Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Lion King Goes Postal

On September 11, Japanese voters go to the polls to elect 480 Lower House members of the Japanese Parliament, or Diet, in truly bizarre circumstances. Bizarre, in that the polling date was deliberately chosen because of what happened in New York and Washington four years ago. Bizarre, because whatever the election outcome, it will not alter the make up of the Upper House which rejected the Japan Post privatisation bill put forward by Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro - this rejection being the supposed trigger for the early election in the first place. And bizarre because of the outlandish figure of Koizumi himself.

Koizumi (whom the Japanese media calls the 'Lion King' because of his super-abundant mane) is a product of the political turmoil that has dominated the country for more than a decade. Politics in Japan was once predictable and stale. Before 1993, the LDP factions had simply rotated the prime ministership among themselves. But since that August day in 1993 when the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost its grip on power, albeit briefly, for the first time since its inception in 1955, it seems that anything goes.

Heizo Takenaka, Postal Reform Minister
and Junichiro Koizumi, Japanese Prime Minister

In the end, there were only ten months of non-LDP government, but that period signalled the beginning of the end of the LDP's one-party rule. No longer able to win a majority in its own right, the LDP was desperate to use whatever means possible to get back into power, and in 1994 it did just that with a tactic that would have been unthinkable during the preceding four decades: a grand coalition with its arch-enemy, the Socialists, then the largest opposition party. And with a Socialist leader at the helm.

This moment marked the fall of an invisible Berlin Wall, and the Socialists have since gone the way of those Eastern bloc nations - into oblivion.

The LDP has, in the meantime, clung to power in a coalition with the other minor parties. Their political fortune now hinges heavily on their junior coalition partner, the Komei Party, a political wing of the country's biggest religious cult, Soka Gakkai. Without this support, estimated to be worth at least nine million votes, the LDP is sure to lose power. Some analysts claim that the Koizumi administration is already a Soka Gakkai government.

Although he is a third generation politician, and has been in parliament since 1972, Koizumi had never been considered to be a serious leadership contender before 2001. At the time, his promotion to the party's top job was seen as an act of desperation. It had become apparent that the party would lose the upcoming Upper House election under the scandal-ridden Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro. Ironically, to restore its political fortune, the party had to resort to a man who has openly declared that he intends to 'destroy the party.'

He may not have destroyed the party, yet, but he has all but destroyed the rival faction. As Koizumi came from the faction created by his mentor and former Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo, who had been beaten many times by another former Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei and his faction, it is hardly surprising that he seems intent on taking revenge on his old mentor's behalf.

Since coming to power with the promise of administrative reform, he has privatised the Public Highway Corporation, the old Tanaka faction's domain of influence. And now he has his sights set on Japan Post, another traditionally Tanaka faction domain.

It should be noted here that Japan Post is not just a public, postal-service provider with 24 000 post offices around the country, it is also a national bank and insurance provider. With total assets of 350 trillion yen (more than $4 trillion), it is one of the world's biggest banks. The repercussions of the sell-off are far greater than Koizumi and others even hint at. The Japan Post assets, mostly invested in government bonds and loans, have been the core of the country's industrial policies. The privatisation of Japan Post might spell the end of this. Koizumi may be remembered as the man who destroyed Japan Inc, Japan's brand of state capitalism.

Factional revenge on Koizumi's part is one explanation for his enthusiasm for privatising Japan Post, but perhaps another more important reason is pressure from the US administration. In 1993, Japan and the US agreed that there were structural impediments in Japan which needed to be reformed, and that the impediments would be listed in an annual report issued by the US under the name of the US-Japan Regulatory Reform and Competition Policy.

While they have no intention of privatising their own postal service, the US administration has targeted Japan Post since 1994. When questioned by parliament, Koizumi has denied this, but the US embassy in Tokyo exhibits the report on its website. US insurance giants and banks have been lobbying for a 'level playing field' for a long time. Japanese leaders have caved in to Washington's demands before, but never so blatantly.

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of all of this is the way that Koizumi called the election. He dissolved the Lower House when a number of dissatisfied members of his own party voted down the Japan Post privatisation bill in the Upper House. A deadlock like this, according to the Constitution, should be solved by a joint sitting of parliament, but Koizumi opted for a Lower House poll even though the result will not alter the make up of the Upper House.

Postal deregulation is controversial to say the least. It has split the conservatives into pro-US economic rationalists and more traditional nationalist conservatives. Just like the republican debate in Australia some years ago, there are many who agree with privatisation in principle, but not with Koizumi's wholesale sell-off. Many fear deregulation would result in a winding back of a universal postal service, as well as the loss of many jobs and assets.

In the upcoming election, any Lower House LDP members who voted against the bill are not just being disendorsed but also hunted. In an unprecedented move, the party is standing its own high profile candidates, dubbed 'assassins', against each and every dissenter. In thirty three out of 300 electorates (the remaining 180 MPs are chosen from the party list in proportional representation), renegade LDP incumbents are fighting against these officially endorsed candidates or assassins.

The majority of the mass media is not predicting that the opposition leader Okada Katsuya will win, but a Koizumi victory is by no means a foregone conclusion. The media is heavily Tokyo-based and does not necessary reflect the mood swing in country areas, which are traditionally the LDP's stronghold. People in the country resent the cities, especially Tokyo. They see their essential services being cut in the decades since deregulation. The benefits of these cuts are only reaped by Tokyo and other cities. The postal deregulation package is not a popular one in the countryside.

On top of this, many LDP branches in the countryside, especially in those thirty three electorates with renegade incumbents, are tired of the heavy-handed treatment of their local members by the Prime Minister. Some branches openly refuse to work with the endorsed candidates and are sticking with their own members. The revolt in the countryside may make Koizumi a victim of his own arrogance.

If he wins, Koizumi will continue his reform agenda well beyond Japan Post. As happened in New Zealand in the late 1980s, postal deregulation in Japan will be the beginning of a large-scale, public asset sell-off.

As if all this were not enough, it seems that heaven also wants to take part in the drama a category five typhoon, Nabi, is slowly moving through the Japanese islands this week and 2005's 9/11 may be remembered by the Japanese as another day of brutal destruction.

(New Matilda, Wednesday 7 September 2005)

Koizumi's Landslide

On election night in Japan (11 September 2005), as the results trickled in from thousands of kilometres away, I was trying to fathom why the Japanese electorate had voted the way it did. The incumbent Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won 296 seats and its coalition with the Komei Party now occupies more than two thirds of the 480 seat Lower House of the Japanese Parliament, or Diet.

The voter turnout was one of Japan's highest ever, certainly under the current electoral system 67.5 per cent of the electorate took part, no mean feat given the voluntary voting system.

Some say the victory was due to Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro's shrewd strategy of turning an election focused entirely on the privatisation of the Japan Post into a referendum on his version of privatisation. Just a simple yes or no. Nothing else was really an issue in the media. Everything else the pension crisis, the mounting fiscal deficit, Japan's military commitment in Iraq, constitutional amendments was a non-issue. The fact that he declared that he would stand down within twelve months of this election - when his term as President of the Party expires - did not bother the electorate either.

Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro

Maybe it was the electoral system that does not allow for the distribution of preferences, which was responsible for the lopsided result. Post-election research by the Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan's national dailies, clearly shows this distortion. The LDP won 219 seats in 300 electorates, more than 70 per cent, even though it received only 47.8 per cent of the vote. The main opposition, the Democrats, won only 52 seats, less than a quarter, although the party received 36.4 per cent of the votes. Nowhere highlighted this discrepancy more strikingly than in Tokyo, where the LDP won 23 of 25 seats, with only about 50 per cent of the votes.

Others say the electorate was mesmerised by Koizumi's dramatic and exciting 'theatre', in which anti-reformist LDP 'rebels' were hunted down by high-profile, young and aspiring LDP candidates nicknamed 'assassins'. In acknowledgment of the role played by these loyal candidates, Koizumi has rewarded them with promotion and cabinet posts.

How such stunts were able to distract attention from the mounting deficit is hard to understand. The combined public deficit of national and regional governments now stands at nearly 1000 trillion yen (A$12 trillion) or more than eight million yen (A$100,000) per capita of the population. And this total deficit is increasing by 3.9 billion yen (about A$500 million) every hour.

Despite his promise to cut down the deficit, Koizumi, in fact has added 170 trillion yen to it, since he came in to power in 2001.

Perhaps, thanks to an injection of public money, Japan's economy is in better shape, at least on paper, but the real picture does not look that rosy. Gloomy signs are everywhere. During Koizumi's reign nearly 70,000 small to medium business have gone bankrupt. The unemployment rate has come down from the historic high of 5.5 per cent in October 2002, but it is still hovering around 4 per cent.
Unemployment as well as under-employment is particularly serious among the young, with the 'Freeters' (Japlish/Engrish for job-hopping part-timers) and 'Neets' (Not in Education, Employment or Training) estimated to be around fifteen million, out of a population of 127 million. The number of people taking their lives is increasing remorselessly and has now reached more than 30,000 a year of which 40 per cent are men of working age.

The mass media was largely to blame for not taking up these issues, repeatedly preaching the mantra of deregulation and labelling anyone opposing Koizumi as anti-reform traitors. The media helped to create the illusion that all problems would be solved by privatisation.

Their almost complete silence on Amaki Naoto epitomised this. Amaki, the former Japanese Ambassador to Lebanon, who was sacked over his criticism of the Iraq war, stood against Koizumi in his electorate centred on the port city of Yokosuka, near Tokyo. The electorate has been held by the Koizumis for three generations and Amaki had no real chance of upsetting the current incumbent. His sole aim was to highlight Japan's involvement in the US war in Iraq, but unlike Andrew Wilkie, who stood against John Howard in Bennelong at the last Australian election, Amaki hardly got any coverage in the media. Although he did not set foot once in his own electorate during the campaign, Koizumi retained his family seat with a record number of votes.

Maybe it was the strong leadership factor, which, it is said, is called for in a time of crisis. Everyone simply loves a winner, hates to back the wrong horse. Maybe the electorate was 'mind controlled,' as one of the renegade LDP MPs, Kamei Shizuka concluded on election night. Kamei, a former cabinet minister and party heavyweight, who was instrumental in installing Koizumi in the top job in the first place, was forced to set up a new party and fight off Horie Takafumi, a high profile IT millionaire, parachuted down by Koizumi.

'Everyone had cerebral concussion,' summed up another former LDP heavyweight Kato Koichi. Otherwise, why would they vote for a party whose secretary general had promised to raise taxes, not cut them?

What Koizumi will do beyond the passage of the privatisation bill through the Diet is anyone's guess. As he once proclaimed, he 'likes politicking rather than policies.' More uncertain is the question of who will succeed him and what he/she will do with Koizumi's huge majority should he relinquish his post as he says he will in September next year?

There are hardly any opponents left inside or outside the party. The once mighty faction created by Tanaka Kakuei is a shadow of its former self returning just 36 MPs from this election while the old Fukuda faction, to which Koizumi belongs, has won the most with 56.

There are more non-aligned MPs than ever, many of whom are Koizumi sympathisers and supporters. The Upper House MPs whose voting down of the privatisation bill caused the Prime Minister to call the general election, will now have to vote for it or be kicked out. The power of the Upper House overall will wane, and it may become a mere rubber stamp for the Lower House.

The opposition Democrats have lost more than 60 seats, or a third of their previous share in the Lower House, including those of many leaders. Okada Katsuya's replacement leader will be chosen next week, but whoever gets the job will have an enormous struggle ahead to regain lost ground. The party is only seven years old and is made up of a fragile coalition of former Socialists, LDP and rightwing Democratic Socialists and may disintegrate.

During the coming political reorganisation, Tanaka Yasuo, the popular novelist cum governor of Shinshu (Nagano) prefecture, and also the leader of the newly formed New Party Nippon, may play a bigger role.

The 9/11 election result is likely to open the door to constitutional 'reform'; that is, the scrapping of Article 9, which renounces war, fulfilling a long time ambition of the LDP. It may alienate the Komei party, their junior coalition partner, but their support is not as vital as before.

Koizumi will, in response to a call from George W Bush, extend the deployment of Japanese troops in Iraq at the end of the year, another step towards turning its 'self defence' forces into a fully fledged army. This would certainly discourage Japan's neighbours from approving a seat for Japan in an expanded UN Security Council. Japan's relationship with its Asian neighbours is already strained due to Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, a shrine which does not only commemorate Japan's war dead but also glorifies imperial wars of the past.

(New Matilda, Wednesday 14 September 2005)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tastes Like Chicken

'Warning! Warning!' shrieked the captain of the Nisshin Maru - sounding like the robot from the 1960s TV series Lost in Space - as he collided with the Greenpeace boat in the Antarctic Ocean earlier this month.

As we watched the images on TV, I confessed to my partner that I used to eat whale meat often. She didn't seem as surprised as when I told her about eating horse.

Thanks to Scratch

I grew up eating whale meat. I remember eating a lot of it in the lunches prepared at my primary school. It was rather stringy, tough stuff. I am not sure if I liked it, but we were told that it was a part of our compulsory education to eat up.
When I got to high school, lunch was no longer supplied and my mother prepared it for me. She usually packed my lunch box with rice, pickles, and fish or grilled whale meat. I don't know if it was the quality of the meat she got or her cooking method but her grilled whale with soy sauce, mirin and ginger was delicious. She sometimes deep-fried the marinated meat for dinner as well.

Since we lived miles away from the nearest ocean (I did not see the sea until I was 12), we never had sashimi whale, but we had plenty of the tinned stuff. In my late teens in the 1970s, when going out camping in the bush with my mates, we would take a bag of rice and tins of whale meat. The tinned stuff was okay, not marvelous, but handy. It was like tinned tuna today - not as good as the fresh stuff, but cheap and ubiquitous.

Whale meat was certainly plentiful in those days. In the mid-1960s well over 200,000 tons of whale meat was consumed every year in Japan. The country's three main operators had a fleet of 86 catching boats, 14 freezer equipped freighters,?seven fuel tankers and 36 cargo boats between them - with a combined crew of 12,000. The 'economic miracle' boom of the 1960s and early 1970s was, you might say, fuelled by whales.

Only a couple of decades before, Japan had been devastated and starving. In 1946, the defeated nation looked on with restored pride and anticipation as its whaling fleet departed to the Antarctic. The catch they brought back filled many hungry stomachs. Nearly half of Japan's meat intake in the latter half of the 1940s and the 1950s was whale.

In those days, Shimonoseki - a town with a population of 250,000 at the western tip of Honshu, Japan's main island - was one of many thriving whaling ports. The city's main thoroughfare is still named after Taiyo Fishery (now known as Maruha), one of the three main whaling operators. The locals used to be able to look up at a huge neon sign of a whale that glowed on the roof of Taiyo's headquarters. Business must have been booming, as the company even owned its own professional baseball team, aptly called the Taiyo Whales. (The team was later relocated, as was the parent company, but it remained the Whales until 1992, when it became the more cutesy Baystars.)

Thanks to Bill Leak at The Australian

Shimonoseki may not be as thriving now, but it is the only working whaling port left in the country - the home of Japan's Antarctic 'research' whaling fleet. Naturally, it hosted the International Whaling Commission (IWC) conference in 2002.

Despite the claims made by the pro-whaling lobby and the Japanese Government's Fishery Agency, Japan's whaling tradition does not go back far. Of course, coastal whaling may go back some centuries in parts of the country, but modern whaling was introduced only a century or so ago, and the Japanese first arrived in Antarctic waters in 1934.

Whale did not last long as the national tucker because the efficient, modern method of industrial mass-culling almost wiped the animals out. All the other whaling nations withdrew from Antarctic waters as whaling was no longer commercially viable. Japan's three whaling companies, Maruha, Nissui and Kyokuyo, were also forced to shed their whaling operations and these were merged into one company, Kyodo Hogei, in 1976.

In 1987, Japan finally abandoned commercial whaling and the company became Kyodo Senpaku, which owns and operates the country's only whaling fleet and carries out so-called 'research' whaling under contract from a semi-government body called the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), also set up in 1987.

Under this 'research' scheme, the Government's Fishery Agency sanctions the research and pays out about one billion yen a year in subsidies. The ICR does the research, while Kyodo Senpaku does the actual whaling. Apart from the taxpayer contribution through the Fishery Agency, this 'research' operation is mostly financed by the sale of whale meat. 'By-products of research' as they are called, are sold in ordinary sushi bars, specialist restaurants, or at local supermarkets, in slabs, slices and thin rashers like bacon. It is estimated that in 2000, ICR sold some 2500 tons of 'by products' and raised four billion yen.

ICR also releases some 300 tonnes of whale meat cheaply to local government agencies to promote the culture of whale eating, but some of this meat ends up as a source of corruption. In 2004, questions were asked in national parliament about the sale of 17 tonnes of whale meat to Ashibemachi near Nagaski in the southern island of Kyushu, the previous year. The mayor of this town of 9000 people requested 35 tonnes and got 17 tonnes - more than 5 per cent of the annual amount set aside for promotion. He got the whale meat, but the payment of 53 million yen was made by a local businessman, not by the town. Had this not been exposed, the businessman would have made more than 110 million yen in profit, some of which would have been donated to a local MP whose job was to make sure it all ran smoothly.

Despite the government's attempt to expand whale-eating culture, there seems to be a glut. According to the 1999 market research conducted by the English firm MORIA (Market & Opinion Research International) at the request of Greenpeace and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, only 1 per cent of respondents ate whale meat and they only ate it once a month or less. This is not the 'national staple' the whaling lobby wishes to portray.

Japan's consumers may be also well aware that big marine creatures like whales tend to accumulate more pollutants like PCB, mercury and DDT from the environment. (link: safetyfirst website).

I found some of the responses in Japan to the collision between the Greenpeace boat and the Japanese whaling ship earlier this month very alarming. Greenpeace was branded the agent of 'Western' imperialism, environmental terrorists and pirates. Although I am not necessarily a supporter of Greenpeace, the denunciation of them as foreign by the same people who munch happily on McDonald's and KFC makes me cringe. Japan has 3700 McDonald's outlets - more than any other country outside the US - yet they first arrived in 1971.

These confused wannabe nationalists forget that eating meat was not really a tradition in Japan until some 150 years ago, and that the kind of whaling that is carried out now is not the traditional coastal style, but a modern method developed in Norway.

Real nationalists are those who put the national interest, and the health of the population, first. These wannabes should realise that their arrogant and childish behaviour over whaling, including rampant vote buying at the IWC, only damages Japan's status in the international community.

The world's second richest nation should not be permitted to behave like a starving one. If Japan wants to earn a voice in the international community and a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, it should behave in a more mature manner.

(New Matilda, Wednesday 18 January 2006)

Nuclear Debate: Glowing Reports

When you hear the word nuclear, you tend to think of advanced, shiny new technology. You may think of boffins in white coats twiddling knobs and gazing at computers.

In my radio active days, I stumbled into a number of nuclear coalfaces. From the Ranger uranium mine in northern Australia to a forgotten high-level waste storage site in Siilamae, Estonia, and in between these to many reactor sites in Japan. I was an accidental nuclear tourist. When I was not taking souvenir shots of these places, I spoke to the workers and locals, scientists, government ministers, officials and experts from the utilities — the lot.

What I found was that we have made some utterly stupid decisions, just to keep the air-cons running. We know future generations will point their fingers at us, but hey, we know we won’t be there to be held to account. Unless there are more Harrisburgs and Chernobyls of course.
Take the example of Fukui Prefecture, on the west coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu. It is close to Kyoto, the old imperial capital and it’s had a rich and long history as a provider of seafood as well as being a transport hub — the gateway to the Asian mainland.

But modern Fukui is known by a different name: ‘the nuclear main road.’ The narrow 80 km coastal strip hosts 15 nuclear reactors, perhaps the world’s heaviest concentration. It was here that Japan’s commercial nuclear program began. The electricity from the Tsuruga #1 power station ceremoniously lit a light bulb at the opening of the Expo in nearby Osaka in 1970. Not too far from the ageing Tsuruga #1 stands Monju, the nation’s first fast breeder reactor, which was meant to produce more fuel than it consumed, but was shut down in 1995 when it spewed out its coolant, natrium, causing a fire.

The beginning of nuclear power in Japan was rather low key and modest. Tsuruga #1 only produces 357 megawatts (MW) of power. (Eraring in NSW, Australia’s largest coal-fired power station, has a 2640 MW capacity.) Now, nearly four decades later, with 55 commercial reactors, Japan produces a total of 49,500 MW of nuclear power.

Nuclear power in Japan was first sold as the dream energy source, promoted with generous pork barrelling. Local public officials were routinely wined and dined, bribed and their opponents silenced. As a result of its acceptance of nuclear power plants, Fukui has more impressive public buildings, sports grounds, public halls and so on. For a while, the locals lived like addicts. When the money from one reactor dried up, they just accepted another one. What difference does it make to have one or three reactors? Until there was no more room.

They must be used to be living with danger by now. Like radiation itself, danger cannot be seen, but it is in the air. To live with reactors is to live with the constant fear of the next big accident. It could happen any time.

Thanks to Fiona Katauskas

Accidents do occur often. The most recent fatal accident occurred a couple of years ago. The Mihama #3 reactor emitted steam in June 2004 which killed five workers and severely injured six. There was no radiation leak, the utility claimed, but it could not guarantee next time.

Next time may be caused by a terror attack or a natural disaster such as an earthquake. Fukui’s only a stone’s throw away from North Korea. A nuclear attack on Japan can be easily achieved by blowing up one of the reactors in Fukui, even without a nuclear bomb.

The northern part of the Prefecture was shaken in 1948 by a magnitude 7.1 quake which claimed more than 3000 people. Should an earthquake like this (equivalent to a 50 megaton explosion) occur under one of the reactors, it would be doubly devastating.

The locals have been spared so far, but workers have constantly been exposed to radiation. They just don’t show up on the stats, unless there are fatal accidents. Out of 70,000 workers at the reactor sites, less than 10 per cent are directly employed by the utilities. The rest are contractors and subcontractors, a disposable workforce.

The homeless, the destitute, day-labourers and teenage daredevil delinquents are routinely recruited for the task of cleaning up the bellies of the nuclear beasts. They are called ‘nuclear gypsies’ and like real gypsies, they move from one plant to another, their dosages of radiation unmeasured. Some estimate more than 1000 of these subcontracted gypsies have died from cancer and other radiation related illness since Tsuruga #1 came online. Thousands more are suffering right now.

Even a so-called ‘new generation’ reactor needs to be cleaned and maintained by humans. What right do we have to send fellow humans into such deadly places, so that we can maintain a convenient lifestyle?

The by-product of our nuclear lifestyle is radioactive waste. I stumbled onto a pile of such waste in Estonia in 1994. I was on assignment for Japanese television checking out the remains of the once mighty Soviet Union. It was outside the town of Sillamäe, near the border with Russia. We literally walked into a glowing tailings pond, only metres away from the Baltic Sea. No guard, no sign, no fence. Anybody from anywhere could have ended up there, just as we did.

The Sillamäe waste dump was visited by the National Geographic magazine later the same year. One picture in the August 1994 issue showed a guy in full body protective gear holding a Geiger counter, which was showing the over-the-top radiation there. They knew where they were going — we did not. We just arrived without any protective gear. A large amount of high-level waste was sitting there, abandoned. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, no one seemed to know what to do with it.

Any reactor, even a so-called ‘new generation’ one, produces deadly waste which has to go somewhere and be stored for a very, very long time. How we think we can guarantee it will be looked after safely is beyond me. Australia has existed as a Western civilisation for only a couple of hundred years. This deadly waste will remain deadly for much longer than that, longer than the longest ‘civilisation’ we have ever had so far. It is fine for Jim Lovelock, the father of the Gaia concept and a nuclear proponent, to say that he is happy to have high level waste in his backyard, but he will not be around for tens of thousands of years, will he?

Irresponsibility is what a nuclear powered society is all about. It can only survive on the sacrifice of the host community, which has to live with constant fear, the physical sacrifice of workers, and by dumping the deadly waste on future generations.

How dare we?

(New Matilda #117, Wednesday 22 November 2006 )

Thursday, November 23, 2006

銀輪議員/on your bike.


自転車「党」の議員(全員,民主党、ですね)で、ミネソタ選出のジム・オバースター(Jim Oberstar)は、90年代から自転車道の設置など,様々な自転車関連プロジェクトに連邦予算を獲得した実績のある人ですが,議会の交通委員会の委員長に就任する見込みです。昨年は自転車や徒歩通学を奨励する「Safe Routes to Schools」プログラムの実施に大きな役割を果たしました。

かつて自転車整備士をしていたこともあるオレゴン選出のピーター・ディファジオ(Peter DeFazio)議員は,道路や橋などを担当する議会の陸上交通小委員会の委員長に就任する予定です。やはりオレゴン選出でキャピタルヒルいちの銀輪族と言われるアール・ブルーナウアー(Earl Blumenauer)は交通委員会,もしくは歳入委員会の要職に就任の予定。



Wednesday, November 22, 2006

山頂にて/world oil production in November.





ハッピー・オイル・ピーク・デイ!?/Happy Oil Peak Day!?

ピーク以後の生き方/what solution?

余剰能力はもうどこにもない/no spare capacity



25基の原発/new clear haze.

参照:核サイクルへ加速するオーストラリア/Welcome to the new clear daze!









Tuesday, November 21, 2006

山が燃える/bushfires rage.








Monday, November 20, 2006

世界の笑い者/world's laughing stock.








(11月17日付けシドニーモーニングヘラルド紙のひとこま漫画。作者:Alan Moir)






Thursday, November 16, 2006

京都でオイルピーク講演会のお知らせ/peak oil in Kyoto.

日時:平成18年11月27日(月) 14:00~18:30
場所:京都大学百周年時計台記念館 百周年記念ホール

社団法人 物理探査学会では京都大学で開催する第8回SEGJ国際シン ポジウムの機会を利用して,広く一般の皆様を対象に一般公開講演会を 開催します.
この講演会では,2年ほど前から高価格になった石油について,なぜ価格 が高騰したのか,またこの石油の将来は我々の生活とどのように関係して くるのかをお考え戴くため,海外および国内からお呼びした講師の方々に 「石油ピークについて」と「石油ピークへの対応策」に話題をしぼったご講演 をお願いしました.この機会に、是非石油ピークについてのご理解を戴き,我々の生活を支えるエネルギーについてお考え頂きたく思います.
ウプサラ大学教授 シェル・アレクレット
京都大学教授 芦田 讓

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

中国とピーク/China awakes?











Monday, November 13, 2006

さよならオーストラリア/ship a hoy.












Saturday, November 11, 2006

アメリカ初の炭素税導入/just do it.


具体的には電気の使用量に応じ,料金に上乗せという形でそうで徴収されるようで平均家庭ではひと月,$1.33、企業は$3.80 の「値上がり」になる見込み。年間に百万ドルとが見込まれる税収は、家庭や企業でエネルギー効率的な使い方を広める目的に使われるとのこと。


ボルダーはすでに「京都議定書」を独自に「採択」し,二酸化炭素の減少(90年レベルの7%減)に取り組んできました。市で排出されする二酸化炭素の半分が発電によるものであることから,今回の「炭素税」導入へとつながった、USA Today紙はそう説明しています。


Friday, November 10, 2006

マードックの豹変/at his majesty's request.























Tuesday, November 07, 2006

人生の達人に生き方を学ぶ/an old sage.















Saturday, November 04, 2006


署名の締め切りまであまり時間がありませんが,バイオ燃料議論への参考資料ということも含め,Global Forest Coalitionのシモーン・ロヴェラからの要請(エネルギーブレティン経由)を訳出しておきます。賛同する方は下記へメールをお送りください。

この手紙への署名を集め始めたところですが,賛同される団体,個人は11月4日までに(simonelovera@ yahoo.com)へその旨連絡ください。この件について、意見も歓迎します。










Signed (as of 30/10):

Global Forest Coalition
Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition
Institute of Cultural Affairs, Ghana
Red America Latina Libre de Transgenicos
Elsa Nivia
RAP-AL Colombia
Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo, Ecuador
Fundacion para la Promocion del Conocimiento Indigena, Panama
FASE-ES, Brazil
Ecological Society of the Philippines
Forest Peoples Programme, UK
Asociacion Indigena Ambiental, Panama
Worldforests, Scotland
Bhartiya Kissan Union
Robin Wood, Germany
Sarhad Conservation Network, Pakistan
Centre Internationnal d'Etudes Forestières et Environnementales, Cameroon
Onehemisphere, Sweden
WALHI/Friends of the Earth-Indonesia
KEPS/HKCA, Pakistan
Munlochy Vigil, Scotland
Grupo de Reflexion Rural, Argentina
Timberwatch, South Africa
Fundacion Ambiente Total del Chaco, Argentina
Corporate Europe Observatory
Costa Carrera, Chile
Tom Lines
Rob Law

Please find below an alert to the Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change on the risks of biofuels. The letter calls upon governments to suspend all subsidies and other forms of inequitabe support for the import and export of biofuels, in the light of the negative environmental and social impacts caused by the large-scale export-oriented production of biofuels. While recognizing that some forms of locally and nationally oriented biofuel production could be sustainable, the letter also calls for strict regulations and effective enforcement measures, to ensure biofuel production at the national level does not impact negatively upon Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and their livelihoods.
We just started gathering signatures to this letter. Please let us know before Saturday 4 November (at simonelovera@ yahoo.com) if your organization is willing to support it. Other feedback is welcome too.

Simone Lovera
Campaigns coordinator
Global Forest Coalition

Bruselas 2273
Asunción, Paraguay
tel/fax: 595-21-663654
Email: simonelovera@ yahoo.com

The undersigned NGOs, Indigenous Peoples Organizations, farmer’s movements and individuals call upon the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change to immediately suspend all subsidies and other forms of inequitable support for the import and export of biofuels.

We recognize that the local production and consumption of biomass plays an important role in sustainable livelihood strategies of, in particular, rural women in developing countries. Certain small-scale and strictly regulated sustainable forms of biofuel production can be beneficial at the national level. However, the modalities of biomass consumption and production must be carefully analyzed in conjunction with communities, to introduce adaptive measures that will maintain and enhance the patterns of sustainability, while avoiding negative impacts on health and the adverse effects inherent to increases in demand or changes in socioeconomic settings. Solar energy often offers a sustainable alternative to traditional biomass.

Meanwhile, international trade in biofuels is already causing a negative impact on food sovereignty, rural livelihoods, forests and other ecosystems, and these negative impacts are expected to accumulate rapidly. Large-scale, export-oriented production of biofuel requires large-scale monocultures of trees, sugarcane, corn, oilpalm, soy and other crops. These monocultures already form the number one cause of rural depopulation and deforestation worldwide. The rapidly increasing demand for these crops as a source of biofuel will lead to:
• increased land competition leading to further land concentration, the marginalization of small-scale agriculture and the widespread conversion of forests and other ecosystems;
• arable land that is currently used to grow food being used to grow fuel, leading to staggering food prices and causing hunger, malnutrition and impoverishment amongst the poorest sectors of society;
• rural unemployment and depopulation;
• the destruction of the traditions, cultures, languages and spiritual values of Indigenous Peoples and rural communities;
• the extensive use of agro-chemicals, which deteriorate human health and ecosystems
• the destruction of watersheds and the pollution of rivers, lakes and streams;
• droughts and other local and regional climatic extremes; and

• the extensive use of genetically modified organisms leading to unprecedented risks.
These effects will have particularly a negative impact on women and Indigenous Peoples, who are economically marginalized and more dependent on natural resources like water and forests.

Biofuels are a disaster in the making. Existing legally binding standards, regulations and enforcement mechanisms in the (potential) production countries are absolutely insufficient to prevent the above-mentioned impacts. International demand for biofuels is already surpassing supply in key countries like Malaysia and Brazil, giving an important push to the expansion of destructive crops like oil palm and sugar cane. Initiatives to produce these monocultures “responsibly” are rejected by many NGOs and social movements in the production countries themselves, who have emphasized that the above-mentioned negative social and environmental impacts are inherent to the large-scale production of monocultures.

There is nothing green or sustainable to imported or exported biofuel. Instead of destroying the lands and livelihoods of local communities and Indigenous Peoples in the South through yet another form of colonialism, we call upon Northern countries to recognize their responsibility for destroying the planet’s climate system, to reduce their energy consumption to sustainable levels, to pay the climate debt they have created by failing to do so until now and to dramatically increase investment in solar energy and sustainable wind energy.
We also call upon all governments to develop and effectively enforce environmental and social standards and regulations that ensure that national biofuel production industries do not destroy the livelihoods and ecosystems of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Corporations should be held strictly liable for any social and environmental damage that has occurred and they should be effectively prosecuted if they do not uphold environmental and labor laws.

Signed (as of 30/10):

Global Forest Coalition
Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition
Institute of Cultural Affairs, Ghana
Red America Latina Libre de Transgenicos
Elsa Nivia
RAP-AL Colombia
Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo, Ecuador
Fundacion para la Promocion del Conocimiento Indigena, Panama
FASE-ES, Brazil
Ecological Society of the Philippines
Forest Peoples Programme, UK
Asociacion Indigena Ambiental, Panama
Worldforests, Scotland
Bhartiya Kissan Union
Robin Wood, Germany
Sarhad Conservation Network, Pakistan
Centre Internationnal d'Etudes Forestières et Environnementales, Cameroon
Onehemisphere, Sweden
WALHI/Friends of the Earth-Indonesia
KEPS/HKCA, Pakistan
Munlochy Vigil, Scotland
Grupo de Reflexion Rural, Argentina
Timberwatch, South Africa
Fundacion Ambiente Total del Chaco, Argentina
Corporate Europe Observatory
Costa Carrera, Chile
Tom Lines
Rob Law