Monday, November 29, 2010

Martin Frid: "Okinawa Election Results"

Many thanks to Martin Frid for his excellent post on the Okinawa election results.
(Banner: "We do not need U.S. military bases in Okinawa." (Image: Kurashi)

Kurashi - The "Eco-Blog" - by Martin J Frid
Monday, November 29, 2010
Okinawa Election Results

The results of the election on Sunday in Okinawa are as follows, according to Ryukyu Shimpo, the local newspaper. NHK also notes that the LDP-backed candidate, Nakaima, 71 years old has won.

335708 仲井真弘多 Nakaima Hirokazu
297082 伊波 洋一 Iha Yoichi

Both said they want Futenma, the US military training base, moved out of Okinawa. Peace activists, however, doubt that Nakaima Hirokazu will follow up on this pledge. To NHK (video) he notes on Sunday night that the US military bases are not there just for the sake of Okinawa, but for the sake of the entire country. He also says, again, that the base should be relocated outside of the prefecture of Okinawa.

While Iha Yoichi unequivocally opposes a new base in Okinawa, there has been some confusion by incumbent governor Nakaima's expression of his intent to call for relocation of MCAS Futenma "outside of Okinawa." However, throughout the campaign, he has avoided the question of whether he really opposed the government's plan to build a new base in Henoko. "It appears that Nakaima wants to gain Okinawans' support but wants to avoid confrontation with the Japanese government at the same time," the newspaper's editorial suspects. Iha, on the contrary, "will not accept any negotiation based on the current US-Japan plan and challenge the both governments to give up the plan."

(Quote and translation by Vancouver-based Satoko Norimatsu of Peace Philosophy Centre: To stop the Henoko base plan, IHA must win. 沖縄に基地を作らせないためには伊波候補が勝たなければいけない)
Read more about the peaceful protests at the Tent Village, Henoko, Okinawa at The Asia-Pacific Journal: "Henoko, Okinawa: Inside the Sit-In" by Yumiko Kikuno:
On December 25, 2009, I visited “Henoko Tent Village” in Okinawa, with Satoko Norimatsu, Director of the Peace Philosophy Centre, a peace education centre in Canada. The “village” has acted as a base for the 13-year long nonviolent anti-base movement. On the day we visited it was raining, which made Henoko beach look like it was crying. We were welcomed by Toyama Sakae, the “mayor” of Henoko Tent Village, and by other activists, including Nakazato Tomoharu, “Yasu-san,” and “Na-chan.” Mr. Toyama invited us to have a seat and proceeded to explain the history of the movement to save Henoko.
And Japanese bloggers of course are also covering this important election: Chura umi o maore (Protect our ocean) and Henokohama Tsushin (Reports from Henoko Beach) and Michisan (a blog to help you know what local Okinawan newspapers are saying) and Sumichi and Takae and News for the People of Japan...

(Above photo from Rimpeace, stating without a doubt that the Okinawan people do not want (a new mega-military base destroying the beautiful Henoko coast or) US Osprey aircraft on their soil.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Peace Carnival Part II: NO BASE! MORE MUSIC! Friday 11/26 @ Chikyuya (Kunitachi, Tokyo)

Friday, November 26th
8:00 PM (Doors open at 7:30)

Please join the second installment of the Peace Carnival event series, which will feature a discussion on the U.S. military base situation in Okinawa led by Professor Satoshi Ukai from Hitotsubashi University, as well as several incredible (and activist-minded!) acts from the Tokyo music scene:

☆Jintara Brothers

Special unit featuring Wataru Oguma (powerful performer from the Tokyo underground chindon group Cixla Muta) together with solo artist Hiroshi Kawamura (previously of Soul Flower Union)

☆ Singer/guitarist Pak Poe together with Satchan (Hana and Phenomenon)

Anbassa (roots reggae unit)

Chikyuya Live House (Kunitachi, Tokyo)
1-16-13 B1 Kunitachi Higashi

(Head down Daigaku-dori (University road) from the North exit of Kunitachi station for about 5 minutes. Chikyuya is in the basement on the left side, just before a shop on the corner with a neon yellow sign.)

Entry: 2000 yen (plus one drink)
* 1500 yen entry is available by making advance reservations at Chikyuya 042-572-585 (between 7PM and 1AM).

Event organizer: Peace Carnival Committee (
Additional support: Peace Not War Japan (

For more information, see the event blog (Japanese only).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Speakers contemplate Palestinian human rights, urge action at Tokyo event

May Shigenobu and Anna Baltzer

“Imagine, just for a moment, that in order to come to today’s lecture, you had to leave your house at 6AM instead of 1PM—and that you were stopped by authorities multiple times along the way in order to show identification and answer questions.”

“If you can envision what this might feel like, you will have had only the slightest glimpse of what life is like every single day for people living in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.”

And so began the lecture of Jewish-American human rights activist Anna Baltzer, who spoke to a group of around 100 people in a Tokyo university auditorium this past Saturday afternoon. Currently visiting six Japanese cities as part of her international speaking tour, titled "Life in Occupied Palestine: Eyewitness Stories & Photos", Anna was also joined on Saturday by journalist and Palestinian rights activist May Shigenobu.

Through Anna’s slideshow presentation and heartfelt commentary, audience members learned of the daily injustices suffered by a people who have been marginalized in their own homeland for decades. Many of her stories were heartbreaking, such as that of her friend’s six month old son, who died of a treatable asthma attack after Israeli soldiers refused to let the family pass through a checkpoint station to reach a local hospital—the type of incident that sadly occurs on a regular basis. She also pointed out the absurdity of the fact that as a Jewish American, she could easily go live in the home and farm the land of displaced Palestinians—and that the Israeli government would actually pay her a significant sum of money in order to do so.

“The media presents us with images of Palestinians as violent, but the fact is that they are practicing nonviolent resistance every single day just by virtue of going about their daily lives,” Anna pointed out. She then highlighted several types of creative civil disobedience acts, such as murals being painted on the separation Wall (which was erected by the Israeli government as a further means of control over Palestinians’ movements), as well as billboards bearing messages of resistance, and other artistic means of protest such as concerts and theater.

"Taste the Revolution" (from Anna Baltzer's website, Witness in Palestine)

“When children who refuse to allow their education to be disturbed wake up at 3:30 every morning to pass through the checkpoints and reach school on time, this is also a form of nonviolent resistance,” she emphasized.

Anna’s presentation was followed by a talk from May Shigenobu, a Palestinian-Japanese who was born in Beirut, Lebanon and is now a journalist, doctoral candidate and activist based in Japan.

“Within the political climate following September 11th, 2001, any and all resistance has tended to be characterized as terrorism—including even nonviolent means of protest that are completely within the law,” she noted. “While nonviolent resistance is obviously the ideal under any circumstance, there does come a point when the limits of human endurance are reached, and people tire of seeing their families exploited from generation to generation. And it is important to note here that international law actually provides a right of defense within its frameworks.

“For example, Article 51 of the United Nations Charter says that ‘a state which forcibly subjugates a people to colonial or alien domination is committing an unlawful act as defined by international law, and the subject people, in the exercise of its inherent right of self-defense, may fight to defend and attain its right to self-determination"—a perspective that is outlined further in this thought-provoking piece.

May went on to explain the different categories of Palestinians, who all face varying hardships depending upon their situation: those living within the occupied territories (West Bank and Gaza) who face an apartheid-like situation characterized by no legal rights; those living as refugees in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, whose living conditions and rights are completely dependent upon the host country; and those living within Israel itself, where Palestinians comprise 20% of the population but are treated as third-class citizens. She also discussed the difficulty of being stateless as a Palestinian refugee (a situation that she herself faced prior to obtaining Japanese citizenship in 2001).

Both speakers emphasized that the present conflict is one of human rights and justice—and most certainly not one of Islam vs. Judaism. They also both encouraged everyone attending the event to take action on the issue, whether by joining an organization, visiting the region, or just sharing knowledge with others.

Personally speaking, I found the event to be extremely inspiring and healing insofar as both speakers were coming from different backgrounds and ideological perspectives in order to passionately embrace the same goal. Numerous attendees voiced similar comments during the lively Q&A session, where students, grassroots activists, and local community members thanked the speakers for their gracious presentations and shared their own anecdotes.

Anna finished the session by reminding the audience: “Israel today is afraid. By coming together and taking action, we can most definitely succeed in restoring rights to the Palestinians.” She urged attendees to become involved with Japan-based campaigns to help make this happen, such as the current effort by the Palestine Forum organization to hold a boycott of the popular MUJI home goods store if it proceeds with plans to build a store in Israel—part of the Global BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) initiative. The BDS movement is discussed at length in this fascinating interview with Jewish-Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, who devised a creative plan to publicize the Hebrew version of her best-selling book The Shock Doctrine using a grassroots-level anti-occupation Israeli publisher, and launched her book tour at a Palestinian-Israeli theater house.

For more inspirational stories of Jewish and Palestinian people coming together to launch joint projects for peace and social justice, see Anna Baltzer's website A Witness in Palestine, as well as The Parents Circle, Combatants for Peace, Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group, and the Seiichi no kodomo youth exchange project (last website in Japanese only).

Young, Jewish and Proud, affiliated with Jewish Voice for Peace, also has an inspiring video of their recent disruption of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Jewish General Assembly by broadcasting messages against the Palestinian occupation, and its website features a rousing message for a new generation of young activists.

Speakers together with event organizers and graduate students at Daito Bunka University.
 (Photo: Eric Baudelaire)

--Kimberly Hughes

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Peace and Human Rights in Palestine - the Occupation as witnessed by Anna Baltzer @ Kyoto, Tues, Nov 16

Palestinian peace activists
(Photo Courtesy of

Anna Baltzer serves as the voice of the voiceless. The granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and a Jewish-American human rights activist, she speaks on behalf of the Palestinians and Israelis alike searching for a peaceful solution to the war and aggression confronting the people living in Occupied Palestine and Israel. As part of a speaking tour throughout Japan, this Tuesday, November 16th, Anna will address an audience at Kyoto University about the occupation of Palestine and the search for peace and respect for human rights in the region.

Anna writes on her blog about how she first learned of the Palestinian Occupation:
Like many Americans and many Jews, I grew up with a positive view of Israel as a peace-seeking democracy. Israel symbolized to me the one protection that Jews had against the type of persecution that had plagued families like mine throughout history. I saw the Jewish state as a tiny and victimized country that simply wanted to live in peace but couldn’t because of its aggressive, Jew-hating Arab neighbors.

In 2003, during a backpacking trip through the Middle East, I began to meet Palestinian refugees from 1948. I didn’t know who the Palestinians were, or where Palestine was, and through my new acquaintances I began to hear a narrative about the history and present of Israel/Palestine that was entirely different from the one I had learned growing up in the United States.

My first reaction was disbelief, and anger. Families told me stories of past and present military attacks, house demolitions, land confiscation, imprisonment without trial, and torture. It seemed that these actions were not carried out for the protection of Jewish people, but rather for the creation and expansion of a Jewish state at the expense of the rights, lives, and dignity of the non-Jewish people living in the region. It was hard for me to believe that Israel could act so unjustly.

Not believing what I heard, I decided to do some research to prove myself right. Immediately, I was shocked to find how much I didn’t know about the situation on the ground. Not knowing who or what to believe anymore, I decided to go to see the situation with my own eyes. Since I returned, I’ve dedicated my life to informing fellow Americans and others about what I found, and what they can do to support a just peace for all peoples in Israel/Palestine.
After spending eight months as a volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service* in the West Bank, she has written countless articles about the Palestinian experience in Israel, and has detailed her experiences in her critically acclaimed photo reportage, Witness in Palestine (available for screening). She also supports the work of a the Palestinian group, Slingshot Hip Hop, who utilizes hip hop as a "tool to surmount divisions imposed by occupation and poverty."

Anna is not alone in her struggle for peace in Palestine. In fact, she is just one of many Palestinians, Israelis, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Americans, and other people from diverse backgrounds working for a peaceful solution. By working side-by-side with Palestinians and speaking out against the occupation, Anna gives us hope that there will one day arise a non-violent, peaceful solution that will allow the people in Israel and Palestine to live in peace with one another once again. She also gives us hope that the voices of the countless numbers of Jews and Christians and Muslims and peoples of all faiths working together to overcome the painful violence that characterizes the lives of people in Palestine and Israel, will be heard.

Event information--------------------------------------------------

[Date] Tuesday, November 16, 2010, from 18:30 to 21:30 (doors open at 18:00)
[Venue] Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies,
Kyoto University, Yoshida Minami campus, Basement Lecture Hall (Map)

Registration - Advance registration is required at: [at]

★Please register in advance so handouts and brochures can be prepared
Brochure fee: 1000 yen

[Languages of event] English and Japanese (Japanese translation is provided)

For all enquiries, contact: [at]


★ Yoshida Minami campus is the south campus, on the opposite side of the road from the main campus with the famous clock tower. The closest entry point to the site is from the west gate of Higashiooji Street. Enter the west gate, go straight and then turn right towards the venue: a modern five-storey building. The venue is in the eastern side with glass facade on the first storey. The building houses the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies. Please check the map before visiting. An image of the building can be found here and here (the photograph of the building is on the right).

*The International Women's Peace Service welcomes human rights volunteers. Click here for more info.

-Posted by Jen Teeter

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Special Premiere Screening of Hiroshima Nagasaki Download in NYC tomorrow, Nov. 14

Via Yumi Tanaka of the New York Peace Film Festival:

I'd proud to announce NY Premiere screening of "Hiroshima Nagasaki Download" directed by Shinpei Takeda. This film was screened at 1st Nagasaki International Peace Film Forum that spread out my New York Peace Film Festival. The film is to be released in nation-wide theaters next summer.

Mr. Takashi Thomas Tanemori, a Hiroshima survivor living in San Francisco, will be present at the screening to answer Q and A after the screening with the director.


Upon the end of the World War II, some people who survived the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki immigrated to the USA, bearing both physical and psychological wounds. These survivors have lived quietly in a country formerly considered their "state enemy."

Sixty-four years later, two former high school friends journey to seek "Hiroshima" and "Nagasaki" as they are ingrained in the collective psyche of modern Japan. They drove down America's West Coast to visit eighteen other survivors who shared memories that changed the lives of the friends forever.

Director: Shinpei Takeda

The first feature film by Shinpei Takeda, a director based in Mexico who has followed the atomic bomb survivors in North and South America for the last 5 years.

When & Where:

■ Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010 at 2:30pm ~ (Door opens at 2:00pm)

■ Anthology Film Archives:32 Second Avenue (at 2nd St), New York, NY 10003

■ Q and A session after the screening with a director and one of the survivors who appeared in the film

■ Admission: $9

■ Advance Ticket:

■ Website:

■ Follow us on twitter:
In Japanese:









■ ドキュメンタリー映画『ヒロシマナガサキダウンロード』(上映時間73分)

■ 11月14日(日)午後2時半〜4時半 (開場午後2時)

■ Anthology Film Archives: 32 Second Avenue (at 2nd St), New York, NY 10003 MAP

■ 上映後、竹田監督および出演の在米被爆者とのQ&Aセッション

■ 入場料: $9

■ 前売り:

■ ウェブサイト

■ ツイッター

監督:竹田信平(たけだしんぺい):1978年京都市生まれ。幼少時代は家族と共にドイツ、米国に滞在。2001年、米国デューク大学卒業後にサン・ディエゴで渡米難民の子供への絵画・写真技術を指導するNPOを立ち上げる。2004年、ロバート・リクター監督、キャサリーン・サリバン監督の「最後の原子爆弾(The Last Atomic Bomb)」の製作にアシスタントとして携わる。その後、北米・南米在住の被爆者の体験談の収録し始める。ブラジルやメキシコで展示会やメディアキャンペーン等を催すと同時に、国立長崎原爆死没者追悼平和祈念館に在外被爆者の体験談の映像を歴史的資料として寄贈する。2008年には、戦前にメキシコに移住した日本人写真家の一生を描いた「メキシコに最も近い日本(和訳)」を自主製作・監督。本作品で長編映像デビュー。

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vandana Shiva on industrial agriculture's use of war chemicals and food sovereignty versus the new colonialism

This is an excerpt of Vandana Shiva's talk about the role of war chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers) in industrial agriculture's new colonization in her talk on food and seed sovereignty at the International Meeting on Resisting Hegemony held 2-5 August 2010 in Penang, Malaysia.
I'm going to talk about the work I've been doing for the last 30 years on issues of biodiversity, food, and agriculture, largely because of the recognition this is the cutting edge of the new colonization and the new imperialism...

For me, 1984 was significant because of two major events, both very tragic. One was June 4, when the Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple, was invaded by the Indian Army, largely because of the unrest and the extremism that had built up in Punjab, and the extremists were hiding in the Golden Temple. And, later that year, we had the Bhopal tragedy where the pesticide plant leaked and killed 3,000 people in one night. 25,000 since then...

Bhopal is historically a watershed in terms of the structures. Part of it involves "shedding," First shedding hazards and then shedding liabilities related to hazards. Bhopal is a watershed where sacrificing the rights of people in the time of industrial genocide starts...

Someone mentioned Lawrence Summers who is currently Obama's chief economic advisor. But I first came across Lawrence Summers in 1992 when he was the chief economist of the World Bank because he wrote a memo saying it makes good economic sense to move pollution and hazards to developing countries. First because it's cheaper to find labor and therefore costs come down. And when people fall ill, it's cheaper. And when people die, it's cheaper, because their lives are worth less. So that's 3/5 of a human being on a scale issue. This continues in the contemporary calculus of what is a life worth.

Because of this series of violent episodes, I decided to start looking at what is really happening to agriculture....

Because of this series of these very violent episodes, I decided to start looking at what is really happening to agriculture. And in those days, I was associated with the peace and global transformation program that the CSDS that used to have...I decided to study what happened to Punjab...I was young, an innocent physicist with no idea of what was going on in agriculture...

A series of things I learned during that study. First, that agriculture had become the place to extend the war economy. Every input in agriculture is a war chemical. Every agrichemical is a war chemical. Herbicides were used in Vietnam. Pesticides were used to kill people which is why Bhopal killed people. Fertilizers came out of explosives factories...

The other day I was at some gathering and there was someone who is very close to the U.S. security establishment and they said Iraq was easy because the weapons were very evident. The weapons had been bought on global markets. Afghanistan is tough because the weapons are fertilizer bombs made from the fertilizer the U.S. distributed. So this is, in fact, the fertilizer coming back to its original purpose. And of course, it's not just that these are just war chemicals extending into agriculture.

But bringing them into agriculture is very much part of the new imperialism. The common narrative of the Green Revolution is India chose it. The reality of it is that the defense labs of the U.S. started to work in the '40's on how do you retool these chemicals for agriculture...So you had to change the plants to adapt to the chemicals...

Rather than calling them varieties bred for chemicals, they were now called "high-yielding" varieties. In fact, they were even called "miracle seeds." And the first 12 people they trained were called...the "wheat apostles" introducing these new seeds...

In the colonization through agriculture, land was emptied of its biodiversity...

This whole structure only worked because when these varieties were ready, the U.S. government was waiting for an opportunity to push them. And it was a drought that took place in 1965 that provided that opportunity because the need for additional imports became the time for imposing conditionalities: "We won't send you wheat unless you change our agriculture." Our prime minister at that time said "no." He died soon after, in Tashkent, under very mysterious conditions. And the conditions continued. The two foundations, the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford and the World Bank joined hands to create this package of conditionalities...

You couldn't borrow unless you proved you had taken money and subsidies for chemicals. You couldn't get any benefits from any government program unless you showed you were planting the new seeds. The Green Revolution didn't spread because of the choice farmers were making, but because of conditionalities...

A lot of my work in the Punjab study showed that actually food production went down. Rice and wheat production went up, but only because you displaced all the other crops. In an Indian diet, you need your pulses, your oil seeds, lots of vegetables. All of that disappeared. Now you had a monoculture...

We had a huge decline in pulses, the basic protein for a vegetarian diet. Quite clearly, the West never understood because they never had pulses in their diet...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vandana Shiva urges "Time to End War on the Earth" in Sydney Peace Prize speech

Dr. Vandana Shiva, recipient of this year's Sydney Peace Prize, urged the cessation of war on the earth (in the form of unsustainable environmentally destructive genetically modified, pesticide-intensive industrial agriculture); the end to the commodification of every aspect of life; and the promotion of "Earth Democracy" in her Nov. 5 acceptance speech:

When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical limits - limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and economic concentration.

A handful of corporations and of powerful countries seeks to control the earth's resources and transform the planet into a supermarket in which everything is for sale. They want to sell our water, genes, cells, organs, knowledge, cultures and future.

The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and onwards are not only about "blood for oil."  As they unfold, we will see that they are about blood for food, blood for genes and biodiversity and blood for water.

The war mentality underlying military-industrial agriculture is evident from the names of Monsanto's herbicides - ''Round-Up'', ''Machete'', ''Lasso''. American Home Products, which has merged with Monsanto, gives its herbicides similarly aggressive names, including ''Pentagon'' and ''Squadron''. This is the language of war. Sustainability is based on peace with the earth.

The war against the earth begins in the mind. Violent thoughts shape violent actions. Violent categories construct violent tools. And nowhere is this more vivid than in the metaphors and methods on which industrial, agricultural and food production is based. Factories that produced poisons and explosives to kill people during wars were transformed into factories producing agri-chemicals after the wars.

The year 1984 woke me up to the fact that something was terribly wrong with the way food was produced. With the violence in Punjab and the disaster in Bhopal, agriculture looked like war. That is when I wrote The Violence of the Green Revolution and why I started Navdanya as a movement for an agriculture free of poisons and toxics.

Pesticides, which started as war chemicals, have failed to control pests. Genetic engineering was supposed to provide an alternative to toxic chemicals. Instead, it has led to increased use of pesticides and herbicides and unleashed a war against farmers...

Making peace with the earth was always an ethical and ecological imperative. It has now become a survival imperative for our species.

Violence to the soil, to biodiversity, to water, to atmosphere, to farms and farmers produces a warlike food system that is unable to feed people. One billion people are hungry. Two billion suffer food-related diseases - obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancers.

There are three levels of violence involved in non-sustainable development. The first is the violence against the earth, which is expressed as the ecological crisis. The second is the violence against people, which is expressed as poverty, destitution and displacement. The third is the violence of war and conflict, as the powerful reach for the resources that lie in other communities and countries for their limitless appetites...

The elevation of the domain of the market, and money as man-made capital, to the position of the highest organising principle for societies and the only measure of our well-being has led to the undermining of the processes that maintain and sustain life in nature and society.

The richer we get, the poorer we become ecologically and culturally. The growth of affluence, measured in money, is leading to a growth in poverty at the material, cultural, ecological and spiritual levels.

The real currency of life is life itself and this view raises questions: how do we look at ourselves in this world? What are humans for? And are we merely a money-making and resource-guzzling machine? Or do we have a higher purpose, a higher end?

I believe that ''earth democracy'' enables us to envision and create living democracies based on the intrinsic worth of all species, all peoples, all cultures - a just and equal sharing of this earth's vital resources, and sharing the decisions about the use of the earth's resources...

We have to make a choice. Will we obey the market laws of corporate greed or Gaia's laws for maintenance of the earth's ecosystems and the diversity of its beings?

People's need for food and water can be met only if nature's capacity to provide food and water is protected. Dead soils and dead rivers cannot give food and water.

Defending the rights of Mother Earth is therefore the most important human rights and social justice struggle. It is the broadest peace movement of our times.
Find out more about Dr. Shiva's book, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace here at South End Press.

In "The Corporate Killing Fields" published at Asian Age in July of this year, Dr. Shiva reveals that pesticides kill 220,000 people every year and shows that " ecologically organic agriculture produces more food and better food at lower cost than either chemical agriculture or GMOs."

Read more about Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India, here.

See Sarah Ruth van Gelder's great 2002 interview with Dr. Shiva about the "earth democracy" at Yes! Magazine:
There is, I think, a spontaneous resurgence of thinking that centers on protection of life, celebrating life, enjoying life as both our highest duty and our most powerful form of resistance...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How did Moscow come to claim the Ainu Kuriles? "Divine mission" & the fur trade • What fuels interest now? Fish, oil & gas, strategic location...

The volcanic island chain connecting Hokkaido with Kamchatka received their name from the Ainu, the islands' original inhabitants. "Kur" means "man" in Ainu. The latest manifestation of the 20th-century dispute between Japan and Russia over the Kuriles continues to obscure prior historical Ainu ownership of these tiny islands.

Tokyo's claim makes no sense within a contemporary indigenous rights framework that posits indigenous peoples as equals within a community of nations (not to mention historical rectification for historical wrongdoing against them). However, the Japanese claim may have made some sense in the past within an outdated "Age of Imperialism" territorial framework based on the idea of privilege over indigenous peoples and their lands—given proximity of the Kuriles to Japan. (Historian Leo Ching writes that Japanese colonialism needs to be viewed historically and spatially within the larger context of global colonialism by which European nations had seized 85% of the world's land mass by the turn of the 20th century).

In contrast, Russia's claim to the Kuriles is much more of a stretch, even within an imperialistic paradigm. How did Russia (ostensibly a European nation) come to control an empire over the vast breadth of Siberian Asia (first inhabited by indigenous peoples with rich cultures much older than Moscow's) beyond the Pacific to the Kuriles—even farther off the Asian mainland than Sakhalin)?

Revenge and a sense of divine mission (Russia's version of "Manifest Destiny") fueled its adventurers' and soldiers' violent predatory march across Asia, writes Scott Malcolmson in his 1994 history/travelogue, Borderlands: Nation and Empire:
The question of what Russians are doing in Asia has preoccupied Russians more or less since the birth of Russia itself...The traditional date for the founding of "Russia" is 862. By 882, Oleg had established a strong state with its capital at Kiev...

Kievan Russia broke up into principalities in 1054 and was destroyed in 1237 to 1240 by Mongols and Tatars. The latter proceeded to dominate the Russians until 1840...Russians know the 1240 to 1480 period as the "Tatar (or Mongol) yoke," and appear never to have forgiven Asians for humiliating them.

They also appear to have developed a strong sense of mission. Under Ivan III's successor, Basil III, some Russians came to imagine themselves as the army of God and Moscow as the Third Rome...Basil's successor, Ivan the Terrible, began Russia's conquest of Siberia, and Russians continued expanding their territory into Asia until Gorbachev withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan. That makes nearly five hundred years of steady imperialism...
Anna Reid provides an economic explanation for Russia's claim in her luminous history of the indigenous peoples of Siberia, The Shaman's Coat, in which she cites the fur trade (seal and sea otter in the Kuriles) as fueling Russia's march through Asia:
What drew them on, swiftly and surely as gold drew the conquistadores to Peru, was fur, especially that of the ferret-like sable. Blacker than night, softer than a snowfall, sable pelts had been the ultimate status symbol since history began...

In the 1500's European demand for fur expanded, thanks to the influx of New World buillion and rise of a showy new merchant class. Chief supplier to the growing market was Russia, whose European forests were soon hunted out...

There duly appeared in Siberia a hereogeneous breed of trapper-fighter-explorers, not unlike the French woodrunners who first penetrated Canada. In theory, they divided into two categories: commercial operators, self-financed or under hire to merchants, and 'servitors' — mostly the unruly soldiers known as Cossacks — in salaried government service. In practice, they behaved so similarly and worked together so often as to be virtually indistinguishable, giving rise to a continuing debate over whether Siberia's conquest was primarily the result of conscious government policy or of haphazard private enterprise. Both groups went armed...

Like their Canadian equivalents, they travelled as far as possible by river, dragging their boats from headwater to headwater and building wooden strategic confluences...From these they set off on fur-gathering expeditions, in the rouse of which they both trapped themselves and extracted pelts, by violence or by barter, from nearby native settlements. Seduced or subjugated, each tribe's duty regularly to produce furs in the future was made official by the imposition of an oath upon its leader...

Haphazard as it was, the conquest of Siberia transformed Muscovy, helping turn it from an obscure princedom on civilisation's fringes into a great European power. Until the end of the seventeenth century, one historian estimates, the fur trade contributed more to the country's economy than any other single activity save agriculture...In 1595 Boris Dogunov was embarassed by a request from the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, for military assistance from the Turks. Not wishing to jeopardise trade with Constantinople, he compromised by sending Rudolf the pelts of 337,235 squirrel, 40,360 sable, 20,760 marten, 3,000 beaver and 1,000 wolves...

In the meantime, Siberian furs had not only lured Russia into Asia, but helped poltically consolidate the Russia state...

(Stalin with the daughter of a Buryat Party chief. Two years after this once-popular propaganda photograph was taken, her father was shot and her mother sent to a labour camp. Image: Yury Artamonov's Photo Archive

In Siberia the Russians had won themselves a continent, a land on which the sun never set, one of the biggest empires the world had even known... The indigenous people overcome by Moscow included the Khant; the Buryat (the largest indigenous group in Siberia, practitioners of shamanism and Tibetan-inspired Buddhism from the 1700's); the Tuvans (known for throat-singing and shamanism); the Sakha (Russia subjugated Sakha into forced labor long before sending political prisoners to Siberia. Stalin established Gulag forced labor camps on their land where many thousands of Sakha disappeared along with ethnic Russians); the Chukchi (their land was also a site of the Soviet Gulag. Traditionally a nomadic reindeer herders, Chukchi who resisted collectivization were sent to forced labor in mining and logging camps. Between 2-3 million Chukchi died from forced labor); the Ainu; and the Nivkh (banning the Nivkh language and culture, Soviet Russia showcased the Nivkh as a 'model' for a culture that transformed from the Neolithic age to a socialist industrial model).

From 1945-1948, Moscow forcibly deported many Nivkh, Ainu, along with half of the Sakhalin Oroks, and most Japanese to Hokkaido. Since January 2005, the descendants of the remaining Nivkh, and the Uilta, another indigenous people of Sakhalin have engaged in nonviolent protest, demanding an independent ethnological assessment of Shell's and Exxon's oil exploration off the coast of Sakhalin.

(Contemporary Buryat. Image: "A Pearl in the Forest - the movie")

Russia also deported Ainu from Kuriles to Japan (in a related attempt to undermine prior indigenous claims on the seized islands and to shift indigenous social and historical burdens to Japan). However Moscow's attempt to deny the reality of the historically-based indigenous rights of the Ainu and other indigenous people in the Kuriles and Sakhalin has not succeeded. In the past two decades, as a global indigenous rights and historical rectification movement has strengthened indigenous power, Ainu have reasserted their prior claim to the Kuriles.

The Independent reported on the Ainu claim to the Kuriles during the 1992 eruption of the Russian-Japanese dispute in "Ainu people lay ancient claim to Kurile Islands: The hunters and fishers who lost their land to the Russians and Japanese are gaining the confidence to demand their rights:"
Mr. Akibe is from the Ainu people, an ethnic minority who live mostly on Hokkaido and who have been fighting discrimination by the Tokyo government for years. 'The Kuriles are not Russian, and they are not Japanese either,' said Mr Akibe, who was wearing traditional Ainu robes and an embroidered headband. 'We were the first inhabitants of these islands, and lived there before this territorial problem even appeared.' Some Russians laughed nervously while Japanese listeners studied their shoe-laces.

Mr. Akibe produced a map of the Russian Far East, the Kurile Islands and northern Japan, showing the extent of Ainu settlements throughout the region up to the beginning of this century. Fishers and hunters, the Ainu had occupied the Kuriles for centuries before the Russians and the Japanese discovered them in the 19th century. 'You (Russians and Japanese) should both remember the historical rights of the Ainu when you conduct your negotiations,' he said.
In 2005, Ainu representatives again objected to Russian and Japanese claims of ownership:
Representatives of the Ainu nation, an indigenous group in northern Japan, issued a joint statement on November 14 to the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Tokyo claiming territorial rights to the South Kurile Islands and demanding that Japan and Russia cease talks of governmental ownership....

The Ainu explained in their statement that "the four Kurile Islands belong neither to Japan nor to Russia," and that the Ainu have inhabited the territory "since time immemorial," according to Itar-Tass News Agency.

The Ainu have asked that they be granted free access to the islands, and hope to make them an autonomous area of the Ainu nation in the future.

Scientists believe that several thousand years ago the Ainu ethnic group inhabited the whole of Japan, the lower reaches of the Amur River, the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Sakhalin and Kurile Islands.
For more on the Ainu and the breadth of their original territory, see the online presentation of The Smithsonian's pioneering exhibition, "Ainu: The Spirit of a Northern People" that reveals the magnificence of their sea-faring, trans-continental culture (incomparably more sophisticated, prosperous, and creative than the diminished and impoverished far-flung Russian satellite colony that exists in the Kuriles today).

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recognizing the individual and collective rights of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples (including the right to self-determination, and the right to give or withhold free, prior and informed consent when it comes to the exploitation of our lands, territories and resources) was adopted on September 13, 2007 following more than two decades of negotiations between governments and indigenous peoples' representatives. A majority of 143 states (including Japan, excluding Russia which abstained from voting) voted in favor of the Declaration. (Former British colonies Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States voted against the Declaration, but in the past three years, Australia and Canada reversed their position) In 2008, the Japanese government formally recognized the Ainu as "an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture".

(For recent coverage on Russia's continuing conflict with the indigenous people of Sakahlin, see this 2009 AFP video report. "Sakhalin Energy Project Hampering the Nivkh's traditional lifestyle" that shows how Russian oil exploitation has been destroying what remains of the Nivkh landscape, people and culture.)


Follow-up: On November 12, Canada also reversed its position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Two Activists Speak on Palestinian Rights in Tokyo this Saturday, Nov 13, 2010

(Left: Anna Baltzer; Right: May Shigenobu)

Jewish-American writer and activist Anna Baltzer, on an international speaking tour, will be traveling throughout Japan this week to deliver a lecture titled "Peace and Human Rights in Palestine: Witnessing the Occupation."

During her presentation in Tokyo this Saturday, November 13th, Baltzer will be joined by journalist May Shigenobu, who will speak from her own perspectives as a Palestinian rights activist who grew up in Lebanon before relocating to Japan. Baltzer will speak in Kyoto on November 16th at Kyoto University.

The event promises to be an interesting and informative one, and the organizers welcome all interested persons to attend!

Date/Time: November 13th, 2010 (Sat.)1:30 PM (doors open at 1:00)

Entry fee: Free

Venue: Daito Bunka Kaikan Hall, Daito Bunka University, Itabashi campus Tokumaru 2-4-21 (5-minute walk from Tobu Nerima station)

Access: From the North exit of Tobu Nerima station (which is 15 min. from Ikebukuro on the Tobu Tojo line), turn right at the first road (you will see Mister Donut on the corner). Daito Bunka Kaikan Hall is on the left side of this road after a 2-3 minute walk.

Organizers: JALT (Japan Association of Language Teachers) Gunma, GILE (Global Issues in Language Education)

Additional supporting organizations: ABAX ELT publishers, GALE (Gender Awareness for Language Education), CUE, Peace Not War Japan

About Anna Baltzer:

Anna Baltzer is a Columbia University graduate, former Fulbright scholar, and the granddaughter of Holocaust refugees. As a volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service in the West Bank, Baltzer documented human rights abuses and supported Palestinian-led nonviolent resistance to the Occupation.

She has appeared on television more than 100 times (most recently "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart") and lectured at more than 400 universities, schools, churches, mosques, and synagogues around the world presenting, "Life in Occupied Palestine: Eyewitness Stories & Photos," and discussing her book, Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories.

In 2009, Baltzer received the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee's prestigious Annual Rachel Corrie Peace & Justice Award and a Certificate of Commendation from the Governor of Wisconsin for her commitment to justice in the Holy Land. She is a contributor to four books on the subject, including Shifting Sands: Jewish Women Confront the Israeli Occupation. She serves on the Middle East committee of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Board of Directors of The Research Journalism Institute, Grassroots Jerusalem, and Council for the National Interest.

For more information, please see Anna's website and her blog.

Anna will also present in several other Japanese cities during her tour of the country. The schedule for her speaking tour is available here.

About May Shigenobu:

May was born in Lebanon. She graduated from the American University of Beirut in Political Science and Public Administration, where she went on to become a graduate student in International Relations in addition to studying Journalism at the Lebanese University. She relocated to Japan in 2001, when she also obtained Japanese citizenship--having previously not been recognized as a citizen of any country. She now works as a preparatory school teacher and a freelance reporter for Middle Eastern television from Japan. She also regularly gives lectures and serves as a commentator on such topics as Palestinian rights, the Arab world and Islamic culture, and Middle Eastern-related political issues (including those relating to Iraqis and Kurds).

May is a doctorate candidate at Doshisha University in Kyoto, specializing in effects of Middle Eastern satellite broadcasting. She became an anchor in 2005 for the APF NEWS online program "The Olive Journal", and also worked as an assistant anchor for the Cable News Channel Asahi Newstar's program "Nyuusu no shinsou" ("In-depth News") until April 2010. She is the author of two books: Secrets - From Palestine to the Country of Cherry Trees, 28 Years With My Mother (2002) and From the Ghettos of the Middle East (2003). She is also featured in the film Children of the Revolution, which will screen later this month at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. More information is available here.

Palestine Eye

Post-event followup: See report of this amazing event at subsequent Ten Thousand Things post here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

20th Sunagawa Aki Matsuri remembers past struggles as it celebrates autumn

The soaring birds seem to ask:
Who created borders between countries?
Grass, birds, humans…
All are the same living beings.

Yesterday, in a tiny park located within the western metropolitan Tokyo city of Tachikawa, a collection of artists, musicians, political activists, local food growers, and community folks of all ages gathered for the 20th annual Sunagawa Aki Matsuri (Autumn Festival).

While the food stalls, children’s games, and overall festive atmosphere may have made the event appear to be just like any other neighborhood gathering, in fact there was a deeper story lying underneath the surface. Put in context of events occurring in the same vicinity 54 years earlier, the energy of the festival resonated with what might be described as pain that has been transformed into joy.

In October 1956, in land adjacent to the park, a collection of farmers, students, Buddhist monks, and other sympathetic citizens gathered to stop a group of surveyors and police officers who had come to measure the land for expansion of the nearby Tachikawa Airbase. The facility served as a launchpad for U.S. B-29 bomber planes, and plans were afoot to swallow up even more local farmland surrounding the existing base. When the protesters refused to back down, police began attacking them with batons. 500 people were wounded, resulting in a national outcry. Three days later, largely as a result of this fallout, the government canceled the surveys.

Dennis Banks, a Native American organizer and co-founder of the American Indian Movement, was stationed at the airbase at the time and witnessed the bloody melee of officers brutalizing the defenseless crowd, which included students as well as monks rhythmically beating their drums. When I had the fortune to speak with him several years ago in Hiroshima, he told me that this experience had had a huge impact on his psyche—and was one of the factors that helped lead him away from the U.S. military and into a life of activism.

The organizers of the Sunagawa Autumn Festival include several people who vividly remember the protests, and who view the event as a chance to help keep history alive. One such person is Katsuko Kato, the founder of the watchdog group Tachikawa Self-Defense Force Tent-Mura (known simply as Tent-Mura, or "Tent Village"). In 2004, three members of the organization were arrested and prosecuted after placing anti-war flyers in the mailboxes of a Japanese Self-Defense Force housing unit. Despite eventually losing at the Tokyo High Court to charges of trespassing, members still remain determined that peace and justice will prevail.

One case in point: at the edge of the park stands a small sign stating that the land is government property and not to be trespassed on. Holding the annual autumn festival there, as well as growing vegetables year-round in the adjacent field, therefore serve as small acts of civil disobedience on the part of organizers. Even in the face of government opposition, they continue to utilize the land to farm in peace--the natural, life-affirming purpose for which they believe it was always intended.

The daikon radish leaves rustle in the blue sky:
Autumn has arrived in Sunagawa.
Even the persimmon trees in the park
Beckon smiling visitors
As they continue to yearn for a true peace.

Left: Panel display featuring this year's festival theme of U.S. military bases in Okinawa

Right: Dancers dressed as yanbaru kuina (a bird native to the Yanbaru forest of Okinawa, which is now under threat of U.S. military construction of helipads for Osprey helicopters)

For more on the history of the Sunagawa Struggle, see this excellent article by Hasegawa Kenji.

--Kimberly Hughes

Poetry is from the Sunagawa Aki Matsuri event flyer (translations are my own).

Photos by Ishihara Mikiko

Text by Kimberly Hughes

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Matias Echanove, Geeta Mehta and Rahul Srivastavavarious conceived the idea of URBZ (user-generated cities) with fellow urban planners, architects, artists, and other people engaged in the organic formation and direction of the cities in which they live.

Their goal: to challenge bland generic redevelopment plans presented as urban rationalization and modernization and offer alternative visions of urban community generated by those who actually live in these communities.
While these redevelopment plans usually benefit real estate actors and financing institutions operating on a global scale, they are often threatening local social networks and economic activities.
They began their collaborations in the 2000's in Tokyo (focusing on saving Tokyo's most creative neighborhood, Shimokitazawa) and Mumbai:
The initial concept of URBZ was born in the mind of a restless group of urban planning students in New York in the early 2000’s. The idea was to exchange knowledge about cities, network and travel globally for events and conferences. URBZ was developed as an early and basic prototype of social networking sites such as Flickr and Facebook.

After various phases of trial and development the project nearly died. It was resuscitated in Tokyo and in Mumbai by Geeta Mehta, Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava as participatory urban planning, architecture and research tool. The recent spread of open source web content management systems such as Drupal and Worpress made it easier to develop media rich participatory websites. functions as a virtual office for projects in cities including New York, Tokyo, Mumbai, Goa and Geneva. In addition to maintaining its website and providing support to partner organizations and initiatives, URBZ members organize workshops where ideas and visions about localities are expressed and shared. URBZ believes that the encounter of local actors and global contributors unleashes new potentials at all levels.
Their latest gathering is upcoming in India:

The Urban Typhoon Workshop New Delhi will be held in Khirkee Village from November 9-16, 2010.

The Urban Typhoon Workshop invites artists, architects, academics, activists and other practitioners to work in Khirkee Village and conceptualize alternative scenarios for its future along with its inhabitants.

The workshop will start on November 9th with the self-formation of the participants into small groups and end on November 16th with collaborative output in the form of plans, projections, installations, multimedia events being presented to the inhabitants and the city at large.

Khirkee, where KHOJ International Artist's Association has its studios, is one of the several urban villages that make New Delhi's fabric unique. KHOJ is one of the leading contemporary art incubators in India. Its presence in Khirkee has made it possible for artists and inhabitants to interact and start a conversation about alternative ways of experiencing and developing the village.

URBZ brings its expertise of organizing cross-disciplinary dialogues in the area of urban planning. The partnership between URBZ and KHOJ hopes to forge new relations between art and urban practices along with encouraging constructive dialogues and collaborations between residents, civic officials and urban practitioners of all kinds.
For more info, see the Urban Typhoon New Delhi's website.

For more background on user-generated cities, see Urbanology (fascinating page on Tokyo), and Save the Shimokitazawa.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Practice of the Wild featuring Gary Snyder comes to NY starting Nov. 10

John J. Healey's The Practice of the Wild featuring deep ecologist and poet-essayist Gary Snyder and author Jim Harrison comes to NY this month.

There will be a screening at the Jacob Burns Film Center on Wednesday, November 10. The second event will be an opening night screening at the Quad Cinema (13th Street in Manhattan between 5th & 6th Avenues) on Friday, November 12.

The San Francisco International Film Festival description:
The wild requires that we learn the terrain, nod to all the plants and animals and birds, ford the streams and cross the ridges, and tell a good story when we get back home.
So writes legendary Beat poet Gary Snyder in his influential 1990 collection from which this celebratory documentary takes its name and finds its restoring rhythms of nature, image and word. Occupying a hallowed yet humble position within the realms of poetry, academia, ecological activism and spiritual practice, Snyder has distinguished himself among peers such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac by becoming both a countercultural hero and a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Director John J. Healey skillfully intertwines the many fascinating aspects of Snyder’s journey through nature and across the page, sagely pairing the poet with his cantankerous compadre and fellow scribe Jim Harrison. Together, the two old friends roam the verdant hills of the central California coast, musing eloquently and with hard-won wisdom and earthy humor on Bay Area bohemia, Zen Buddhism and the morally charged interdependence of all living things.

Whether reminiscing about a camping trip with Kerouac, recalling the writing of his seminal Turtle Island or being held by his ankles and dangled over a cliff in Japan as a test of truth-telling, Snyder is a warm and captivating presence.

“Life in the wild is not just eating berries in the sunlight,” the poet tells us, and true to his ageless inquisitiveness, The Practice of the Wild seeks out and finds so much more.
KJ's biodiversity issue features Snyder's seminal "Ecology, Place and the Awakening of Compassion" (first published in Buddhist Peace Fellowship's quarterly, Turning Wheel):
Oecology, as it used to be spelled, is a scientific study of relationships, energy-transfers, mutualities, connections, and cause-and-effect networks within natural systems. By virtue of its finding, it has become a discipline that informs the world about the danger of the breakdown of the biological world. In a way, it is to Euro-American global economic development as anthropology used to be to colonialism. That is to say, a kind of counter-science generated by the abuses of the development culture (and capable of being misused by unscrupulous science mercenaries in the service of the development culture). The word “ecological” has also come to be used to mean something like “environmentally conscious.”
Read Gary Snyder's entire essay — "Ecology, Place, and the Awakening of Compassion" — at KJ online at this page.

(Gary Snyder during his Japan years (1956-1964). Image: Modern American Poetry)

For more on Gary Snyder, see this comprehensive collection of background info at Modern American Poetry.

A set that includes The Practice of the Wild DVD and a companion book (The Etiquette of Freedom) is available at online book dealers for around $US20.

ANPO: Art X War will have its NYC premiere at the DOC NYC Film Festival on Nov. 6

Linda Hoaglund's new documentary, ANPO: Art X War will have its NYC premiere at the IFC Center on Saturday, November 6th, as part of the DOC NYC film festival's Viewfinder Competition.

See the DOC NYC website for show details and the film's trailer.

ANPO refers to the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty, which has justified the presence of 90 US military bases in Japan for six decades. The presence of the bases has spawned opposition and protests.

Director Linda Hoaglund (who was born and raised in Japan) delves deeply into resistance against ANPO, drawing upon rich archival sources of oil paintings, photographs, films and animation.

Her documentary is a revelation of art and history, offering a bracing perspective on Japan very different than most western coverage.