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

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 "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

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.

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 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

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

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:
Download Japanese flyer here:

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:
Chikyu Ondanka Boshi Kyoto Network: 075-251-1001

-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 come out and feel the positive vibes while making the earth groove!

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

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

** Includes one FREE DRINK + food **


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

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);

For more information: Parties 4 Peace

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-

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!

Jen Teeter

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Aaron Huey: "The Most Beautiful Thing I've Seen in Kabul"

In "The Most Beautiful Thing I've Seen in Kabul" by American photojournalist Aaron Huey, published in 2008 in the Shambala Sun—with photographs of orphaned boys practicing yoga with a young American woman—reminds us that the innocent are always hurt in war:
In the spring of last year I drove through Kabul, Afghanistan, past rows of mortar-scarred buildings, down the Darulaman Road, a former front line in the mujahedeen war, toward the Allahoddin Orphanage. Next to me in the car was the reason for my journey: a young yoga teacher named Molly Howitt. What Molly showed me that day was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in Afghanistan. From the top tier of a bunk bed, in one of the largest and most corrupt government orphanages in Kabul, I saw a scene through the viewfinder of my camera unlike any other in that war-torn country.

Below me was a floor covered with bodies. Not dead, or dying, or starving, but perfectly at peace, calm, and present. A dozen young boys between the ages of eight and twelve were lying on their backs, arms at their sides, with palms facing upward. Some were smiling; others just lay still, their minds turned inward. Before that day, through that same viewfinder, I had seen a very different set of images.

I lived in Kabul for five months of 2007, photographing the opium and heroin trade, AIDS, prisons, mercenaries, the aftermath of a massacre of civilians by U.S. Marines, a Taliban ambush with a high number of fatalities (which nearly included myself), and several other subjects that involved terrible loss or suffering. In Molly’s yoga class I saw something different. I saw healing, I saw compassion, and I saw hope—hope that is desperately needed in a country that is increasingly unstable and violent...

The country, which has been in a continual state of conflict for twenty-nine years, is still very much at war. And as is always the case in war, women and children bear the greatest burden.

Most of the children in the Allahoddin Orphanage have lost a father or mother to war or illness. When children enter an orphanage in Afghanistan, they find themselves in a world that is cold and violent, neglectful and punishing—a world in which they are used as props to lure in foreign donations, then literally locked up again once the money is guaranteed...

Today, the remnants of Afghanistan’s ancient Buddhist history are almost all gone, but the yoga of compassion can still be found in the shadows of this war-torn country. It survives in a way more powerful than the physical beauty of the grand facades destroyed at Bamiyan, and more valuable than any Buddhist statue destroyed in the Kabul museum. Compassion is alive and well in a cold, crowded, forgotten orphanage in Kabul. It is alive in the hearts and minds of a dozen children who lay still with eyes closed, palms outstretched, and smiles creeping across their faces.
Huey's moving photos and text have been republished at the Utne Reader.

(The name of the NGO working directly with the disadvantaged people of Afghanistan that Molly Howitt was working with is PARSA.)


Sunday, November 29, 2009

2009 Asia Forum for Solidarity Economy Concludes Successfully in Tokyo

The Asia Forum for Solidarity Economy, which held its first meeting in the Philippines in 2007, wrapped up its second conference in Tokyo on November 10.

Over 400 people from some ten Asian countries attended the four-day event, which was held in Tokyo's Aoyama district at the dual venues of Aoyama Gakuin University and United Nations University. The forum featured sessions examining the solidarity economy within both global and Asian contexts, as well from a number of additional perspectives including microfinance, fair trade, social welfare, local agricultural initiatives, and international finance regulations.

The program also included three site visits to see the fledgling solidarity economy in action, including an organic farm in Ogawa-machi, Saitama; social enterprise initiatives in Yokohama; and local citizen actions in Atsugi-shi, Kanagawa.

One of the primary conference organizers was the Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), an organization with roots in the era of Vietnam War protests. Together with its newly created sister organization, PARCIC (PARC Interpeoples' Cooperation), PARC continues to focus on strengthening ties between Japan and other Asian countries with a number of grassroots-level initiatives.

From the 2009 Forum website:

The Solidarity Economy (SE) is an alternative framework for economic development that is based on the principles of solidarity, equity in all dimensions, participatory democracy, sustainability, and pluralism. The solidarity economy framework seeks transformation rather than band-aid solutions, yet rejects an one-size-fits-all blueprint. It isn't an abstract theory nor pie-in-the-sky utopianism. Rather, it pulls together and builds upon the various elements of solidarity-based economy that already exist. Some are new innovations,some are old, and we already have a variety of experiences in Asia. And the journey of creation is ongoing.

A number of recent English-language reports on the solidarity economy in Japan and beyond may be found on the forum's website here and here. The website of the Asian Alliance for Solidarity Economy, based in the Philippines and subtitled "Building an Alternative and Compassionate Economy", also has extensive information on how the solidarity economy is taking shape throughout Asia, including links to various member organizations' websites. Reports from the Tokyo event may also be found in its "Solidarity Asia" section, here and here.

The Third Asia Forum is planned for Malaysia in the fall of 2011, with a preliminary meeting scheduled to be held in Bangalore in August 2010.

"To go forward with the solidarity economy, we must change our mindset at the local and territorial level to build a holistic approach, taking into account the challenges of globalisation," said event organizers in an initial post-forum report. "Our networking process takes time, but since Asia has more than 50% of the planet's population, it is of strategic importance."

--Kimberly Hughes

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nov 28 (Osaka) 29 ( Kyoto): Kan Iltchul, a Halmoni (Korean for grandmother), shares her story

The Shogen Shukai (The Testimony Assocication) and the Kyoto division of the All-Japan organization to find a Proper Settlement for the Former Military Comfort Women invite "comfort women" from Asia to share their experiences with the people of Kansai every year. This year's guest will be survivor Ms. Kan Iltchul from Korea, who will bravely share her horrifying experience being coerced into becoming a war time "comfort woman" (ianfu) by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Ms. Kan Iltchul was born in 1928 and now lives in a small city near Seoul Korea in the "House of Nanumu (Sharing)." This house was founded in 1992 to be a safe place where former Korean "comfort women" could share their mutual experiences and support each other. Mr. Ippei Murayama, a young Japanese staff member working at the house will accompany her to Kansai. There will also be a movie screening at a different venue of My Heart Will Not Lose, a film about Sonshindo Halmoni, who was taken to China as a "comfort woman" She brought a lawsuit against the Japanese government for the atrocities committed against the "comfort women" during and around WWII.

The "comfort women" system was constructed during World War II as an explicit attempt to protect Japanese troops from venereal disease and shield women in conquered territories in Asia from rape by Japanese soldiers. The system would eventually enslave 50,000 to 200,000 women living in all parts of East Asia and Australasia to become victims of infectious disease and violence while not achieving any of the system's original objectives. Not all women sent overseas to serve the Japanese soldiers were abducted, however, once made a part of the forced prostitution system for the military, they were treated like indentured slaves based on a historical and institutional precedent marking women as second-class citizens. Towards the end of the war, "comfort women" were forced to provide free sex for kamikaze corps and to intercept telegraphs across enemy lines in the place of soldiers. Many "comfort women" were murdered because they were considered a liability or embarrassment if captured by the enemy. The Japanese government has yet to issue an official apology for the suffering that former "comfort women" faced and continue to deal with in their everyday lives.

Last year's events were haunted by the presence of extreme-right wing groups including Zaitokukai, intent on disrupting the event. Zaitokukai's membership is opposed to granting Zainichi Koreans and foreigners any "special" rights in terms of compensation, visas, et cetera. Next to their announcement of the event this year on their website, they have proclaiming "Let's pulverise the terrorists of the soul!"However distrubing their announcement be, their presence at the event shows the complexity surrounding the issue, and their desire to be involved in discussions. It is important to have meaningful dialogue with all parties involved in order to find the best solution- to discover the motivations for groups to resist a settlement in favor of the thousands of "comfort women." As Nelson Mandela has stated: "You make peace with your enemies not with your friends."

Nov 28th, Sat. (Osaka)
Listen to the voices of the former "Comfort Women" and Settle the Issue in Law Now!
Host: Shogen Shukai (The Evidence Association)
● 2:00(open 1:30)~4:30pm (Japanese)
●1000yen (general)/500yen (students)/Free(all JH students and younger)
★Osaka Kitaku Center- Large Hall
Access: Right in front of JR Tenma Station, Subway Ogimachi
★In addition to the talk there will be a mini Concert by a Zainichi Duet!♪
◇Contact: 080-6185-9995

Nov 29th, Sun.
All-Japan organization to find a Proper Settlement for the Former Military Comfort Women (Kyoto Division)
● 2:00(open 1:30)~5:00pm (Japanese) sign language interpretation available.
● Large Meeting Room, Hitomachi Kouryuukan.
●500yen (general)/300yen (students)/Free(18 or younger; all HS, JH students)
●5:30pm~ Friendship meeting, at the same venue.

Nov 28th, Sat and Nov 29th, Sun (Osaka)
Movie Screening: My Heart will not Lose
●11/29- 11:00am
●500 yen
(proceeds will go towards the construction of a Women and War Human Rights Museum
★Day Center- Heartful Momodani (Map)

-Jen Teeter

Monday, November 23, 2009

Italian-Japanese peace group: Petition to Save the Only Peace Studies university course in Italy

Peace education is under siege not just in Japan. In the US, military and privatization proponents have stepped up the militarization of public education. Arne Duncan, Obama's secretary of education, increased openings of public military schools in minority and low-income neighborhoods in Chicago when he was superintendent of Chicago public schools. Chicago has the most militarized public school system in the US, and perhaps the world--10,000 students from middle school through high school participate in some form of military-focused education. Duncan, a corporate lawyer, not an educator, is now bringing this agenda to the rest of the country.

In Italy, where educators created a liberatory childhood education philosophy, Reggio Emilia, during the postwar period (in the northern Italian city of the same name--an anti-fascist center during the Second World War)--now the only university peace program is under attack.

"Seeds Beneath The Snow" is a non-profit peace organization based in Pisa, Italy, that "aims to inform Italian civil society about their counterparts in Japan working on peace, nonviolence, human rights and the environment - and viceversa."

They're calling for supporters for their PETITION TO SAVE the ONLY PEACE STUDIES UNIVERSITY COURSE in Italy: Pisa University's "Scienze per la Pace:
The university course in Pisa, the only one of its kind in Italy, was set up out of a need for an international culture of peace which came about after the Second World War, when several institutions were created in northern Europe and the USA, and which are still operating today. Our studies, which are needed more and more, offer us the opportunity to find alternative, non-violent solutions to conflict resolution. Our interdisciplinary approach is fundamental for the analysis of what is happening in the world. In our opinion peace doesn't mean the mere absence of conflicts, it does mean active construction of a better reality. Therefore, the quest for peace is led by a scientific approach and a strategic study of various proposals and specific methods.

We think that our country needs the continuity of the non-violent culture of our philosophers and masters that are studied all over the world, such as Aldo Capitini, Danilo Dolci, Lanza dal Vasto, Lorenzo Milani, Tonino Bello, Ernesto Balducci. This cultural continuity must remain in the academic world of the Italian university. Teaching and training are necessary to avoid the decline of non-violent philosophy, culture and experiences. Our course is based on them and we think they are the only tools for a real change in our society. If Scienze per la Pace ceased to exist, the will to defend democratic institutions both in Italy and in the rest of the world without using arms would be even weaker than now. Peace studies cannot fail to be included and not have equal dignity within the Italian university system. The Italian University needs a thorough course of peace studies to create new cognitive and ethical foundations for politics and social action.

In an Italian and European context which is daily more and more more impervious to the needs of those on the other side of Mediterranean Sea, in a geographic zone where the reply to the recent economic and financial crisis can only be an alternative model of development for some time now a fierce attack on culture in our country has been in act, an attack on any different voice and dissonant idea. The meaning of the word "peace" is being impoverished. But there were some in Pisa who were able to start up this different school. Today this course is in danger of being halved, frustrating its purposes, its project. There are several reasons: from the government's cuts to the lack of any real support inside the university for the existence of this course, which does not fit into the normal scheme of things.
or send a mail to salvascienzeperlapace (at)

Signed by the Students Assembly of Scienze per la Pace
Pisa, 25th September 2009
Most of the signatories so far are Italians who would be buoyed by more global solidarity from other supporters of peace.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Satoko Norimatsu's translation of Muneo Narusawa's article: "What is happening to Hiroshima, the Peace City?"

Protesters against "Towada," leaving for the refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean. The banners read, "Do not allow SDF to participate in the War!" and "Do not kill Article 9!" (Photo: Peace Link Kure)

Peace and intercultural educator Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre blog based in Vancouver, Canada is the best blog on the interrelated issues of Article 9, peacebuilding and historical healing.

In two recent posts, Norimatsu translated and summarized a disturbing and compelling article, "What is happening to Hiroshima, the Peace City?" by journalist Muneo Narusawa published in the August 21 edition of the Weekly Kinyobi..

The first part describes the clash between peace activists and ultrarightists over nuclear policy:
Right-wingers' black-painted trucks violently drove into the crowd of people in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Those people were protesting against the event in which Toshio Tamogami, the former Air Self Defense Force Chief of Staff was going to give a talk titled "Doubting Hiroshima's Peace." These protester held a banner that said, "Hiroshima's Anger to Tamogami."

At 6 P.M., on August 6, 2009, 64 years after the first atomic bomb was dropped, this part of Hiroshima, "hibaku city"("bombed-city")and a symbol of the international peace and anti-nuclear movement, was thrown into an uproar with confrontation between right-wingers and peace activists. Tamogami was about to give a talk at a hotel close to the Peace Park. The talk was hosted by the Hiroshima chapter of "Japan Conference (Nihon Kaigi)," the national network of ultra-conservative organizations, which were connected to the ultra-nationalist politicians like Shinzo Abe, and Tomomi Inada.
Narusawa also described how ultra-rightists in Hiroshima have worked to eliminate its peace education program: " In 1997, 95% of the elementary and junior high schools in Hiroshima had year-long peace education curriculum. By 2004, it was down to 37.5%."

Norimatsu notes that when Narusawa wrote this article, "It was just before the landslide defeat of Liberal Democratic Party in the General Election of August 30th. The LDP was behind all these nationalistic trends in the recent education, symbolized by Shinzo Abe's changing of the Fundamental Law of Education. Hopefully with the new DPJ-led government, things like the reduction in peace education and promotion of patriotism in education will subside. However, it will be hard to gain back what has been lost. Educators and policy makers in Hiroshima should know the global consequences of such moves. If we don't even teach the children of Hiroshima about Hiroshima, how would we expect children in other areas to? "

The second part of the summary describes how Hiroshima is surrounded by the US military and Japanese maritime SDF:
...Between Ujina Port and Kure Port, which is not far from the A-bomb Hypocentre, is a heavily concentrated military zone where one quarter of Maritime SDF (Self Defense Force) warships are based.

Kure Port is MSDF's biggest submarine base, and also one of the major bases for overseas dispatching of SDF troops. Since 2001, the replenishment vessel "Towada" departed from Kure for seven times for the refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean to support the U.S. military in the Afghan and Iraq Wars. This Spring, "Sazanami" and "Samidare," two destroyers were dispatched to off the coast of Somalia from Kure. As I walked along the shore line of Kure, I saw Stars and Stripes flaunting. It was the U.S. Army's Akizuki Ammunition Depot Headquarters. The Headquarters were instrumental in the Vietnam War, First Gulf War, the Afghan and Iraq Wars.
The rest of the article is a critical and reflective probing of the contradictions in Hiroshima's self-described identity as a "peace city:"
Hiroshima, the "International City of Peace," which calls for "abolition of nuclear weapons," is not just surrounded by these military bases with advanced "conventional" weapons, but troops have been dispatched overseas from its own backyard. "Hiroshima" never talks about these facts, let alone all the other wars going on in the rest of the world.
Norimatsu sees real hope for real change with the election of Hatoyama--not only because of the new prime minister but because his election has buoyed the many grassroots peace and democracy activists in Japan. She asserts that we "must eliminate war in our own minds" if we want to achieve peace in an interview for KJ's Global Article 9 issue.