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Saturday, October 30, 2010

UN biodiversity treaty between 193 countries

Agence France-Presse on Oct. 30, 2010: "UN Seals Historic Treaty to Protect Ecosystems"
Delegates from 193 countries (not including the U.S., which is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Biodiversity) committed to key goals such as curbing pollution, protecting forests and coral reefs, setting aside areas of land and water for conservation, and managing fisheries sustainably...

Hosts Japan hailed the agreement, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara saying: "From now on, our country will contribute to the protection of biodiversity and positively support developing countries' efforts to implement the Nagoya protocol, with technologies and knowledge our country has."

Delegates and green groups also said the accord offered hope that the United Nations could help to solve the planet's many environmental problems, particularly after the failure of climate change talks in Copenhagen last year.

One of the most significant elements of the accord was a commitment to protect 17 percent of land and 10 percent of oceans so that biodiversity there could thrive.

Currently only 13 percent of land and one percent of oceans are protected...

Greenpeace International stood out among the major environment groups with a critical stance.

Greenpeace had been pushing for 20 percent of oceans to be conserved, as a step towards an eventual target of 40-percent preservation.

(Greenpeace urges Japanese officials to save the dugong, vulnerable marine life and their ocean habitats. A fish and dugong greet Japanese delegates as they cross a bridge on the route to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan. The summit venue is in the background. Photo and background story: Greenpeace)

For more information on the agreement, please read Winifred Bird's excellent summation, "World Governments Reach Biodiversity Agreement," at Earth Island Journal:

To follow the the ups and downs of the conference we recommend articles by Japan Time journalists Eric Johnston and Setsuko Kamiya:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/cop10.html

http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/cop10/
For over a period of two weeks, twelve Kyoto Journal volunteers, at their own expense and time, traveled to Nagoya and handed out some 800 issues of our KJ issue 75 on biodiversity to delegates, media participants and NGOs at the conference site.

Issues were hand-delivered to Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity; Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Matsumoto Ryu, Minister of the Environment of Japan; and even film actor Harrison Ford, long-serving Vice Chairman of Conservation International.

KJ contributor David Kubiak described the issue as "largely a prayer to and for COP10, the UN's 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)" See his excellent website, In Defense of Biodiversity for comprehensive, sensitive coverage of a wide range of biodiversity issues.

Mizubeni Asobu Kai's community-based conservation program at Nakatsu Tidal Flats wins World Wetland Network "Blue Globe" in Nagoya

Yuriko Ashikaga of Mizubeni Asobu Kai accepts "Blue Globe" award in Nagoya. (Photo: World Wetlands Network)

Mizubeni Asobu Kai (headed by Yukiko Ashikaga), a community-based conservation program to restore and protect Nakatsu Tidal Flats won a World Wetland Network "Blue Globe" for best practices and wetland restoration in Nagoya.

The Oita-based group is a dynamic facet of Kyushu's vibrant civil society and interconnects with communities throughout Japan, the A-P, and the rest of the world. This past event "Water - connecting the human life and wildlife of Oita, Japan and the Asia-Pacific region" flyer reflects Mizubeni Asobu Kai's holistic framework and outreach. The NPO proposed and helped to organize the first Asia-Pacific Water Forum, held in 2007.


Nakatsu Tidal Flats. (Photo: Biodiversity Center of Japan)

They completed the Nakatsu Tidal Flats conservation project in 2005:
Natural morphologies, such as sand dunes, river mouth bars and wetlands around a river mouth, are formed by dynamic processes of waves, river currents and wind, and are dynamically stable unless a large-scale anthropogenic effect is induced.

Their coastal protection and ecosystem functions for maintaining habitats of many organisms were re-evaluated. The sand dune and wetland in front of an earth dike were maintained as they were, and the overall morphology was regarded as a shore protection facility against storm surges. The setting back of the protection line for maintaining a sand bar and a salt marsh was planned for the first time in Japan with the participation of local citizens and stakeholders, and the construction was completed in 2005.

These conservation activities are effective not only for enhancing the safety of the area but also for keeping the sustainability of fishery.
Congratulations to Yoshiko Ashikawa and her colleagues at Mizubeni Asobu Kai and the other winners of the World Wetland Network awards in Nagoya!

For more info on Nakatsu Tidal Flats, see this page at the Biodiversity Center of Japan's website. For info on more wetlands in Japan, see this page at the same site.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Biodiversity 100: Preserve the biodiversity on Okinawa Island, including Yanbaru Forest's spiny rat, Noguchi's Woodpecker, & Namiye's Frog


(Yanbaru Forest. Image: Japan Hotspot)

The Guardian's "Biodiversity 100: A campaign to compile a list of 100 tasks for world governments to undertake to tackle the biodiversity crisis" includes Okinawa:
Action: Preserve the biodiversity on Okinawa Island
Okinawa Island is the largest island in the subtropical Ryukyu chain off the south-western coast of mainland Japan – and has been described as "Japan's equivalent of Hawaii."

A quarter of the Yanbaru forest on the northern tip of the island is occupied by a US military base. There are already 22 US military helipads in the training area in Yanbaru, but a further seven helipads are planned within two of the best-preserved areas in the forest, near Takae Village.

Appropriate legislation for conserving this region should be established, and Tokyo should stop construction completely.



Evidence: Yanbaru's forests are the final stand for a number of threatened endemic species such as the critically endangered Okinawa spiny rat (Tokudaia muenninki), Noguchi's woodpecker (Dendrocopos noguchii) and Namiye's frog (Limnonectes namiyei).

Yanbaru's natural forests are critical habitat for many of Okinawa's native mammal and bird populations, but clearcutting and removal of undergrowth. A paper on the conservation value of the region warned of the "imminent extinction crisis among the endemic species of the Yanbaru forests."

(Namiye's frog is an indigenous species of frog to Okinawa. It lives only in headwaters surrounded by mountains. Image: Japan Hotspot)

And for more information about citizens' efforts to save Takae village and Yanbaru Forest at these previous posts:

• "Peaceful New Earth Celebration in Tokyo spotlights Okinawa, indigenous cultures, sustainability, & global networking"

• 
"Peace Not War Japan's Film/Live Music Festival Highlights Citizen Movements: Mt. Takao, Okinawa's Yanbaru Forest, Iraqi Refugees in Jordan"

• "Takae Village Sit-In Protest against US Helipads in Pristine Yanbaru Forest, Okinawa"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lee Myung-bak's Four Rivers Construction (& Casino) Project will destroys much of what is left of S. Korea's natural environment

Contrary to its appellation, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak 's project, which his administration calls the "Four Rivers Restoration Project," if carried out, will destroy much of what little is left of Korea's natural environment, including protected wetlands habitats.

Costing US$19 billion, Lee's plan benefits South Korean construction companies (Lee is a former Hyundai Construction CEO nicknamed "the Bulldozer") at the expense of South Korean biodiversity. The scale is enormous: 16 dams on four of the country's largest rivers, creating five tributary dams, the raising of 87 irrigation dams that are already in place; reinforcing hundreds of kilometres of riverbank and 570 million cubic metres worth of dredging.

Overseas and Korean environmentalists and scientists call Lee's project an ecological disaster. The Professors' Organization for Movement Against Grand Korean Canal, a group of 2800 academics say, instead of preventing flooding, the dam construction would increase the risk and scale of flood damage. Damming and dredging would turn living into dead rivers.

Korea Wetlands Campaign has a disturbing short video, "The Excavator Age," that shows what now is happening to rivers in South Korea "in the name of the 'Four Rivers Restoration Project.'"

James Card, an American journalist living in South Korea, provides background in http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2188'>"Korea’s Four Rivers Project: Economic Boost or Boondoggle?" posted last year at Yale E360:
The Korean peninsula was once called geum-su-gang-san, “a land of embroidered rivers and mountains.” Before South Korea industrialized in the postwar years, the rivers were wild-running freestone streams barreling down the mountains and turning into sandy shallow rivers edged by wetlands as they reached the sea. In her 1898 book Korea and Her Neighbors, 19th-century travel writer Isabella Bird described the upper Namhan River as “where pure emerald water laps gently upon crags festooned with roses and honeysuckle, or in fairy bays on pebbly beaches and white sand.”

That world is long gone now, as the Namhan and nearly every other South Korean river has been dammed, forced into concrete channels, or otherwise re-engineered by successive governments that have funneled billions of dollars to the powerful construction industry to fund countless public works projects designed to tame the country’s rivers. Today, besides a handful of creeks deep in the mountains or protected in national parks, only one major river, the Dong, exists in a natural meandering and un-dammed state.

Now, in part to boost the fortunes of the construction cartel in a global recession, there is a new public works offensive: the Four Rivers Restoration Project. The $18 billion plan will further develop Korea’s four major river systems — the Han, Nakdong, Geum, and Youngsan — with the stated goals of preventing water shortages, improving water quality, bolstering flood control, and creating “eco-friendly culture spaces” for tourism. The work would require building 16 new dams on those rivers, rebuilding 87 old dams, reinforcing 209 miles of riverbanks, and dredging 570 million cubic meters of sediment from 428 river miles. On 14 tributaries there will be five new dams and nine more will be rebuilt, and 151 miles of riverbank will be buttressed with concrete...

The four rivers targeted in the project no longer exist in a natural state as many stretches have been straightened and channelized. But for the large numbers of migratory birds that still pass through South Korea, the ceaseless work will further erode dwindling habitat. The Geum River, for example, still has a massive flock of Baikal teal, but many of those birds will have to find new roosting territories as the river’s remaining shallow, reed-filled areas are excavated and deepened. One researcher at the state-funded Korea Institute of Construction Technology called the Four Rivers Project a “grand disaster that any expert can clearly foresee with common sense.”
Read the rest of James Card's article here.

* Update: "'Green' New Deal Projects Threaten Korea's Rivers and Tidal Flats" posted at Internationalrivers.org.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Greenpeace projects an image at Nagoya Castle calling for a ocean protection zone

Greenpeace Japan Media Officer Kaoru Narisawa explains the significance of their cloud projection at Nagoya Castle on October 20th:
In the opening ceremony of the CBD here in Nagoya, Japan, Japanese Environment Minister Matsumoto (also chair of the conference) reminded delegates that biodiversity is the legacy we will leave our children. Greenpeace is here at CBD COP10 to make sure that the legacy we leave our children is one that is sustainable and healthy.

One of the main focuses of Greenpeace’s work here is sustainable fisheries and oceans. The oceans are a source of food for so many people on Earth. Here in Nagoya, governments gathered here can help us to leave these future generations with food and life.

As the second day of negotiations here came to a close, the team from Greenpeace Japan, where I work, projected messages urging delegates to save life on Earth and rescue our oceans in front of Nagoya Castle. It was a unique cloud projection- photos and text displayed on an artificial cloud. The Nagoya Castle is a major tourist attraction here in Nagoya. The Greenpeace Japan team had spent much of the day passing out flyers about the projection and when they arrived, we invited them to sign our petition to create more marine reserves, areas of ocean off-limits to industrial activity: things like fishing and drilling for oil. There were many Japanese journalists at the projection also, which was good. Today, many people in Japan woke up to newspapers with the photo of the projection and the demand for marine reserves: something we hope the Japanese delegation also saw.

Nagoya is a city near the sea, a sea that must be protected. Greenpeace is campaigning for a network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world’s oceans. That goal can begin to become a reality here in Nagoya.
Nagoya is the host city of the Conference of Parties 9th Meeting on the Convention on Biological Diversity. For a full summary of Greenpeace's activities at COP10, click here.

- Photo taken by Jen Teeter on October 20, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Connections become obvious when we destroy them" Winifred Bird on Biodiversity

Stewart Wachs of Kyoto Journal listens intently to Winifred's interpretation of biodiversity

What does "biodiversity" mean to you and me? Is it just another catch phrase for the corporate world to use in the mass media?

Or is it more?

With the intricate gardens of Eiun-in Temple painting a rich landscape behind her, Winifred Bird, a writer for Kyoto Journal, shares her awakening to the deep interconnections between the biodiversity of the natural world and the seemingly disconnected experience of human beings in today's societies at the Kyoto Journal Biodiversity Special Launch Party.
I’ve been thinking a lot about biodiversity lately. Actually, since last summer, biodiversity has pretty much taken over my life. Partly that’s because I’ve been lucky enough to be working on this great special issue of Kyoto Journal, and partly for a couple of other projects. I guess you could say I’ve hopped on the COP10 media bandwagon, but the funny thing is, I sometimes still don’t feel like I have a firm grasp on what biodiversity actually is and why it matters. This could have something to do with the fact that I haven’t formally studied biology since tenth grade, but I think a lot of the general public is also pretty hazy on the term, if they’ve heard it at all. It’s not one of those easy-access words like “nature” or “open space” or even “extinction,” that you hear and just immediately visualize. It’s not even really about individual species – a panda here, a tiger there - it’s about the whole picture, how everything works together and is connected, and for me, that’s been a hard thing to get my head around because it’s just so huge. But I had a bit of a biodiversity breakthrough earlier this summer that I’d like to share with you.

Around July I had a lull in my writing work, so I went up to Gifu to help my husband out with a project he was doing there. He’s a carpenter, and he was building a cabin up in this vacation development way out in the mountains near Gujo Hachiman, and to cut costs we were camping at the worksite. It’s a vacation area, so during the week the place is a real ghost town, and it became our own little world. One morning, we’d set up our breakfast table, which was actually a plank balanced on top of some boxes, and we were sitting across from each other drinking our tea, and suddenly it was just like I had fallen inside a cheesy love song. It just struck me that we were made for each other. Not just on a personal level, but on a biological one, the level of elemental man and woman. We fit together perfectly and we literally can’t live without each other, in the sense that we need each other in order to procreate our species. And the amazing thing is that this not only works on a utilitarian level, but this interdependence is also incredibly beautiful. It’s not only procreation, but also love. And then it hit me really strong that the same thing is true for the whole world – that the fox and the rabbit, the flower and the bee, everything, is made for each other, everything fits together in the most immense and beautiful pattern.

Of course, it’s the most obvious of clichés to say that we’re all connected and that that every piece of the puzzle matters. These are things that I know on an intellectual level, as I’m sure you all do, but how often is it that we really feel that connection? How often does the pattern flash before our eyes in all its Technicolor complexity? I said a second ago that it’s completely obvious that everything is connected, but in another sense it’s not obvious at all. It’s not like the connections are visible, like a giant string net tying me to that tree to that cat to that mosquito. My basic instinct, admittedly as an American and someone who’s neither a biologist nor a Buddhist, is to think of myself as an independent unit, rather than as part of something larger, a part that doesn’t work when it’s isolated from that larger picture.

The connections become obvious, of course, when we destroy them. When we hunt all the sea otters and then the urchins that they used to feed on explode out of control and eat the kelp forests where they live down to the nub, and then the fish that breed in these kelp beds decline and we go fishing and there aren’t any fish out there, then we understand that nature is a network where every piece matters. The trick is to see it before we’ve destroyed it, to somehow raise our awareness enough to protect what we’re used to taking for granted.

I was talking to a scientist recently who gave me another example of how we often don’t become aware of the value of biodiversity until a disaster strikes. His name is Thomas Elmqvist, and he teaches natural resource management at the Stockholm Resilience Center at Stockholm University, and he’ll also be in Nagoya for COP 10 as part of the Swedish delegation. For about twenty years, Elmqvist has been studying a forest in Samoa where two different types of flying fox play a key role in dispersing seeds. Basically they eat tree fruit then drop the seeds throughout the forest. One species, the dominant one, did most of this work while the other was less abundant and played a fairly minor role in the forest.

In the early nineties, a major hurricane hit the forest and knocked down a lot of trees. What happened afterwards with the flying foxes is really fascinating. The dominant species went down to the forest floor to search for fallen fruit, and when these animals are on the ground they’re very slow, they kind of creep along, so this species was essentially wiped out by predators. Meanwhile, the subdominant species stayed up in the trees and survived by eating young leaves. When flowers and fruits started to appear in the remaining trees again, this formerly inconsequential flying fox was the one that was still around to carry on seed dispersal.

Elmqvist says he suspects that if there hadn’t been this diversity in the flying fox species – he calls it “response diversity within functional groups” – it’s quite likely many of the plant species in the forest would not have been propagated, and alien plant seeds would have blow in on the wind and been able to gain a foothold in the forest, possibly causing it to flip to a very different kind of environment. His point in telling this story was that diversity is what gives ecosystems their resilience when disaster inevitably strikes. It’s kind of like biodiversity is the ultimate life insurance policy: it ensures that in one form or another, life will go on.

But on a more basic level, what this story illustrates for me is that there is a whole lot of stuff going on in the natural world that I’m unaware of, yet completely dependent on for all sorts of goods and services. We don’t want to mess around out there too much. We don’t want to start saying, why do we need two kinds of flying fox? One is doing the job just fine. We’ve got to keep reminding ourselves of the limits to our own knowledge. At the same time we’ve got to keep trying to learn more and become more aware of how everything, including ourselves, is interrelated. Hopefully this issue of Kyoto Journal can be a part of that.
-Posted by Jen Teeter. (Thank you Winifred for sharing your speech with us!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Appeal to Tokyo to comply with its "Satoyama Initiative" & stop biodiversity destruction at the Kaminoseki Nuclear Power & Henoko, Okinawa

An appeal from the Japan Environmental Lawyers' Federation (JELF) and JUCON (Japan-US Citizens' for Okinawa Network):

At the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held in Nagoya, Aichi, from October 18 to 29, host nation Japan announced its “Satoyama Initiative,” expressing Tokyo's intention to lead global projects related to the Convention.

At the same time — even as the COP10 is underway — Tokyo is pushing government projects that will destroy biodiversity in Japan: the construction of Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant in a biodiversity hotspot in Yamaguchi Prefecture and the plan to to reclaim land at Oura Bay in Henoko, Okinawa (the habitat of the critically endangered dugong and many other unique species) to build a U.S. Marine Corps air base. These are a couple of examples among many of the Japanese government’s policies that contradicts its official position and strategic objectives on preservation of the nation’s biodiversity. Tokyo's Official Development Assistance (ODA) policies also include those that contradict these biodiversity principles.

We, international NGOs, hereby issue a joint statement, to raise awareness about these realities, and to call for the Japanese government to review its policies.

Please read the appeal below and send the endorsement of your organization by 24:00 (in Japan) of 23th to jelf@green-justice.com.
Joint NGO statement to Japan, host nation of CBD-COP10, to call for reviewing environmental policies of Japan

On the following site, Japanese Government, the presidency of the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) of Convention on Biological Diversity, has pulished "Original draft of the post-2010 target (new strategy plan)" pamphlet: http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/gaiko/kankyo/seibutsu_tayosei/pdfs/post2010.pdf

Five strategic targets are in this original daraft as of September 26, 2010.
Strategic target A: Deal with the primary cause for the loss of biodiversity.

Strategic target B: Decrease direct pressure to biodiversity.

Strategic target C: Improve the situation of biodiversity.

Strategic target D: Strengthen the benefit from biodiversity.

Strategic target E: Strengthen the execution of the agreement through the capacity building.
Moreover, it advocates the target of 20 items such as" All people recognize the value of biodiversity, the value of biodiversity is built into the plan of the government, and harmful measures to biodiversity is abolished."

The following two plans are proposed as "Mission (short-run target to 2020)".
Plan 1: Take effective and urgent actions to stop the loss of biodiversity.

Plan 2: Through the effective and urgent actions, stop the loss of biodiversity by 2020.
In addition, "Vision (mid/long-term target to 2050)"says that the vision of this strategy plan is "The world where people live in good harmony with nature" and "The biodiversity as natural capital is evaluated, maintained, recovered, used wisely, and thereby healthy earth is maintained and an indispensable benefit to all people is given."

Japan has named this approach "Satoyama Initiative", and tries to take related activities of the agreement globally from now.
However, Japanese Government is doing a lot of policies contradicting its standpoint and strategic target domestically. They are destroying biodiversity one after another. For example, they are reclaiming Oura bay in the east coast of northern Okinawa, a hot spot of biodiversity, to build the U.S. military Marine Corps airport. Moreover, various businesses in contradiction to this strategic target are done by official development assistance (ODA) in the foreign countries.

It is a problem for Japan to leave the ecocide go and not to stop the biodiversity destruction businesses only doing "Satoyama Initiative".

We enumerate the data of biodiversity destruction businesses from the next page to let COP10 attending countries and NGOs refer to them. And we request that the Japanese Government review businesses concerned at once and achieve the strategic target proposed in COP10. In addition, the signatures of the NGO groups that agrees to the request of stopping of businesses concerned are appended.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Biodiversity and COP10: Spotlight on Brazil's Amazon Rainforest and the Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers


6th Festival Cinema Brasil official logo


With all eyes presently on the issue of biodiversity as the COP10 conference unfolds in Nagoya, one interesting and yet widely unknown angle to this issue is the connection between the endangered brazilwood tree in Brazil’s rainforest—and the future of classical music as we know it.

This critical problem is explored in depth in the beautifully made documentary film A Arvore da Musica (The Music Tree), which is currently screening in Japan at the 6th Festival Cinema Brasil. From the festival website:
Found only in the remnants of Brazil's devastated Atlantic Rainforest, Brazilwood (known abroad as “Pernambuco’s wood”) is vital in the manufacture of fine violin, cello and viola bows. Ever since the time Mozart was composing his masterpieces, 250 years ago, when it was first introduced, luthiers and musicians from all around the world haven’t discovered a wood of comparable quality that could replace the Brazilian one. From the search for the wood in the forests of Brazil, to their use by the world’s greatest symphony orchestras, the film explores a path to saving the trees and the music that depends on it.


The film festival finished in Tokyo on October 15th, and is presently screening in Osaka until October 22nd. It will run in Hamamatsu from October 23rd - 29th, and Kyoto from November 13th – 19th.

The festival also includes many other interesting films in its lineup, such as an excellent documentary on the history of music and the spoken word in Brazil, and another on the cultural relevance of the national passion for football. For full festival details, visit the trilingual official website. A 2009 interview with festival director Edison Mineki regarding cinematic history in Brazil in the context of the country’s turbulent political trends of recent decades may also be read at a previous blog post here.

For more on the Brazilian Amazon rainforest and all of its living brilliance, the collection of online articles from the Kyoto Journal Biodiversity issue includes this gorgeous piece written by shaman (and Amazon resident) Clara Shinobu Iura, a Nikkei Brazilian who is a member of the International Council of Thirten Indigenous Grandmothers. A synopsis of a talk that she gave earlier this year regarding the grandmother's project and their film, For the Next Seven Generations, during a peace and music event at Yoyogi Park may be read at this previous blog post.


The grandmothers are presently in Nagoya, where they are vocalizing their moving appeal for protecting the world’s biodiversity from their unique perspective as the stewards of indigenous wisdom and traditions. The grandmothers will then travel onward to Amami Oshima from October 22-25 for a weekend of prayer and creating bonds of solidarity with the indigenous peoples of the island, which will be followed by a journey to the atomic grounds of Nagasaki to conduct ceremonies of prayer and healing. Details about the grandmothers’ Japan tour are available here.



--Kimberly Hughes

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nago City Assembly Adopted Resolution Against Base in Henoko 名護市議会 「県内移設」反対決議

The Nago City Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against the construction of a new U.S. mega-base in Henoko, an environmentally sensitive area in northern Okinawa.

Just in from Satoko Norimatsu at Vancouver-based Peace Philosophy Centre: "Nago City Assembly Adopted Resolution Against Base in Henoko 名護市議会 「県内移設」反対決議":
The Nago city assembly passed a resolution opposing the US and Japanese governments' plan to build a new Marine Corps base in Henoko. It is the first time since 1996 that the Nago city assembly opposes the base plan entirely. Anti-base mayor Inamine Susumu made a statement that now that the administration and the city assembly are on a united front, they can stand up against the governmenet together more effectively.
Read the rest here

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Conservations say Futenma move threatens rich marine life

Tomoyuki Yamamoto at The Asahi Shimbun: "Conservationists say Futenma move threatens rich marine life:"
Small conchs on marine plants on the seabed off the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.( Image: THE NATURE CONSERVATION SOCIETY OF JAPAN)

An endangered, brightly colored conch is among diverse sea life that may be affected by the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. A survey by the Nature Conservation Society of Japan found 362 species in the waters off Henoko, society officials said Wednesday.

The vivid yellow-green smaragdia rangiana conch, designated by the prefecture as a potentially endangered species, was found in particular concentration. In one 50-centimeter-square area, researchers found 186 conchs, which have suffered a sharp decline in population because of a loss of habitats. Plants fed on by dugongs, an endangered marine mammal, were also found in abundance.

The society plans to use the survey, carried out in late July, to emphasize the importance of protecting the rich biodiversity in the waters off Henoko at the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which will be held in Nagoya in October. Masato Ono, the society's Conservation Project Division director, said Japan should not destroy the abundant biodiversity in the area.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eric Johnston: "COP10 to take on genetic, indigenous issues"

Great context and analysis from Eric Johnston of the Japan Times: "COP10 to take on genetic, indigenous issues":
From Oct. 18 to 29, the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity, known as COP10, takes place in Nagoya.

Billed by some NGOs and Japanese government officials as the conference that will sign a "Kyoto Protocol for all living things," COP10 has a number of goals, including setting targets to conserve biodiversity systems over the next decade and creating a new body of experts to advise the U.N. on biodiversity.

Most controversially, it will seek to establish a new global agreement on how to more equitably share the benefits of genetic resources, often found on indigenous people's lands, that are used by pharmaceutical companies and others.

What's the Convention on Biodiversity, and what is it supposed to do?

The Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), along with the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention, was born at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where it was recognized that, although the two issues were related, a separate negotiation regime was needed to deal with biodiversity loss and preservation.

The Convention has three main objectives: to conserve biological diversity; to use biological diversity, i.e. ecosystems and their related components, in a sustainable manner; and to share the benefits of biological diversity fairly and equitably. To date, there are 193 parties to the convention.

In May 2002, at the CBD's COP6 meeting, it was agreed to work to make a significant reduction of the current state of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level by 2010. There were several problems with this goal, however.

The first and most obvious is that it failed to commit states to specific numerical goals, leaving each party to determine politically rather than scientifically what was meant by a "significant reduction."

Another problem was that, unlike climate change, there was no one international body of scientific experts advising the U.N. at the time with the political clout enjoyed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Without such a body, forging an agreement on specific numbers was all the more difficult.

Given this background, it's not surprising that the U.N. recently concluded that, far from achieving significant reductions by 2010, the situation is growing much worse.

How much worse?

To give just a few examples the U.N. cites, 70 percent of the world's coral reefs, which nearly a half a billion people depend on for their lives and livelihoods, are threatened or have already been destroyed.

Of the world's 5,490 mammals, 79 are extinct, 188 are critically endangered, 449 are endangered, and 505 are vulnerable to extinction if current trends continue.

And 1,895 of the world's 6,285 known amphibians are in danger of extinction. Scientists have advised the U.N. the world is facing the greatest extinction crisis since the end of the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Will COP10 also deal with preventing the extinction of these species?

In practice, what has the CBD done, and has it met its goals?
Read the rest of this important article here.

Eric Darier at Undercover COP: "GMOs: Historic agreement but a small step for liability"

Eric Darier of Greenpeace Canada blogging from Nagoya at Undercover COP: Dispatches from the Convention on Biological Diversity negotiations on the GMO liability agreement agreed upon in Nagoya:
"GMOs: Historic agreement but a small step for liability"

After over 6 years of negotiations, the international community finally agreed last night in Japan to put in place a liability and redress regime in case of contamination caused by genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This agreement that will be known as the ‘Nagoya Kuala Lumpur Supplemental Protocol on Liability and redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety’ is not a strict international liability instrument with a backup fund as Greenpeace advocated.

However, this agreement will enable countries to adopt and implement their own liability provisions and redress legislation and financial security while offering them some protection against WTO legal challenges about obstacles to trade.

The agreement will apply to damages causes directly by GMOs like genetic contamination. However, by keeping open the causality chain link between the damage and the GMO in question, it also includes products of GMOs which is a good element for an effective and meaningful liability regime.

During the negotiation, Greenpeace has consistently been pushing for a supplementary fund, paid for by a levy on GE imports in case of damages not covered by standard liability and redress. Although this option had been rejected at a previous meeting, the agreement actually keeps open possible future measures to be considered by the Protocol.
Preparatory talks started last Wednesday, Oct. 6, in Nagoya, on an international accord on compensation for damage caused by GMO (genetically modified) crops to biodiversity and human health.

The talks preceded the fifth meeting of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Nagoya from Oct. 11 to 15, which will seek to adopt the accord as a supplement to the protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The accord aims to enable states to order operators who bring in damage-causing genetically modified living organisms to take necessary restorative measures.

While countries have agreed on an overall framework of the accord, crucial issues remain unresolved as Darier points out: i.e., a compensation fund that would put some teeth into the agreement.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Global Work Party: Tree Planting with Electric Vehicles in Hakodate, Japan


Over 7,347 events were held in 188 countries across the planet to encourage governments and communities to take action to reverse climate change as a part 350.org's Global Work Party.
Circle 10/10/10 on your calendar. That’s the date. The place is wherever you live. And the point is to do something that will help deal with global warming in your city or community.

We’re calling it a Global Work Party, with emphasis on both 'work' and 'party'. In Auckland, New Zealand, they’re having a giant bike fix-up day, to get every bicycle in the city back on the road. In the Maldives, they’re putting up solar panels on the President’s office. In Kampala, Uganda, they're going to plant thousands of trees, and in Bolivia they’re installing solar stoves for a massive carbon neutral picnic.
Campaigners from 350.org have convinced the Obama administration to reinstall solar panels on the White House after rejecting 350.org's first proposal. The Reagan Administration removed solar panels erected on the White House by former climate-minded U.S. President Jimmy Carter. The Mexican government has also agreed to reduce CO2 emissions by 10%.

With October 10th being just a little over a week before the tenth ordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10) being held in Nagoya which will cover the adverse effects of climate change on biodiversity, actions in Japan were organized to urge the Japanese government to make stronger commitments to reducing CO2 emissions by transitioning to greener technologies. The tree planters in the photo above used electric vehicles to plant 100 beech trees on Mt. Kijihiki. Organizer Peter Howlett describes the solidarity event:
Our tree planting began by first meeting at Oshima-Ohno Station. (This will be the new Shinkansen Hakodate Station in 2015.) Planters were shuttled from here in Mitsubishi's new electric vehicle; i-MiEV up to the top of Mt. Kijihiki where we planted 100 beech trees. This photo was taken mid-planting. We chose Mt. Kijihiki because we are proposing the installing of a community wind farm (10-15 2000Kw turbines) on this mountaintop to power a Ride-the-Wind shuttle train to connect New Hakodate Station with old Hakodate Station (18km).
If such a delicate and difficult task as planting trees on a mountaintop can be achieved with the use of renewable energy-based technologies , surely with the proper sense of commitment and urgency, these technologies can be adapted in all aspects of our daily lives.

350. org organized a similar event last year to raise awareness of global CO2 emissions in October 2009 where 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations took place in 181 countries. CNN called it "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history." With almost 7,350 events this year, it is clear that the movement to protect our earth from climate disaster is only growing stronger and stronger.

-Jen Teeter

Sunday, October 10, 2010

End the (9-year) war in Afghanistan!

"When two bulls fight, it is the shrubs and other plants that suffer."

- Afghan proverb
This week the world passed a grim milestone: nine years of the United States' disastrous war in Afghanistan.

The campaign to End the Afghanistan War! calls for a ceasefire, negotiations, and withdrawal of foreign troops:

The U.S.-NATO phase of the Afghan War has been predictably deadly and counterproductive since the beginning. Even U.S. military leaders now concede that there is no military solution to what is at its core an Afghan civil war. Yet, in an era defined by the highest levels of unemployment since the Great Depression of the 1930s, instead of investing in job creation and provision of essential social services, our governments are flushing colossal amounts of taxpayers’ money down the drain of a futile, murderous and destructive war.

Rather than “winning hearts and minds”, the war and long-term foreign military occupation have alienated the Afghan people and fueled deepening and increasingly widespread armed resistance by local communities and the fractured Taliban. A new civilian UN mandate in Afghanistan is needed to create and develop human security. A growing majority of Afghans no longer see U.S. and NATO forces as liberators. Instead, they see Western occupiers as the primary cause of their insecurity and suffering and want them to leave. As the international press reports, “a drumbeat is starting to sound across Afghanistan in favor of talking to the Taliban”.

Instead of the promised peace and security, Afghans are suffering an ever-growing civilian death toll. The corruption of the increasingly unpopular U.S.-imposed warlord/Karzai government, which controls little more than the capital Kabul, is now infamous. The 2010 presidential election has been universally condemned as a fraud. Massive increases in poppy cultivation have further corrupted the Karzai government, warlords and the Taliban, who use the drug trade to maintain their privileges and finance the continuing civil war. By allying with minority non-Pashtun warlords to overthrow the Taliban in 2001 and making them the foundation of the Karzai government, the majority Pashtuns were further alienated from the rulers in Kabul. And, with the exception of Kabul, the values shared by warlords and the Taliban have meant few or no changes for women.

We therefore call for decentralized international days of nonviolent action October 7-10 urging a ceasefire, Afghan and international negotiations, and the urgent withdrawal of all foreign military forces from that beleaguered nation. With actions from vigils, banner drops, conferences and meetings with government officials to teach-ins, demonstrations and civil disobedience, we can move our governments to end this catastrophic war.
An End the War in Afghanistan campaign endorser, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, centered its spring issue of Fellowship magazine on Afghanistan, with four articles available online:
• "Hearts and Minds," an editorial by Fellowship editor Ethan Vesely-Flad, argues that the United States military has failed its own test for being successful in Afghanistan.

• It's Time to End the War in Afghanistan," by David Wildman, the United Methodist Church's executive secretary for human rights and racial justice, lays out the case for why the war is doing more harm than good.

• On Islamic Nonviolence," by Muslim Peace Fellowship founder Rabbi Terri Harris discusses the history and popular misunderstandings of Islam's relationship to nonviolence and nonviolent struggle for justice.

• "The War on Peace: How U.S. Foreign Policy Puts Us All at Risk," by Samina Faheem Sundas, executive director of American Muslim Voice Foundation and past recipient of the FOR Martin Luther King Jr. award, takes a broader view and suggests ways the United States foreign policy as a whole could be reconfigured to truly serve the interests of those we purport to help around the world.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota: The mega-military base proposal for Okinawa is not about security; it is about profit

Don't miss this powerful interview by Satoko Norimatsu with former Okinawa governor Masahide Ota, "The World is beginning to know Okinawa": Ota Masahide Reflects on his Life from the Battle of Okinawa to the Struggle for Okinawa," published at The Asia Pacific Jouranl.

Educated at Tokyo's Waseda University and Syracuse University, Mr. Ota was governor of Okinawa from 1990 to 1998 after retiring from the University of Ryukyus, where he served as Professor of Social Science, and Dean of the Faculty of Law. The 85-year-old now runs his own peace research centre in Naha, with six staff members; advocating on behalf of Okinawans unanimously opposed to the expansion of the already overwhelming U.S. military presence on their island. In this interview, Mr. Ota speaks about the "emerging movement for Okinawa’s independence; the controversy over forced mass suicides during the Battle of Okinawa; the “Futenma relocation facility” and media bias on the issue; growing worldwide interest in Okinawa research; and the importance of “making friends beyond the wall” to expand the network of international allies for Okinawa."

Here's an exerpt of Mr. Ota's commentary about the U.S. Marine Base Futenma and the proposal to construct a massive, new "replacement" facility in Henoko, an environmentally sensitive part of the island where locals have protested the plan for 14 years:
(Engaged scholar Masahide Ota, governor of Okinawa, 1990-1998)

"The military base issue is not about security; it is about profit"

According to Colonel Thomas R. King, former vice commander of Futenma Air Station, the purpose of a new base in Henoko is not just to replace Futenma Air Station, but to build a base that has 20% more military power than Futenma. A base in Henoko would enable loading of ammunition on land and from the sea. The new base would also host a dozen or more MV-22 Ospreys. Ospreys, which have caused frequent accidents in the U.S. and beyond, are called “widow makers.”

King estimates that it would take two more years to make it possible for Ospreys to operate safely on and around the new sea-based facility, so the construction of the base could take 12 to 16 years in total. The cost of construction will be 10 to 15 billion dollars, and it will be as large as Kansai International Airport; enough to accommodate 35 aircraft. The annual maintenance cost of Futenma is 2.8 million dollars, but that for the replacement base in Henoko would be exponentially higher – as much as 200 million dollars. The runway of Futenma is 2,800 meters. The Japanese government announced that the new runway would be shorter, but according to King, the new base will be a lot larger.

Robert Hamilton, former company commander of Okinawa Marine Corps has written articles for the Marine Corps Gazette. In one of these, he argued that the Futenma replacement issue had nothing to do with security policies. The Japanese steel industry has been in stagnation. The top steel manufacturer Nippon Steel has been surpassed by a Korean firm. So the industry needs stimulus. Then Prime Minister Hashimoto endorsed a plan to build a base by placing tens of thousands of steel pilings on the ocean bed, put steel boxes on top of them, connect those boxes, and put hot steel plates to build a runway. According to Hamilton, this was designed to boost the Japanese economy, it was not based on the nation’s security needs.

(Artist’s Conception of a Pile-Supported Sea-Based Facility (GAO, March 1998). Image: The Asia Pacific Journal)

Hamilton is an engineer. He knows technical requirements. He says that specific kinds of rings are necessary to connect those steel boxes, and that the technology has not yet been completely developed. The technology is most advanced in the Scandinavian countries, and the U.S. Navy has invested 200 million dollars there in research and development of the rings. The kind of rings presently available are too weak to withstand the strong winds of Okinawa...

Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that the 21st century would be the century of “Mega-floats” (also known as Very Large Floating Structures, or VLFS), and endorsed the idea of a mobile base. Robert Hamilton in the article mentioned above says the idea of “Mega-floats” originally came from a man called Watanabe, in the Japanese steel industry, which works with U.S. military-industrial groups such as Bechtel. When I went to the U.S., twenty board members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wanted to meet with me. Somebody from the military industry proposed a drawing of a new base to me, but I told him I was in the U.S. to oppose base construction.

The Japanese steel industry just wants to make anything using steel. It is not a matter of national security; it is a matter of corporate interests.
Read more revelatory info and insights from Masahide Ota (and see more renditions of numerous plans for the new mega-base at environmentally sensitive Henoko) in Satoko Norimatsu's entire interview at The Asia Pacific Journal.

Friday, October 8, 2010

BBC: "Anger simmers over Okinawa base burden"

Comprehensive overview on U.S. military bases in Okinawa by Philippa Fogarty at BBC News in "Anger simmers over Okinawa base burden" posted Oct. 3, 2010:
"Okinawans are being discriminated against, that is the fundamental problem."

- Professor Tetsumi Takara, Ryukyu University



The Japanese island of Okinawa is the reluctant host of dozens of US military bases - and a row over moving an airfield has sparked an angry stand-off...

The bases occupy almost a fifth of the island. They constitute 74% of all US bases in Japan, on less than 1% of its landmass.

Okinawans have been saying for decades that this is not fair. And in April 90,000 residents gathered to protest, in the biggest show of opposition for 15 years.

"Okinawans understand there are national security needs, but they do not understand why Okinawa has to have such a large proportion of the US bases," says Naoya Iju of the prefectural government's Military Base Affairs Division.

"Many people think: 'We are all Japanese so why do just Okinawans have to bear this burden?"

Okinawa was forcibly incorporated into Japan in the late 19th Century. Sho Tai, the last Ryukyu king and master of Shuri Castle, died in Tokyo in 1901. A process of Japanisation began.

After the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, Tokyo ceded Okinawa to temporary US control.

The US seized land for bases which now serve as the foundation for the US-Japan security alliance...

Protest over the issue has gone in waves. One came in 1972, when Okinawans found that reversion from US to Japan rule did not result in base closures.

Another came in 1995 after the gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US troops.

The latest wave was triggered by Yukio Hatoyama, elected prime minister in June 2009, who suggested Futenma airbase could be moved off Okinawa altogether, instead of to the north of the island as previously agreed.

"Until then no politician had suggested moving the base out of Okinawa," said Susumu Inamine, the mayor of Nago, the northern city proposed as the relocation site. "The fact that the DPJ [Democratic Party of Japan] said it could gave people hope."

Amid this wave of hope, Okinawans elected four anti-base MPs to the national parliament. That same wave, in January, helped Mr Inamine fight the Nago mayoral election on an anti-base platform and win.

The huge April rally was held. The Okinawan prefectural assembly unanimously backed a letter demanding the removal of the base off the island. Seventeen thousand people formed a human chain around Futenma.

But - after intense US pressure - Mr Hatoyama back-tracked. In May he said he had been unable to find an alternative site for the base. His "heart-breaking conclusion" therefore, was that the relocation should go ahead as planned. Then he stepped down.

Okinawans were furious. Local media described it as a betrayal. Why, people asked, was it more acceptable to put bases in Okinawa than anywhere else in the country?

Since then, the anger has not gone away. Cars and buses sport signs calling for a "peaceful" Okinawa. So do some buildings. Local media remain militant.

Professor Tetsumi Takara, Dean of the Graduate School of Law at Ryukyu University, says the issue is much bigger than just the relocation plan.

Okinawans feel that their voices have been ignored by the Japanese government for decades, he says.

Since becoming part of Japan they have had no control over their fate - during World War II, when Okinawa was the site of Japan's only land battle, in the 1960s when US nuclear weapons were located in Okinawa, in 1972 when US rule ended but the bases stayed.

The rights of Okinawans, he says, have been consistently subordinated to Japanese security concerns. "Okinawans are being discriminated against. That is the fundamental problem," he says.

He says this point is not adequately understood on the mainland.

"When we protested in April, they thought we were protesting about the US military but that wasn't it," he said. "It was more about the questionable treatment we are getting from the Japanese government."

Naoya Iju, of the prefectural government, says that many people think that Okinawans are being treated as second-class citizens.

Mr Hatoyama's flip-flop even appears to have engaged young people, who have only ever known Okinawa with the bases.

"My mother worked on a base and I learned English because of the bases," said one young civil servant. "But now more and more people are starting to think that there is something wrong here."

The relocation plan that sparked the wave of protest is currently stalled pending the Okinawa governor's election in November.

It is the governor who can grant or deny permission for the plan to go ahead - and the staunchly anti-base mayor of Ginowan, Yoichi Iha, is challenging an incumbent whose view on the relocation plan remains ambiguous...

Okinawans, says Prof Takara, do not protest on the streets every day. But they watch and they wait and many, he says, are looking to the election as a chance to make their feelings felt.

OKINAWA TIMELINE

1429: King Sho Hashi establishes Ryukyu kingdom, with seat at Shuri Castle

1609: Satsuma clan from southern Japan invade, establish tributary ties

1872: Japan makes Ryukyu kingdom a feudal domain; forcibly absorbs it in 1879

Apr - June 1945: An estimated 100,000 Okinawan civilians die in Battle of Okinawa

Aug 1945: Japan surrenders; US takes control of Okinawa

1972: Okinawa reverts to Japan; US bases stay
. Read the entire article here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Maritime Spat" Make-up Backstory: Maintaining neoliberal integration in East Asia on schedule (historic China-Taiwan trade pact & more)

Besides Tokyo's need for China to resume its temporarily halted exports of rare earth to Japanese manufacturers, the desire of both parties to stay on track with plans to deepen East Asian neoliberal integration boded that Japan (with or without U.S. assistance) would not come to military conflict with China over the Senkakus, but, instead, would quickly end its fishing boat collision theatrical run.

Meanwhile, media furor over the historically inconsequential "maritime spat" eclipsed the far larger story about the movement of Beijing, Tokyo and other East Asian governments towards deepening neoliberal economic integration.

The historic pact (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) China and Taiwan signed this summer (after concerned Taiwanese lawmakers injured themselves understandably brawling over it) is already bringing a wave of U.S., Japanese, Chinese, and European investors to Taiwan:
Taiwan signed agreements with 27 foreign firms on investments totaling NT$108.25 billion (US$3.42 billion) in the island over the next two years, mostly in the optoelectronics and panel-making sectors, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said Tuesday.

(Photo: AF/Peng Peng)

The deals came shortly after Taiwan and China signed a landmark trade agreement that went into effect Sept. 12. The Taiwan government believes the pact, which removed most of the barriers to cross-strait trade and investment, as well as warming ties between the two sides will boost the island's economic growth.

The majority of the investments will come from the U.S., the ministry said in a statement. Eight U.S. companies, including Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), Corning Inc. (GLW), Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT) and Super Micro Computer Inc. (SMCI), will invest a total of NT$72.2 billion over the period, it said.

A spokesman at the ministry, who asked not to be named, said earlier Tuesday H-P would invest US$114 million on research and development in Taiwan, without giving further details. H-P wasn't immediately available for comment.

The other investors are from Japan, China and Hong Kong, Germany, the U.K., Australia, the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium.

Japanese companies account for the second-biggest group of investors, with companies inclduing Canon Inc. (7751.TO), Nippon Electric Glass Co. (5214.TO) and Asahi Glass Co. (5201.TO) pledging a total of NT$29 billion, the ministry said.
As with the U.S., Japan, and Australia, China is now Taiwan's largest trading partner. Exports from Taiwan to China total over $80 billion. A million Taiwanese work in China managing Taiwanese multi-billion dollar investments in China.

AFP reported that the pact has been "widely characterised as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation between the former rivals, who split after the end of a civil war in 1949." In 2009, in an ancillary move towards harmonizing cross-border legal procedures, China and Taiwan signed a criminal judicial cooperation pact.

This China-Taiwan pact follows the May 25, 2010 Washington and Beijing "pledge for trust & peaceful co-existence" in their "Concluding Joint Statements at U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue" held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing:
In the dialogues we further discussed the building of the positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship in the 21st century. We believe that it is a relationship of -- between cooperative partners, instead of between rivalries and enemies. It is the cooperation of peaceful coexistence, instead of being on guard against each other, or (inaudible) each other.
In the statement, Beijing, the top U.S. foreign financier, called upon the Obama administration to "accommodate" its policies on Taiwan and Tibet.

The China-Taiwan pact also follows the Third Japan-China-South Korea Trilateral Summit Meeting (during which North Korea (because of the Cheonan incident), not wayward Chinese fishing boats, was deemed the source of East Asian instability) when the nations discussed trilateral cooperation in these areas: economy, security, environmental protection and cultural exchange.

(Photo: www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/hatoyama/statement/201005/30JCKkyoudou_e.html)

According to Kyodo, the three countries began a "joint study involving the private sector, government and academia as a step toward launching government-level negotiations on realizing a trilateral free trade agreement."
This time, the three will sign a document on the establishment of a permanent secretariat in South Korea in the hope of further facilitating their regional cooperation.
Wen and Kan ended their "maritime spat" in time to allow another round of handshaking later this month at a planned follow-up meeting between Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul (to be held concurrent with the ASEAN + 3 in Hanoi in late October) to conclude the agreement and other plans for further trilateral neoliberal integration.

Not a part of the maritime make-up backstory, but definitely part of the planned neoliberal grand scheme: the Obama administration is pushing for a NAFTA-style free trade agreement with South Korea (and also Columbia, and Panama). Christine Ahn and Martin Hart-Landsberg urged " Forget the FTA Fix, Just Say No" on Oct. 1 at Foreign Policy in Focus:
The free trade push has begun again. Both U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak are calling for ratification of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which was signed by the two countries’ trade representatives in April 2007 but has yet to be approved by either the U.S. Congress or the South Korean parliament. Aware of how unpopular the agreement remains, President Obama wants the U.S. Congress to delay the approval vote until after the mid-term elections in early November but before the mid-November G-20 meeting in Seoul...

Not surprisingly—after all, it’s called a “free trade agreement”--media and popular attention have focused on the agreement’s potential impact on trade. If implemented, the agreement will eliminate most industrial and non-industrial tariffs and also encourage greater trade in services. In broad brush, this deal represents a trade in interests: Korean manufacturers want greater access to the U.S. market and they are willing to sacrifice their country’s agricultural and (financial and health) service sectors to get it. U.S. agricultural and service sector businesses see it the same way and are content with the deal. No wonder the U.S. auto industry is largely alone in the corporate community (joined only by the beef industry) yelling for renegotiation.

This trade-off holds no promise for workers or small farmers in either the United States or South Korea, and this doesn’t change even if the auto and beef industry succeeds in forcing a renegotiation of the agreement.

Opening markets only mean more intense competition and downward pressure on worker wages. The experience of past decades of trade liberalization should be proof enough. A case in point: both U.S. and Chinese workers have seen their working and living conditions deteriorate while dominant transnational corporations and their national allies in both countries have gained enormous profits.
Read all of Ahn's and Hart-Landsberg's analysis here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Is the "China Threat" Over? Kan chases down Wen in Brussels; Tokyo & Beijing make up

Looks like Asia business writer Bruce Einhorn was also spot on: Japan can't afford to fight with China (at least beyond short rounds of political theater that open historical wounds; stir up irrational fears; and inflame militant nationalism on both sides)...

On Monday, Chinese Premier Wen and Japanese Prime Minister Kan sat down for an unscheduled discussion at a conference in Belgium, the first meeting between leaders from the two countries since Tokyo seized the Chinese fishing boat in September. Analysts said the meeting signals normalized ties.

According to a Mainichi article, "Japan, China take first steps on road to mending relations," Kan attended the meeting at the last minute, looking for a chance to meet Wen:
Kan decided to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) at the last minute, looking for the chance to meet Wen as he faced hounding from opposition parties in the Diet over his government's handling of the collision and its aftermath.

(In this combination photo taken Monday, Oct. 4, 2010 Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan, left, and China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao are seen at the opening ceremony of an EU Asia summit in Brussels. Japanese diplomats said overnight that the leaders of Japan and China had agreed on the margins of the summit to resume high-level talks after an incident around disputed islands north-east of Taiwan. Text: Mainichi; Photo: AP/Yves Logghe)

"The improvement of Japan-China relations and continuation of our mutually beneficial strategic relationship is good news for the economies of both countries, the nations of Asia and the world," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said at an Oct. 5 morning news conference of the Kan-Wen meet.

According to a government source, before ASEM opened Japan had been preparing for a possible meet between Kan and Wen, and was waiting for China to respond to the proposal. When asked before his departure for Brussels if he was planning to meet Wen, Kan said that "nothing has been scheduled," though he had apparently been looking for a chance to do just that.

At the event, the conversation between Kan and Wen took on the form of a "natural encounter" in a corridor of the royal palace in Brussels after the ASEM leaders finished a working dinner. To avoid the impression that the meeting had been staged, the interpreters present did not translate from Japanese to Chinese, but conducted the meeting in English.

"We had a pretty natural conversation," Kan said of his talk with Wen, though it's still unclear who initiated the meet or what exactly the two leaders said.
Read the entire article at The Mainichi Daily News here.

Keeping Fear Alive: Who's profiting from Tokyo's brinksmanship over the Chinese fishing boat collision?

Interesting that business news writers didn't take Japan's recent brinksmanship over the Chinese fishing boat and Japanese Coast Guard collision in the waters around disputed islands northeast of Taiwan seriously. One example: the Wall Street Journal  blog post with the wry title "Aye Aye Cap'n."

In a more muted tone, Bruce Einhorn of Business Week wonders what happened to this year's cozying between China and Japan in "Japan Can't Afford to Fight with China":
I was in Beijing late last month, shortly after news broke that China had passed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy.

The official line in the Chinese media: No gloating over passing China’s longtime rival. For instance, when Premier Wen Jiabao met with Japanese foreign minister Katsuya Okada in Beijing on August 29, leaders about ways the two countries could work together. Wen talked about enhancing bilateral cooperation and Okada was upbeat, too.

“During the meeting on Sunday, Okada said the future of China and Japan was becoming increasingly integrated,” the official English-language China Daily reported. ” ‘Not only do Japanese companies position it (China) as a manufacturing base, more importantly, they regard it as a very important consumer market,’ Okada said.”
Gady Epstein at Forbes told his business readers to ignore the posturing in "China Takes On Japan? Watch Ninja Take On Panda Instead:"
I have resisted making a big deal about this month’s escalating dispute between China and Japan over the East China Sea, because it is hard to envision a scenario where it spirals out of control beyond nationalist chest-thumping and diplomatic brinkmanship.

At this point, this row is still, for me at least, safely at a stage where we can laugh at it, and you should too, by watching this brilliant animated confection from Taiwan’s Next Media (hat tip to Danwei, which beat me to the title “Ninja vs. Panda”):
Epstein notes this round of political theater is (at least temporarily) not good for Japanese interests in China, but great for military contractors:
Japan and China had agreed in principle in 2008 to  jointly develop the gas fields in the area, a compromise that looks increasingly fragile this month. Premier Wen Jiabao’s remarks in New York Tuesday night — that “the Japanese side bears full responsibility for the situation, and it will bear all consequences” — don’t bode well for a climbdown by either side anytime soon.

The rhetorical and literal at-sea broadsides follow a summer of increasing tensions in the other seas around China, something I have noted is welcome news for Pentagon contractors like Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Epstein's conclusion looks like it was spot on.

Kyodo reports that U.S. military contractors, represented by Washington, are seizing this opportunity. A possible winner: Drone manufacturer Northrup Grumman:
The U.S. government has also sounded out the Japanese government over acquisition possibilities through multiple channels, they added.

The Global Hawk would cost about $50 million (roughly 4.15 billion yen), including equipment, bringing the sum for three aircraft to more than 12 billion yen. The ministry estimates it would need tens of billions of yen additionally to build ground facilities with command functions, according to the sources.
The "China Threat" lulled and Tokyo-Beijing relations seemed to blossom when the heads of state met on June 1: Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama greets Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Tokyo to begin bilateral negotiations on a treaty over gas fields in the East China Sea. One of the Japanese participants in the meeting said Wen didn't directly address the maritime issues but expressed interest in establishing a crisis-management mechanism to prevent incidents that could trigger bilateral friction, including accidental contact involving military ships. Text: Japan Times: "Wen open to treaty to end gas field row But premier yet to commit to punishment for Pyongyang"'. (Photo: Kyodo)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

San Diego screening of Witness to Hiroshima and the premier of Atomic Mom


In the 16-minute film directed by Kathy Sloane, Witness to Hiroshima, Japanese citizen Keiji Tsuchiya uses 12 powerful watercolors to tell the story of his experiences in Hiroshima as a 17-year old soldier immediately following the dropping of the atomic bomb. While the film addresses a horrific moment in history, it emphasizes how Mr. Tsuchiya has directed his life toward purpose and healing through his lifelong commitments to advocating for atomic survivors, opposing nuclear war, and preserving the horseshoe crab.

2010 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival

October 7th -17th

Screenings of Witness to Hiroshima:

October 8 (Friday) 5:00 pm, CinéArts @ Sequoia 2, Mill Valley

October 12 (Tuesday) 5:00 pm, Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center 3, San Rafael

For tickets and more information: http://www.mvff.com

2010 11th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival

October 21st - 28th

CINEMA BENTO, a Japanese themed program of short films

October 21 (Thursday) - 7:15 pm, Ultrastar Theater

October 27 (Wednesday) - 4:00 pm, Ultrastar Theater

For tickets and more information: http://www.sdaff.org/festival/2010

Atomic Mom, directed by M.T. Silvia is a documentary about two women, both mothers, who have very different experiences of the atom bomb. After decades of silence, a daughter’s quest for truth leads to the exchange of an olive branch between an American scientist and a Hiroshima survivor.

Screenings of Atomic Mom:

Oct 10 (Sunday) - 6:00 pm, Smith Rafael Film Center - San Rafael

Oct 16 (Saturday) - 12:00 PM, Sequoia Theatre - Mill Valley

For tickets and more information: http://www.mvff.com


(Many thanks to Michele Mason at the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Maryland, for sharing this information.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Come Rain or Shine, the Annual Kyoto Vegetarian Festival in Okazaki Park


Despite the rain, the annual Kyoto Vegetarian Festival was crowded with participants from all over Japan. Whether it was to buy organic vegetables, stock up on dried beans, buy fairly traded goods, or learn about the vegetarian lifestyle, this entirely vegan festival not only entertained children and adults alike (see photo below), but also encouraged awareness of the connections between environmental issues, animal rights issues and our diets.

A magician baffles a youngster with his final trick.

One young Kyoto resident said that she wished the festival would be held every weekend, while another jet-lagged traveler from Hawaii stated that she would not dare miss the festival even though it was only her second day in Japan.

To get a glimpse of last year's Vegetarian Festival, click here.

See this previous post for an interview of one of the festival organizers about the inauguration the first ever Vegan Earth Day.

- Jen Teeter

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Okinawa/Tokyo Peace Carnival 2010: NO BASES! MORE MUSIC!

Now, 50 years following the signing of the ANPO treaty, as the issue of military bases is being forced upon the people of Okinawa by the U.S. and Japanese governments, citizens throughout Okinawa and Japan are speaking out and demanding something different.

The Okinawa/Tokyo Peace Carnival 2010 is aimed at supporting this vision: Okinawa--and indeed, the rest of the world--free from the existence of violent and destructive mil...itary bases.

Creating a strong connection of love and peace between Tokyo and Okinawa, this event will express solidarity with the 『PEACE MUSIC FESTA 2010』, which will be held October 30th-31st in Henoko, Okinawa.

The event will include a talk by television journalist Kanehira Shigenori. A booth will also be onsite from Yuntaku Takae, a Tokyo-based group offering support to the sit-in movement to stop the construction of U.S. military helipads near Takae Village in Okinawa’s Yanbaru “Broccoli” Forest.

Come join us for an afternoon and evening of music, film, discussion--and peace that transcends all borders!

Date: Sunday, October 3rd, 2010
Time: 15:00 (Doors open at OPEN 14:30)
Venue: Eats and Meets Cay, Spiral Hall B1F (5-6-23 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo)
Telephone: 03-3498-5790 
Map: http://www.spiral.co.jp/e_language/a_map/index.html
Entry: ¥3,500 (¥2500 for those who reserve in advance at peacecarnival@gmail.com)

Performing Artists:

Wataru Oguma (Jintaramuta)

Utsumi Yoko
& Kawamura Hiroshi (formerly of Soul Flower Union)

GoRo,MAYA & ISH!IGURO

寿[kotobuki]

Shisas (Ryukyu folk music)

Takeru (roots reggae)

monk beat

Likkle Mai (Band Style)

Film:

"Kichi wa iranai, doko nimo" ("We don't need any
military bases, anywhere!") by Kobayashi Atsushi
(short version)

"Yanbaru kara no messeji" ("Message from Yanbaru")
by Higa Masato

The event blog (in Japanese)is here.

- The Peace Carnival Organizing Committee
With support from Peace Not War Japan

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Is our work a crime?" Stop Sumida Ward’s ordinance prohibiting taking recyclables! March & Rally on Oct. 3 in Tokyo

The following was translated by Rayna Rusenko from the original Japanese article on the Sanya Welfare Center for Day-Laborer's Association website:

The Sanya Welfare Center for Day-Laborer's Association is a collective made up of homeless people and their allies from Sumida Ward and the Sanya, Sumida River, Tatekawa, and Kinshicho areas.

Recently the Sumida Ward Assembly revised an ordinance on aluminum, paper, and other recyclables (※). In its new form, the ordinance sets a fine of up to 200,000 yen (roughly USD$2,330) for anyone caught carrying recyclables away from a collection point.

The revised ordinance takes effect on October 1, 2010. The Sumida Recyclables Disposal Department has already begun compiling a list of homeless persons collecting aluminum cans and newspapers, while also recording persons on video for identification.

We are concerned by and strongly opposed to this ordinance, which will not only gravely impact the lives of people who survive on the streets, but also shatter the already thin relationship that people on the streets have with society at large.

Collecting disposed items and exchanging them for money is a form of work that is essential to people who have no addresses for resumes. This urban form of work has helped people on the streets earn their bread and butter since Japan’s pre-war era.

Women and the elderly are included among those collecting aluminum cans and recyclables. Also included: people effectively expelled them from modern employment systems by their injuries, illnesses, and disabilities.

Collecting recyclables is their “final shot” at an income. Persons collecting aluminum cans earn roughly 100 yen (approx USD$1.15) per kilo. With any luck, a person who works through the night may be able to collect 10 kilos. Despite the fact that this work is labor-intensive, it is far from lucrative—but it does provide a hard-earned income that one can be proud of.

◆ Is our work a crime?

In an effort to prevent people from carrying away recyclables from collection sites, Sumida Ward is encouraging that “each neighborhood start patrols;" “citizens report offenders;” and “security cameras be installed, where possible.” This work—a sole means of survival—is being portrayed as a “criminal activity” by the local government’s negative campaigning. It goes without saying that the detrimental changes made to this ordinance in fact threaten to increase the degree to which homeless persons are stigmatized and rejected by society.

For some time, homeless persons who have been collecting recyclables have done so while maintaining communications with local residents and establishing both themselves and their work as part of the community. This last weak link to the community is in danger of being severed. Indeed, from the perspective of dominant politics and administrative policies, this appears to be a peripheral concern.

While Sumida Ward paints itself to be a “friendly community” (※2), this actions would take a heavy toll on homeless residents. The Sumida Recyclables Disposal Department has not even tried to formulate a response to their opposition to the new ordinance.

We need more people to raise their voices against this abuse of our community. We wish for nothing more than to be able to continue to make a living.

Please join us and give your support for our rally and march on October 3rd!

Signed,

- Homeless and ally volunteers
- Sanya Welfare Center for Day-Laborer's Association Activities Committee
- Sanya Band of Labor Dispute

(Recently posted notice. Its heading reads: “Attention: Removing items such as aluminum cans and printed materials is now subject to criminal punishment.”)

(※) The official title of the ordinance is the “Ordinance regarding reduction and disposal of Sumida Ward waste materials (Sumida-ku Haiki-butsu no Genryo Oyobi Shori ni Kan Suru Jorei”

(※2) In reference to the “Sumida friendly community declaration (Sumida Yasashi Machi Sengen)” ************************************************************

An Asakusa march & rally will be held on October 3rd, starting at 3pm. Everyone is welcome to join. Hope to see you there!

Starting point: Matsuchiyama Shoden Park (Ten minutes from Asakusa Station)


◆ If you would like your name or your organization's name added to our list of supporters, please send the following information to us via the email address below.

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【Contact】
Sanya Welfare Center for Day-Laborer's Association
Nihon-Tsutsumi 1-25-11, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Tel: +81-3-3876-7073/070-5022-2641
Email: san-ya(at)sanpal.co.jp

For more information, please see this recent article (in Japanese).

(Photos: Sanya Welfare Center for Day-Laborers Association