Proposal for COP11 – Message from Japanese Citizens at a Historic Turning Point
Environmental NGO Ikimono Café
Environmental NGO Ikimono Café was established in 2011 on the year COP10 (The 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity) took place in Japan. As of May 2012, branches in Nagoya, Tokyo, Saga and Kamakura, organize gatherings that discuss wide range of issues and exchange of information.
In light of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2012 and the following Fukushima Nuclear Plant Accident, we expect this year’s COP11 to regard this disaster not as a local disaster unique to Japan, but as something that can occur in any part of the world, particularly in areas that place heavy emphasis on economic development.
The name Fukushima translates to “Happy Island”. Fukushima was literally a “Happy Island” where humans and animals lived in harmony, surrounded by beautiful mountains, forests, rivers and sea. However, the economy-driven social values lead to the construction of nuclear power plants in Fukushima. Following the events of March 11, 2011, this “Happy Island” became contaminated with radiation. Today, one and a half year after the nuclear accident, the cooling water contaminated with radiation continues to be poured into the Pacific Ocean. The nuclear plants are still extremely volatile, where it can collapse and/or explode at any time. Fukushima has become the most dangerous place on earth.
The radioactive materials are not contained in Fukushima, but have spread throughout Eastern Japan, causing serious damage to food production. Radioactive materials’ devastating effects on the loss of biodiversity is yet to be measured. Ironically, the cycle of radioactive contamination is showing the Japanese that all living beings are connected and affect one another.
Unfortunately, Japan is still unable to stop the operation of nuclear power plants. In July 2012, the government and nuclear industry forced to resume the operation of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant without thorough debate with the citizens. While 90% of the citizens call for the immediate abolition or gradual reduction of nuclear power plants, the business world and US government continue to support the operation of nuclear power plants in Japan. The trend to ignore the will of Japan’s majority is getting stronger.
It is our wish that the world learn from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident. Human beings cannot survive by themselves. Air, water, earth, food - all the elements necessary to sustain our lives are provided and renewed by natural ecosystem and the working of living beings. We must at once stop nuclear power plants that destroy this crucial foundation of life. At the same time, we must change the course of history that undermine damage and twist the natural world for the sole purpose of creating monetary wealth. We must actively begin to construct a sustainable society, now.
At COP11, we would like to emphasize the need for the construction of sustainable society, and the fact that we as species have come to a point where we must adopt the wisdom to live in balance with the natural world.
Loss of biodiversity caused by nuclear power and radioactive contamination:
The large body of radioactive materials released into the environment from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident in March 2011 continues to spread throughout the world, regardless of national borders. Since the 1940s, when uranium mining and nuclear testing began, radioactive contamination caused by nuclear power plants have become one of the major environmental pollutants. Nuclear power cause radioactive contamination of the soil, ocean, and air, throughout its production, starting from uranium mining, fuel transportation, power generation and waste disposal. It is clear that nuclear power greatly damages biodiversity.
The widespread concept that nuclear power is “a CO2-free energy, i.e. a preferable energy for combatting climate change” is a false notion. Nuclear power does not emit greenhouse effect gas only during its process of power generation. In reality, it emits CO2 during all processes including the mining, refining, storage, and disposal of its uranium fuel. The temperature of the cooling water used in nuclear power plant rises by 7 degrees Celsius. This heated water is released into the ocean, causing the rise of ocean’s temperature.
On the wake of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, COP11 must recognize and discuss the loss of biodiversity resulting from radioactive contamination. This gathering of citizens must not be pressured by the nations that promote nuclear power. The Fukushima Nuclear Accident demonstrates that the issue of radioactive contamination is an urgent issue requiring attention and solution for all nations throughout the world.
Sustainable economic system cannot result from the international agreement that economic, social and environmental developments are to be executed according to the specific realities, condition and priorities of each country. This approach blurs the recognition that economic activities must maintain the global natural environment and avoid the earth’s tipping point. There should be an international evaluation of each nation’s choice, with the prerequisite that the maintenance of each nation’s natural environment must be of the utmost priority, followed by consideration for specific realities and conditions.
The global economic system is a major obstacle to those who seek economic activity that does not burden the earth. It is essential to evaluate the fairness of international trade. The core of the issue is to always keep the global economy and local economy in balance. The removal of trade and tariff barriers in the name of free trade can disrupt the cycle of local production and consumption of goods. In Japan, the TPPI is posing a threat to the farmers. We must realize that thoughtless removal of trade and tariff barriers will only benefit multinational corporations, and threaten to crush local businesses.
Sustainable economy in the truest sense must be sought from the perspective of local and community economy. The maintenance and sustainable use of biodiversity can only be realized at the local level. Thus, we must work together so that the international community will understand that the healthy existence of local community is an essential requirement for maintaining biodiversity.
We are witnessing economic activities where water resources are bought out by governments and corporations. Water resources were originally accessed by indigenous people and local people free of charge. The international community must recognize this monopoly of water as an aspect of economic activity that cannot coexist with the protection of biodiversity. We must guarantee access to safe and clean water for all people. For this end, water business must be regulated. In addition, international rules and regulations guaranteeing the rights of local people not only for direct water source, but for subsoil and underground water must be established.
Industrial, chemical and radioactive waste:
All economic activities produce waste. In aiming for “sustainable consumption and production” we must realize that consumption and production always produce waste. We ask for the international community to recognize that “consumption and production” which produce environmentally harmful waste such as chemical and radioactive waste cannot be considered “sustainable consumption and production.”
In particular, the effects of radioactive waste on biodiversity cannot be emphasized enough. It is an internationally recognized fact that radioactive waste from nuclear power plants cannot return to the environment safely for over one hundred thousand years. Radioactive waste is produced in all the processes of nuclear energy, beginning from uranium mining, fuel production, transportation, power plant operation to reprocessing.
We again demand the international communities to recognize that environmental pollutants produced from aforesaid nuclear related activities are major causes of biodiversity destruction.
While the waste produced from economic activity should be disposed by the producer, in reality, uranium tailings are left near uranium mines, and radioactive materials produced from nuclear accidents are left to be collected by the affected individuals and local governments. In particular, massive amounts of radioactive material and radioactive debris resulting from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident and the tsunami are currently floating on the Pacific Ocean. There are serious concerns that these materials will arrive on the shores of the islands of the pacific. We must clearly recognize that all nuclear power plants in operation can cause such accidents that pollute the environment beyond national borders. The International convention on oceanic pollution, the “London Convention” has no mention of radioactive pollution. We the Japanese strongly demand the international community to delineate the responsibility of such international radioactive pollution. The international community must recognize nuclear related economic activity as synonymous to economic activity that endangers biodiversity.
Fukushima Nuclear Accident must be the last damage to humanity by nuclear power. Fukushima has more than demonstrated that nuclear power is too dangerous for humans to handle. We must eliminate nuclear power from the list of so-called “sustainable energy, renewable energy, and natural energy.” The international community must clearly recognize that the world must end its dependency on nuclear power.
While it is important to make the shift toward the use of natural energy, it must be done with consideration for biodiversity. Technologies such as wind power which require large scale alternation of the land and destroy large areas of forests cannot be called “natural energy.” We must not make the contradictory mistake of destroying nature in order to obtain natural energy. Natural energy should be small-scale dispersed systems that meet the needs and conditions of each local region. We must strive for local production and consumption of natural energy.
As a prerequisite, we must focus on how developed nations over-consume energy. Developed nations must reduce energy use and realize a lifestyle that is less energy intensive. At the same time, developing nations must not pursue the energy intensive economy of the developed nations, but an economy that is really necessary for the survival and lives of its citizens.
Democracy and Biodiversity:
The protection of biodiversity happens on the local community level. Local residents have a deep understanding of the value and benefits of biodiversity. Thus, the protection of biodiversity must proceed in a bottom-up system. However in reality, the rights of local residents and indigenous peoples are disregarded for the benefit of development and rights and benefits of national governments and corporations. The largest cause of biodiversity loss is such development by national governments and corporations. The protection of biodiversity and radical democracy are closely tied. We must re-recognize the aaccess to “information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters”as stated in the The Aarhus Convention. A new version of the The Aarhus Convention which addresses biodiversity must be established. We must also incorporate articles that prevent national governments and corporations from oppressing and suppressing indigenous peoples and citizen activists who attempt to protect biodiversity.
In the case of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, although the Japanese government had a fine nuclear disaster response system such as the SPEEDI*, the information was not quickly shared by the citizens. Because of this, many people have actually evacuated to areas with higher radiation. Furthermore, the media came under the control of the national government, and it was difficult for citizens to obtain accurate information at the time of the accident. It was only through the use of social media that people were able to obtain some information on how much risk they were under. Today, this is a continuing problem for the Japanese, as we cannot obtain adequate information on the radioactive contamination levels of foods, water and soil. Citizens have lost their faith in the national government, and many citizens have set up their own radiation calibration stations, working to collect data so that people can protect their own lives.
Communication networks and information should not be monopolized by nation states and economic industry. Information on the environment including biodiversity must be open to all peoples. However, in reality, the conditions and radioactive pollution caused by the Fukushima Nuclear Plant are not property reported in Asian countries that have plans to build new nuclear power plants. India and Indonesia are among such countries. We strongly demand the international community that information on radioactive pollution that travel beyond local and national borders must be provided equally to all citizens. This is a voice coming from Japan, a country that is still in the middle of an ongoing nuclear accident.
System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information. When large amounts of radioactive materials are released into the atmosphere from a nuclear facility such as a power plant, or when there is such threat, SPEEDI system quickly predicts the atmospheric levels of radiation and exposure dose based on information from the source, climate conditions and geographic data. The system conducts a predictive calculation of atmospheric levels and exposure dose. These results are quickly delivered to the Ministry of Science and Education, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Nuclear Safety Commission, related local governments and off-site centers, and are to be used as important information for planning anti-disaster measures.
Natural disasters and Biodiversity:
Although it is widely recognized that the protection of biodiversity is realized at the community level, it is also the community that is able to respond to natural disasters with speed and flexibility. Furthermore, in modern world, there is no such thing as a pure and simple natural disaster. As in the case of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Accident, there are man-made disasters prompted by natural disaster. Thus it is important to prepare for ways to handle such combined accidents.
In the case of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, areas that were hit hard were areas where environmental destruction had already been in progress. Such areas are rivers that had all three sides protected by concrete, artificial coast levees and windbreak forests. The tsunami ran up artificially straightened rivers that had all three sides protected. Researchers report that natural rivers with its original meandering shape and diversity were less affected by the tsunami. With such findings in mind, disaster prevention must be considered from the standpoint of protecting biodiversity, with as little alteration of the natural landscape as possible.
Agriculture and Biodiversity:
Primary industries, particularly agriculture, have important relationship to biodiversity. The industrialization of agriculture by large scale agriculture is a serious threat to biodiversity. Originally, agriculture coexisted with nature. However, the changes of natural landscape, use of massive amounts of pesticides, single crop production and such have turned agriculture into a cause of environmental destruction. While organic farming was originally regarded as “good”, in Japan large scale hydroponic agriculture are now considered “organic.” Thus the standards of “good” agriculture have become move vague. It is our stance that agriculture must be able to sustain and protect biodiversity.
In addition, the widespread uses of genetically engineered seeds and subsequent single crop production have had an enormous impact on biodiversity. It is threatening traditional knowledge and way of life of local residents. The international community must recognize that agriculture can become one of the greatest destroyers of the environment, given the industrialization, excessive use of machinery in agriculture, use of pesticides that contain nerve toxins such as neonicotinoid insecticide, and widespread use of genetically engineered crops.
The damage caused by the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant to Japan’s agriculture is extreme. Japan’s agriculture is depended not only on the agricultural land itself but to the ecosystem cycles of the surrounding mountains and rivers. The rice paddies and fields are habitat for diverse creatures. For generations, mountains and rivers provided water and compost materials to the farmers, and the farmers provided habitat for the creatures of the mountains and rivers. Because Japan’s agriculture is positioned in this habitat cycle, even if a particular field is decontaminated of radiation, the effects of decontamination are cancelled if such paddies draw water from contaminated mountains and rivers.
Some of the farmers in Fukushima continue to cultivate their fields even if it cannot be decontaminated. This is because if the fields are left to perish, it will destroy the habitat of the creatures. Because the national government does not conduct accurate and thorough measurement of radiation, farmers themselves are measuring the radiation of the soil, water and crops. They feel it is their obligation for the next generation to pass on this data. They are announcing with a strong voice that humanity must break away for once and for all from nuclear energy so that the natural environment and agricultural lands will not be contaminated further.
The concept of Satoyama:
Most of Japan’s land is mountains with close proximity to the ocean. Many rivers connect the mountains and rivers, thus many of the agricultural lands are located near mountains. Farmers not only raise crops, but go into the mountains to collect mushrooms, wild plants and nuts. They also fish in the rivers, hunt animals and collect firewood in the mountains. Wisdom on keeping the balance of nature was passed down from generation to generation, and sustainable circulatory society thrived. In Japan, there is hardly any natural forest untouched by humans. The mountains are divided into “Okuyama”, or deep woods where hardly anyone goes into, and “Satoyama”, or local mountains close to villages where people’s sustainable living depended on.
The biodiversity of the “Satoyama” was supported by humans. The rice paddies were habitats for small fish and insects, which in turn became food for migratory birds. By collecting firewood from the mountains, undergrowth thrived, providing habitat for diverse plants. This is how biodiversity was nurtured in Satoyama. With the urbanization, people began to visit the Satoyama less and less. Today, the Satoyama are not kept very well, and number creatures are on the decline. The Western concept of Man versus Nature is a concept that is not suited for Japan and other Asian countries.
One of the largest losses of biodiversity in Japan is the decline of Satoyama due to large scale land developments and urbanization. The lifestyle of Satoyama itself builds a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with nature. We suggest Convention on Biological Diversity COP11 to focus on the Asian “Satoyama Concept” of nature where humans are considered to be a part of the natural cycle, which is a stark contrast to the Western dichotomy of conquering or controlling nature.
The Aichi Target, or the Nagoya Protocol adopted at the Convention on Biological Diversity COP10 on October 2010 in Nagoya is one of our greatest feats. However, it is only a pie in the sky if it is not put into effect. Since the Earth Summit of 1992 where Convention on Biological Diversity was born, many promises were made, yet the reality of the globe is getting worse. In Japan too, we experienced the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, which is one of the worst things that can happen to biodiversity.
At COP11, we must reconfirm with passion the importance and the responsibility to put the Aichi Target into practice. Furthermore, we demand for the creation of an international conference to follow-up with the progress of the Aichi target, and establish an international evaluation agency for this purpose.
So many times we have heard the phrase “there is no business as usual” at international conferences. We would like to emphasize this again here today, that “There is no business as usual!” The problem of nuclear accidents is not about the choice between nuclear power and natural energy. As it was in the case of Japan, the problem is the values that lead to nuclear power. Even if we are to shift to natural energy, if that means we are going to bulldoze mountains, reclaim the sea to build mega solar stations to send energy to the cities, this is along the same track as business as usual. What we take from nature is always returned to nature. With this cycle in mind, our solution must be simple. There is nothing as important as nature, and we must never destroy or pollute it.
There are many wonderful promises including the Aichi Target. The issue is, are we going to put them into effect? We strongly expect from COP11 to establish an agency that checks the progress of these promises, as well as to provide effective advice and suggestions to regions facing obstacles to realizing the promises.
International conferences for the environment and peace, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity COP11 must return to the simple solution:
“Our actions must never hurt the global ecosystem!”
If we cannot confirm and agree among ourselves here at Convention on Biological Diversity COP11 that there is no higher morale or values as this one, the earth will meet its tipping point in the near future, and the human race will begin on its path toward extinction, following the many animals that are on its way.
Environmental NGO “IKIMONO CAFE (Living Beings Café)”
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
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(From Earth Café Ohana)