Hirabari Satoyama is in real danger...Professor Somiya sees how the struggle between Nagoya City's and the developers and the Hirabari Satoyama Conservancy over these 12 acres is a microcosm of the ongoing global epic between destructive forces and people who respect and want to preserve their natural environments.
On the 29th of May, developers started blocking visitors' entry to Hirabari Satoyama.
Inside of the Satoyama, local children were growing rice inside of buckets—not inside the rice fields that actually exist inside of Satoyama. But once the developers started the blockade, the children were forced to remove buckets. The only available alternative location for the rice buckets seemed to be the public pathway that actually runs inside of Satoyama; but without a clear explanation, it was also blocked. Some locals asked Nagoya City for an explanation why it allowed the blockade of a public road, but the city turned them away.
I also had a chance to plant rice seedlings inside of buckets, and also to tour inside of Satoyama. What I witnessed there: shining eyes of kids–finding out how their food grows, looking up at the big Totoro tree, discovering the mystery of life. Now, they have not only mystery of the nature, but also the mystery of disappearance of nature.
Hiroaki Somiya, a retired professor at Nagoya University, lives right next to this problematic land. The coordinator of activities at Hirabari Satoyama including rice planting—he cannot help but wonder:
Why does the nature of Nagoya City, the host of COP10 (upcoming UN meeting on the Convention for Biodiversity), keep being destroyed?
How are we—who live in the cities—supposed to understand the importance of biodiversity?
Our Satoyama might be a small problem compared to really big issues, but it all relates to each other. There is no reason we can destroy small ones.
This year Nagoya City seeks the prestige of holding a UN conference, touting the slogan "Life in Harmony, into the future," following a 2008 Japanese government announcement of its "Satoyama Initiative." According to Eric Johnston in "Battle lines drawn across Nagoya land: Loss of 'satoyama' risks loss of face ahead of biodiversity summit" published in the Japan Times on March 4, Tokyo plans push this initiative during the October U.N. meeting "to promote protection worldwide of natural habitats from urbanization. Thus if the site comes under development, this would be a major embarrassment."
What does this contradiction between talk and action say about about Nagoya City's and the Japanese government's commitment to saving biodiversity when they are unable to figure out how and commit to saving an irreplaceable biodiverse treasure in Nagoya's own backyard?
There's still time to change course and save the Hirabari Satoyama. Its fate will determine whether Nagoya's holding the COP10 conference and Tokyo's "Satoyama Initiative" reflects a sincere commitment to a sustainable and biodiverse future or a tragic, transparent pretense.
What is a satoyama?
Satoyama (里山) is a manifestation of the traditional Japanese keen awareness of healthy and respectful symbiosis between people and their natural environment. An ancient Japanese concept describing the transitional space between mountain foothills and flat farmland, the word derives from Sato (里) meaning homeland, and yama (山) meaning mountain. Japanese farmers have refined satoyama, havens of biodiversity, through centuries of small-scale farming and forestry.
Because of unsustainable historical changes, many satoyama have been destroyed. In the 1980's and 1990's, renewed awareness resulted in a satoyama conservation movement.
See Jen Teeter's post "Where Children can see Totoro: Hirabari Satoyama and COP10" on Hibaraki Satoyama and one of its defenders, website designer and book binder Takuya Kamibayashi, who shared this latest disturbing news with us.
Please visit the English-language website for the Hirabari Satoyama Conservancy and its Facebook site (lots of wonderful photos that show what's at stake).