extensive experience working with the REDD initiative.

Conservationists also fear that protecting REDD's definition of forests could push conversion into carbon-important ecosystems that don't fall under the REDD definition, such as peatlands and sparsely-forested grasslands like Brazil's vast Cerrado. Peatlands are especially important as they contain more carbon than even an untouched tropical forest.

"On the other hand, large wooded areas that are not part of officially designated 'forests' as well as huge tracts of peatlands (which account for 3 to 5 percent of global carbon emissions) would fall outside the definition," explains Meine van Noordwijk, Chief Science Advisor for the World Agroforestry Centre and a co-author of the ASB analysis.
The lowest-cost REDD projects are also problematic for biodiversity concerns, especially in Asia, according to researchers writing in Science:
Oscar Venter, a doctoral candidate at the University of Queensland, and colleagues, evaluated the prospects for REDD on a global scale and found the cheapest way to reduce deforestation by 20 percent would exclude critical biodiversity hotspots that support a large proportion of the world's endangered species. Looking strictly at the cost-effectiveness of forest conservation, the researchers conclude that most conservation funding would go to the Amazon, where large tracts of unprotected forest can be conserved relatively inexpensively.

By comparison, Asia, which houses the bulk of the planet's threatened species and is experiencing large-scale forest destruction by loggers and palm oil producers, would miss out due to its high opportunity cost for conservation. In other words, in Asia the very practices that are driving deforestation increase the cost of REDD implementation. The region's biodiversity could lose out.

To avoid this scenario, the authors argue that REDD should include a biodiversity component to allocate more money to species-rich countries. Minor adjustments to the scheme could double the number of species protected under REDD while reducing the carbon benefits by only four to eight percent. The authors suggest that the amended program could by funded by groups interested in preserving biodiversity. For example companies might be willing to pay a premium for carbon credits generated by conserving habitat of particularly endangered species like certain lemurs in Madagascar and the Sumatran rhino and orangutan in Indonesia.

"Dollar for dollar, a carbon-focused approach contributes little to slowing biodiversity loss and will save far fewer species than a biodiversity-focused strategy that targets the most imperiled forests," said Venter.
By equating monoculture tree plantations with "forests," REDD serves as a cover for appropriating territory from indigenous communities and destroying rainforests and biodiversity. In a September 19, 2008 article at Mongabay, Jeremy Hance writes:
"Tree plantations are not forests. A plantation is a highly uniform agricultural system that replaces natural ecosystems and their rich biodiversity,” Sandy Gauntlett of the Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition said. “The trees planted are geared to the production of a single raw material, whether it is timber, pulp, rubber, palm oil or others.”

The products grown on industrial tree plantations depend on the region. In Southeast Asia and the Pacific, palm oil has resulted in large-scale conversion of tropical forests, especially in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. In Africa, plantations produce rubber, wood pulp, and cacao, in addition to palm oil. Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Swaziland, and South Africa are particularly affected by monoculture tree plantations. Pine and eucalyptus are grown in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Uruguay. Palm oil for biofuels is also grown in Colombia and Venezuela. Malaysia has recently stated that it intends to expand palm oil into the Amazon...

Many of the affected communities lived traditional and sustainable lifestyles for centuries before industrial plantations upset their way of life. All of them depended on the land for their livelihood. Isaac Rojas of Friends of the Earth International adds that “on the lands currently occupied by plantations, there used to be or could be agricultural crops that would help ensure the people’s food sovereignty, managed by peasant communities. Or these communities and indigenous peoples could use the land for sustainable activities that would improve their quality of life, such as community forest management.”
-- Jean Downey

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NGOs excluded from Climate Talks • Via Campesina: Sustainable Agriculture Cools the Earth


Via Campesina members in Copenhagen. (Photo: Via Campesina)

Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth, Tck Tck Tck, Avaaz, Indigenous Environmental Network, and other NGOS representing tens of millions of people across the world have been shut out of the Bella Center talks by the UN.

Via Campesina is an international organization of small farmers, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers from Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Africa. Friends of the Earth International is the largest international environmental federation in the world with groups in more than 70 countries. TckTckTck is a global alliance of environmental, social justice, church and human rights groups. Avaaz is a web-based pressure group which has organised thousands of climate meetings around the world.

The Guardian reported:
"So many people are being excluded. The process is farcical. Civil society is being shut up, developing countries are being shut up, critical voices are being shut up," said Nicola Bullard, working with Focus on The Global South, a member of the climate justice movement.

"There's a lot of frustration among civil society that we are not moving quickly enough. There are obstructionist tactics. There are debates and arguments. As civil society we feel that they don't care," said Tom Goldtooth, a Bolivian with the Indigeous Environmental Network. "We feel they are negotiating for the sake of corporations instead of for the betterment of the people of the world."
Conflict over climate justice issues is taking place between those who want binding commitments, and enforcement mechanisms, and those who don’t; the poor countries who want help addressing global warming, and the rich polluter countries focused on short-term profits for their own companies rather than our shared planetary future; and NGOs who want to cap carbon emissions immediately and those who don't.

In a speech at the opening session of Klimaforum, Henry Saragih, general coordinator of Via Campesina, the small farmers' movement, blamed industrial agriculture in large part for global warming. (The Union of Concerned Scientists documents the hidden costs and energy inefficiencies of industrial agriculture in this report).

Saragih provided a breakdown in data and warned that neo-liberal trading practices as usual are the culptrit:
...new data that has come out clearly shows that industrial agriculture and the globalized food system are responsible of between 44 and 57% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. This figure can be broken down as follows (i) Agricultural activities are responsible for 11 to 15%, (ii) Land clearing and deforestation cause an additional 15 to 18%, (iii) Food processing, packing and transportation cause 15 to 20%, and (iv) Decomposition of organic waste causes another 3 to 4%. It means that our current food system is a major polluter.

The question we have to answer now is: how do we solve the climate chaos, hunger and assure a better livelihood for farmers, when the agricultural sector itself is contributing more than half of the total emissions?

We believe that it is the industrial and agribusiness model of agriculture that is at the root of the problem, because those percentages that I mentioned earlier come from the deforestation and the conversion of natural forests into monoculture plantations, all of which is being carried out by Agribusiness Corporations. Not by familly farmers. Such large emissions of methane by agriculture are also due to the use of urea as a petrochemical fertilizer through the green revolution, very much supported by the World Bank. At the same time, agricultural trade liberalization promoted by free trade agreements (FTA) and by the World Trade Organization (WTO) is contributing to the greenhouse gases emissions due to food processing and food transportation around the world.
The only way to stop global warming is to return to a sustainable, small-scale, humane, global agricultural model:
If we genuinely want to tackle the climate change crisis, the only way we have to go forward is to stop industrial agriculture. Agribusiness has not only highly contributed to the climate crisis, it has also massacred the small farmers of the world. Millions of farmers, men and women from around the world, have been kicked off their land. Millions of others suffer violence every year because of land conflicts in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Small farmers and landless farmers make up the majority of the more than 1 billion hungry people in the world. And because of free trade, many small farmers commit suicide in South Asia. So putting an end to industrial agriculture is the only way we can go.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Performing Artists and Supporters Unite to Save Orchestral Music in Japan


Violinist Aska Kaneko during her "Ubiquitous" performance (Photo by Mariko Itagaki)

The power of music to heal, inspire and uplift is undisputed. Every genre of music has its own unique strengths and attributes, bringing a sense of richness to daily life for many in a way that few other pursuits can parallel.

Within the grim economic times we are now facing, however, programs focusing on music and the arts are often the first to face the budgetary axe. This is particularly the case when music is regarded as a luxury that may be done without, rather than as an integral element of healthy, thriving cultures.

In Japan, the ruling Democratic Party has introduced legislation that is poised to do away with nearly the entire package of government funding that now serves as the backbone for orchestral music programs throughout the country. In response, the community of orchestral musicians and fans has mobilized to encourage supporters to e-mail the government asking for reconsideration of the proposal.

I received information about this effort from violinist Aska Kaneko, a Tokyo and midwestern U.S.-based acoustic and electric violinist who performs around the world as a soloist and in collaboration with numerous artists. Her ethereal style, technical brilliance, and clearly spiritual influences have mesmerized me during live performances on many occasions. A genre-defying performer whose roots are in classical and orchestral music, Aska is therefore one example of a talent that may never have been born were it not for the existence of orchestral music as a genre in her native Japan. (Several videos of Aska performing with the Argentinian/Japanese jazz ensemble Gaia Cuatro may be seen on the group's website here.)

I am translating the text of the circulated e-mail below in the spirit of encouraging solidarity amongst common struggles.

The Democratic Party, in its redistribution of current projects, appears likely to either cancel or drastically reduce funding for orchestral music and all pursuant activities beginning next fiscal year.

This will result in the nationwide cancellation of nearly all concerts scheduled for next year, as well as the abolishing of orchestra-related projects such as workshops for children.

The most disturbing result of the proposed action is that almost all orchestras in Japan would effectively be shut down altogether. In reality, professional orchestras and wind symphonies in Japan are now only able to survive because of the support that they receive from the government and corporations--and even then, it is a tight squeeze. These are not showy affairs; they are simple productions that have been put together on a small budget, and thanks to the hard work of many committed individuals.

If government funding is reduced and orchestral projects subsequently canceled, entire orchestras will be forced to fold and many individuals will immediately lose their jobs. Realistically, only two orchestras would survive throughout the entire country. Moreover, those who stand to lose their livelihoods are not only orchestral conductors and musicians: also threatened are management staff, administrators, and eventually the staff of the music halls that would inevitably incur deficit balances once orchestras stopped performing.

When one sector goes into decline, other areas are automatically influenced as well. There exists a real danger, therefore, that the arts as a whole stands to be erased in Japan altogether. As a result, several committed individuals are now working extremely hard in order to ensure the protection of this cultural sphere.

We would like to ask for your understanding and support in regard to our efforts. Specifically, we are asking that e-mails be sent to the Agency for Cultural Affairs. We appreciate your taking time from your busy schedule in order to support this effort, which seeks to help politicians, program administrators, government officials, and others understand the importance of music and the arts.

While this sector may not be economically profitable—and its benefits not immediately apparent—it is something that we believe is necessary for our lives.


- Kimberly Hughes

Center for Biological Diversity: Save the Okinawan Dugong & Coral Reef System


(Photo: Center for Biological Diversity)

The Center for Biological Diversity is stepping up its campaign to protect Henoko, calling on even more NGOs to join CBD in asking President Obama to stop the planned huge expansion of Camp Schwab in pristine northern Okinawa. In a letter to other organizations, Peter Galvin, conservation director at CBD, describes the issue's urgency:
In Okinawa, Japan almost 400 types of coral form reefs that support more than 1,000 species of fish, marine mammals, and sea turtles. This incredible array of life makes the island second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef in terms of marine biodiversity.

Tragically, a military project backed by the U.S. government threatens to doom a critically important coral reef near Henoko and destroy vital habitat for numerous rare wildlife species, including the dugong, an endangered marine mammal related to the manatee and cultural icon in Japan, and three species of sea turtle. Local residents voted against the airbase project in a referendum, but Japanese and U.S. authorities are ignoring their voices.

In July of 2004, 889 of the world’s leading coral scientists and researchers from 83 countries gathered at the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa, where they signed a petition in opposition to the airbase project. And the federal district of California district court has already determined that the project cannot proceed without the appropriate environmental review.

(Image: Dugongs Network OKINAWA)


This was originally posted November 28, 2009.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Naomi Klein warns against disaster capitalistic exploitation of climate change in Copenhagen; Indigenous Environmental Network: REDD is one example

                                                    (Photograph: Mark Knudsen/Klimaforum09)

At the Klimaforum09, a parallel grassroots gathering in Copenhagen, Naomi Klein warned "The Copenhagen deal may turn into the worst kind of disaster capitalism," according to The Guardian.
"Down the road at the Bella Centre [where delegates are meeting] there is the worst case of disaster capitalism that we have ever witnessed. We know that what is being proposed in the Bella Centre doesn't even come close to the deal that is needed. We know the paltry emissions cuts that Obama has proposed; they're insulting. We're the ones who created this crisis... on the basic historical principle of polluters pays, we should pay."
Klein added that this is a chance to carry on building the new convergence of movements that began "all those years ago in Seattle, fighting against the privatisation of life itself".

Instead of addressing urgent climate change issues in good faith, many players are short-sightedly and selfishly focused on financially benefiting from a crisis that threatens planetary survival.

One example of the exploitation of climate change is REDD (carbon trading), which indigenous people call the "biggest land grab of all time."


Members of the Indigenous Environmental Network, blogging from Copenhagen, are speaking against Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) and the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) in the climate treaty: "REDD pilot projects, in which carbon in forests would be sold to industrialized societies as greenhouse gas pollution licenses, will sever the connections between Indigenous peoples and the forests they protect."

According to a must-read IEN publication, "Reaping Profits from Evictions, Land Grabs, Deforestation and the Destruction of Biodiversity, carbon trading (greenwashed as environmentalism) is one of the newest forms of expropriating territory and resources from indigenous peoples.

It's Getting Hot in Here: Dispatches from the Youth Climate Movement has details on the Danish government's leaked backroom deals (known as the "Danish Text") with other wealthy nations--first published in The Guardian, where it can be read in its entirety):
...the leaked text effectively kills the Kyoto Protocol and its emphasis on compliance and binding targets, while gutting much of the negotiations that have been underway over the last two years. Here’s a short summary of a few of the problems with the leaked text:

The Danish Text repeatedly refers to “the shared vision limiting global average temperature rise to a maximum of 2 degrees [Celsius] above pre-industrial levels.” This vision is certainly not shared - as the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance stated yesterday, “according to the IPCC a two degree increase in the global mean temperature will mean a three or more degree increase for temperatures in Africa, [causing] 50% reduction in crop yields in some areas.”

The text also specifies that “developed country parties commit to deliver upfront public financing for 2010-201[2] corresponding on average to [10] billion USD annually for early action, capacity building, technology and strengthening adaptation and mitigation readiness in developing countries.” While this figure is still bracketed, the idea that the Global North is considering initially giving only $10 billion per year in mitigation funding to the Global South is viewed by many G-77 nations as a slap in the face – especially given that the governments of the Global North have spent over $4 trillion in the past two years on economic stimulus and bailouts of the banking and auto industries. (NOTE: In negotiating text, the brackets refer to sections that are still in negotiation.)

In one of the most controversial sections, the draft specifies that ”a Climate Fund be established as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the Convention. … Support from the Fund may be channeled through multilateral institutions.” This is a key point that has been denounced by much of the Global South: this plan would take trillions of dollars in climate funding out of the hands of the U.N., and put it in the hands of multilateral institutions like the World Bank – which are effectively controlled by the U.S. and Europe.

The REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) outline in the text allows intact, natural forests to be replaced by tree plantations and includes poor provisions for monitoring, reporting and no verification at all. Indigenous peoples – whose rights the U.S. is famously reluctant to respect, as one of four countries in the world to refuse to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – are not even mentioned in the Danish Text. The unique rights of Indigenous peoples, and indeed human rights or climate justice in general, are not part of this backroom deal.
As expected, Martin Frid has a series of great posts from Japanese perspectives--with links to important Japanese and other Asian NGOs blogging from Copenhagen--and news about protesters challenging backroom deals along with a beautiful photo essay on his harvest this fall that reminds us of what's at stake).

--Jean Downey

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fair trade, zero-emission cargo ship for sustainable development--the Tres Hombres--to dock at Copenhagen on Wednesday!


Ten Thousand Things has just learned that the topsail schooner Tres Hombres will be arriving in Copenhagen during the UNFCCC period - perhaps Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the wind.

Perhaps you have heard of the Greenheart Project, an international Tokyo-based NPO that is designing and building a solar-powered, zero-emission, fuel-less cargo ship to serve communities in their sustainable development issues. Greenheart is collaborating with the topsail schooner Tres Hombres to create a consumer label for products transported cleanly at sea. Tres Hombres will be tying up at Amaliehaven docks, and unloading part of her cargo of fair trade and organic products -including coffee and wine. Some of it will even be for sale to the visitors. In any event, it is a good opportunity to see this fine specimen of minimal carbon transport on her maiden voyage, support clean technologies, and meet the inspiring crew.


Arjen is the captain of the ship for this voyage to Copenhagen.
Over the past two years Arjen (Boogie van der Veen), Jorne (Langelaan)and Andreas (Lackner) have restored this amazing 32 meter long schooner. Their dream is to reinstate sailing-boats as the answer to increasing CO2 emissions caused by transport of goods. They’re calling this “Fairtransport”.
As of Tuesday morning, Jorne reports:  "Tres Hombres was west of Skagen, sailing with a light wind on her beam (going 5 knots). The ship was held up the previous days by North Easterly headwinds. Although in the first days there were quite some crewmembers seasick, the ship kept herself fantastic, on one occasion logging more than 9 knots. Everything is well and the ship is expected to arrive in Copenhagen Wednesday morning."

To contact the visionaries at Greenheart, click here:

-Posted by Jen Teeter

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Welcome Home, Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World Peace Boat Hibakusha Witnesses!


Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World-Peace Boat Hibakusha Project" returns to Yokohama port today.
On August 27th, the SS Oceanic departed Yokohama on a 107-day journey around the world visiting 20 different countries during its global voyage for peace. Amongst the five hundred participants onboard are 10 Hibakusha (Atomic Bomb Survivors) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki who have shared testimonies of their experiences with people around the world.

The 10 participating Hibakusha in the second “Peace Boat Hibakusha Project” come from varying backgrounds, ranging from Tanabe Shunsaburo--who was exposed to the radiation in Hiroshima at the age of 20--to a Hibakusha who was exposed to the radiation while she was still in her mother's womb and has no recollection of the moment when the bomb fell.

Furthermore, on this global voyage, three high school students joined the Hibakusha to help spread the message of peace and nuclear abolition and pass on the testimonies of the Hibakusha to the following generations.

Coinciding with the ship's visit to Italy, the pope delivered a message of nuclear abolition to the world at the Sunday mass in St. Peter's Square, inspired by the fact that a group of Hibakushas were visiting Rome that day.

During the ship's visit to Ecuador, the Hibakusha were received by Ricardo Patino, the minister of politics and a presidential advisor. In the port of Manta, Ecuador Peace Boat also held an international conference related to nuclear abolition and the peace constitutions of Costa Rica, Japan and Ecuador, celebrating Ecuador's adoption of a new peace constitution last year that upholds the "withdrawal of foreign military bases."

How to Cool the Earth: Vegetables and Walking (Cool Earth Parade@Kyoto Sat, Dec 12th)

"A lot of people with similar motivations to better the world all congregated in one place. I wish it would happen more often!"


What is Sam Dreskin (pictured left) referring to?

The 7th Annual Kyoto Vegetarian Festival of 2009 held in Okazaki Park last October (formerly the "Veggie & Peace Festival"), an annual event to bring together:
vegetarian-, environment-, and peace-minded people from all over the country. An event for all ages, the festival gives you a place to enjoy vegetarian food and listen to music while learning about vegetarianism, the environment, and more. The Vegetarian Festival provides a place for people of all ages and nationalities to learn about a healthy lifestyle, while bringing attention to problems like the degrading environment and World Hunger.
With the governments of the world waking-up to the realities of global warming and climate change, this year's festival focused on the following themes:
★Living a healthy life, both mentally and physically
★Respecting life, not just of humans, but of the animals with which we cohabit the world
★Realizing how pollution and food over-consumption can degrade the environment
★Introducing organic retailers throughout Kyoto
★Providing a place to learn from NPOs
Over 80 different organizations, earth-friendly goods suppliers, and NPOs converged together sharing the multitude of ways in which we can fulfill the festival's ideals. Local vegetarian cuisine, including Deep Kyoto favorites like Sunny Place, Falafel Garden, Mikoan, Caffe dell' Orso and Cafe Millet were cooking up a storm while masseuses from Malinka soothed our souls with their dexterous hands.

Organic Beer from Yamaoka (left) and healist Malika(far right) from Malinka

NPOs such as Make the Rule/Kiko Network informed the public of the need for Japan to move beyond the Kyoto Protocol and make even more drastic cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to prevent further global warming.
Members of the Kyoto Make the Rule/Kiko Network Team selling furoshiki to raise money.

Seven activists from the Make the Rule/Kiko Network team are in Copenhagen at the Climate Conference advocating that Japan make a law to reduce greenhouse emissions. One of the members, Mutsumi Hirooka (廣岡睦) explained while folding a furoshiki:

"Although Japan is obligated by the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse emissions by 6% against 1990 levels by 2007, emissions had actually increased by 8.7% . While government officials misleadingly brag about meeting the Kyoto Protocol goal in 2009 by reducing emissions by 6% in one year, the accumulative effect of the increase in GHG in the atmosphere is not taken into consideration, meaning the emissions are now 15% higher than the original target. At present, Prime Minister Hatoyama is pledging to reduce emissions in Japan by 80% by 2050, on the condition that other countries make the same pledge to reduce emissions, increasing his campaign pledge for emission cuts by 65%. The highest Former Prime Minister Aso would commit to was 8%."

While the festival has come and gone, the Vegetarian Festival 2009 website provides a wealth of information for those interested in pursuing a lifestyle sustainable to the environment in both English and Japanese. The meat industry wreaks havoc on the environment, with 18% of greenhouse gases originating in the livestock industry. When one beef rice bowl requires over 2 tons of water to produce, versus 120 liters for a bowl of udon, the benefits to the earth of reducing meat consumption are quite obvious.

As Sam noted, in front of the Falafel Garden vendor, after enjoying an cruelty-free pita: "It is important that we see this as part of a daily lifestyle instead of a one day thing. The vegetarian festival inspires us to make the change by showing how easy, delicious, and full of love a vegetarian lifestyle can be."

What's more, the vegan festival is not only for vegans alone. Takayuki Okazaki (岡崎享恭), a lecturer at Kyoto Sangyo University, explained that although he did eat meat, he was happy to have the opportunity to learn about different kinds of foods made out of non-animal products so that he could introduce them into his diet.

In addition to reducing our consumption of animal products, walking is much kinder to the earth than riding around in gas guzzling automobiles. This weekend, walk a little more in solidarity with the "Cool Earth! Kyoto Action 2009” Parade. The Parade will send a message from citizens in the Kansai Area to the Climate Conference in Copenhagen taking place December 7th – 18th.

DATE: Saturday, December 12, 2009
PLACE: Kyoto City, Japan


Download English flyer here:
http://gaj.s263.xrea.com/internal/091212_flyer_eng.pdf
Download Japanese flyer here:
http://climatekyoto2009.blogspot.com/

PARADE STARTS AND ENDS AT KYOTO CITY HALL
2:00pm Gather in open air space at front entrance of Kyoto City Hall /
Rally begins
2:30pm Parade Departs
4:30pm Parade returns to Kyoto City Hall / Parade ends


Dress colorfully, bring instruments, carry a placard you made, or just
bring yourself.

Organized by:
“A Cool Earth! Kyoto Action 2009” Organizing Committee
Co-sponsored by: Kyoto Ecology Center
Supported by: Kyoto Prefecture and Kyoto City
Endorsed by: Japan Environment Exchange (JEE) Kyoto International
School and other organizations.

Details follow:
The parade will leave from Kyoto City Hall at 2:30pm, go west to
Karasuma Rd., turn south to Shijo Karasuma, turn east to Shijo
Kawaramachi, turn north, returning to Kyoto City Hall at around 4:30pm.

Join any part of the parade. Come with fun costumes, placards, musical
instruments, or just bring yourself.


Kyoto City Hall access:
Tozai Line (Kyoto municipal subway line)
Get off at: “Kyoto-shiyakusho-mae”, and you are there.

Contact information:
Kiko Network: 075-254-1011 E-mail: Kyoto@kikonet.org
Chikyu Ondanka Boshi Kyoto Network: 075-251-1001
E-mail: syodanren@mc2.seikyou.ne.jp

-Posted by Jen Teeter

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2009.12.11 (FRIDAY) EARTH GROOVE: “Make Your Peace”


Parties 4 Peace presents EARTH GROOVE this Friday, December 11th, an event that will bring together a diverse collection of artists, musicians and activists to promote environmental awareness and peace through music, art and dance.

Parties 4 Peace describes itself on its website as an event production group that creates parties to promote peace through music and dance. By bringing people together from all nations, cultures and backgrounds, P4P hopes to integrate people from all over the world to create international understanding and peace. P4P is a non-profit production company that only works with DJs who volunteer their time and talent by playing its events for free.

Parties 4 Peace has spearheaded a number of recent projects to raise funds and encourage awareness (especially among the young generation) regarding various initiatives, including one to protect the natural surroundings of the Patagonia region in Chile. Multinational corporations are seeking to begin a hydroelectric project in the area, threatening destruction of its gorgeous glaciers and lakes.

The brochure for the project, which is titled PATAGONICA (a clever amalgam of "Patagonia" with the "electronica" style of dance music), reads as follows:

The PATAGONICA collective was founded in the year 2009 with the Parties for Peace events in Patagonia, in collaboration with the oldest environmental NGO in Chile, CODEFF, which is working to promote Patagonia as a World Heritage Site. The formation of the collective is attributed to the opportunities provided by the International NGO Peace Boat, which travels around the world promoting peace and sustainability.

A video describing the project, which includes footage from the Patagonia region and interviews (in English and Japanese) with event attendees and Parties 4 Peace/PATAGONICA founder Emilie McGlone, is here.

At the "Earth Groove" party this Friday, all proceeds will go to support P4P and several other collaborating organizations: Peace Boat; PangeaSeed, which raises awareness regarding the plight of sharks; and Peace Not War Japan, which supports grassroots peace organizations through events combining live music and peace-themed discussions.

Tokyo's up and coming DJs will be at the decks providing some amazing music for a cause....so come out and feel the positive vibes while making the earth groove!

2009.12.11 (FRIDAY)
EARTH GROOVE
“make your peace”@ FAVELA IN AOYAMA

TIME: 22:00 – 05:00
DOOR: 3000 yen / 2500 with flyer

** Includes one FREE DRINK + food **

DJs:

Sam Fitzgerald (P4P)
Aosawa (Redbox / Freerange Tokyo)
Bosh (Dial / Log / Valys )
Tazzy (Rhythm Odyssey)
Ahimsa (Burning Desire)
DJ Yap (XLNTZ)

ARTISTS :::::::::::::

COLLAGE: Kyle and Lindsey
FASHION: Fair Trade fashion by DAWN, Philippines; Me&Yu fashion
LIVE ART: Aaron Glasson & Crew (R.A.H, Sideroom, Blackbox); Yoh Nagao;
Rah Akaishi (R.A.H Collective);
Wrecks
DANCE: Luna


For more information: Parties 4 Peace
E-mail: parties4peace@gmail.com

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Ainu Art Project meets Kyoto (Dec 1-6 and January 9th) and Oki Tonkori Set (Fri, Dec 4th)

"Politics" is often a turn off for many people. Mastering the art of political discussion often involves access to control over media, and actions based on "realpolitik"concerns, rather than the real issues. Therefore, it is no wonder, that politics, often driven by its left hand, consumerism, many times leaves a bad taste in the mouth, breaking down vehicles of communication.

Keeping that in mind, the Ainu Art Project was formed to achieve what is considered a very political objective, the survivance of Ainu culture within Japanese society, through art that inspires people, encourages communication, and leaves a positive impression that lingers in the soul.

At a lecture at the Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture in Tokyo, Kouji Yuki, one of the founders of the project, emphasized the importance of sustaining the activism of Ainu people like his father, whom he said fought constantly against an extremely difficult situation. The project's activism, however, comes to life in a different form- art. Realizing the power of art and culture in transforming negative stereotypes in society, the Ainu Art Project offers more than just a performance for the audience, but a glimpse Ainu people taking on their culture in various ways through their everyday lives. Kouji Yuki provides reggae as an example of a form of music that helped people through a difficult period and emerged as a status of "cool" amongst younger generations. In a Reuters interview he noted, "By using the important cultural tool of music instead of speaking to an audience from a stage, Ainu feelings can be communicated differently. I think it's very effective."

Voices has another excellent interview with Kouji Yuji, where he describes that through through coming to terms with his Ainu identity, the Ainu Art Project was born:
I was born in Hokkaido as an Ainu. During my childhood, discrimination against the Ainu took many forms. So, I did not like to be Ainu at all. I left home early for Tokyo hoping to have nothing to do with the Ainu. However, I could not escape from a burning question of who I am. When I heard that the Ainu People were building "Itaomachibu", Ainu"s traditional wooden ship, I came back to Hokkaido to join. While building the ship with friends young and old, I felt at home. I was deeply grateful for learning the wisdom of our ancestors. I enjoyed picturing us going to an open sea in this special ship.

However, the ship was actually sent to a museum. I was shocked. I was deeply sad to see the ship leaving our hands without even touching the ocean of our land. Our ship became a showpiece. I felt that the ship was dead not alive. At that moment, I asked myself again, "Who am I?" My response was "I am Ainu, not dead. I am living in this modern society." I did not want our culture to become only "good and old." I did not want our identity represented as a souvenir for tourists. I really wanted to carry our voices and expressions as Ainu from our generation. In 2000, three of us who worked together building the ship formed an artist group called the Ainu Art Project.
The Ainu Art Project will be displaying woodblock prints and embroidery work at Sakaimachi Garaw, a beautifully maintained machiya in the heart of Kyoto from December 1st through 6th from 11am-19pm. Machiya are known for their distinctive long shape that facilitated the business endeavors of merchants by opening up a space to display goods in the front of the house and a place to live in the back.




Each woodblock print encapsulates in one powerful image a story related to Ainu conceptions of coexistence with nature. All prints are available for purchase, and the print below, which will be welcomed into my home soon, reflects on Ainu origin mythology where the Ainu people were born from a union between a wolf and a goddess.

Although the wolf no longer exists in the lands of Japan it lives on 
through the voice of this woman who continues to tell the wolf's story.

The week of art, expressing the Ainu in modern society, will culminate with Ainu storytelling and a talk led by woodblock print artist and Ainu Art Project founder Kouji Yuki, and a live performance by Nagane Aki on the tonkori and mukkuri, two Ainu instruments.

Reservations are required for Sunday's December 6th's (3pm-4pm) and Saturday, January 9th (2pm ~) (Email- sakaimachi-garow@h8.dion.ne.jp).

Entry is 2500yen. Kabocha Ratashikep, a traditional Ainu dish, and Ochatsuke flavored with the fruit of the Kihada tree, the only citrus fruit native to Hokkaido.

The fruit of the Kihada (ki =yellow hada =bark) tree, used extensively in traditional medicine, cooking, and in dyeing fabrics.

On another note, Oki and his tonkori will be funkin' up Kyoto Friday night at Club Metro at 10pm.


Tickets 3000yen at the door, 2500 in advance (Ticket Pia Code = 339-170 and Lawson Code = 55616).

See you there!

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Jen Teeter