Go it alone on the environment

Otaru, Hokkaido

Regarding Paul Gaysford Jan. 3 letter, “Realizing the national condition“: Amen! Future generations of Japanese will wonder why so little was done to prevent the nuclear plant catastrophe at Fukushima, among other things.

Why did economic growth take precedence over everything else in the 1960s? Why did the birthrate decline so precipitously after the 1970s? Why was environmental pollution ignored for so long until the very air we breathe became dangerously toxic in places like Tokyo and the Kanto Plain?

If it’s a Buddhist truth that everything in the universe is connected, why haven’t the one-eyed technocrats in lab coats been more cognizant of the threats their science poses to the health and well-being of everyone living on the Japanese archipelago?

It is telling that many Fukushima residents have taken refuge in Okinawa. The more affluent Japanese fled overseas just after the 3/11 nuclear meltdown, with thousands of “fly-jin” right behind them. But there will simply be no place to run if major techno-science disasters continue to occur.

The Japanese should forget about the Western industrial model and embrace the more traditional “green” model of their ancestors. The Edo Period generations knew the value of clean water and clean air. They knew how to be frugal. And they loved the earth.

America must share much of the blame for Japan’s plight. Obtuse politicians in Washington, with close ties to Big Oil and Big Auto, decided decades ago that global warming was not a real threat, allowing U.S. consumers and industry to keep pumping out most of the world’s greenhouse gases. And how stupid were Americans for choosing George W. Bush for president while rejecting Al Gore.

I truly wish Japan would stop looking to America as its “big brother” and go it alone! Or seek better counsel from European nations that have embraced much greener energy policies for a more sustainable future.

Japan will not have a future if it does not begin to rethink its national goals and discard the deeply flawed mentality of economic growth for its own sake. Family should come first, followed by quality of life, educational philosophy, care of the elderly, and environmental, housing and medical concerns.

Unfortunately Japan’s leaders are likely to continue to see Asian economic rivalry as the impetus that drives them toward still greater industrial productivity and growth, while they ignore pressing social problems such as the rapidly aging society, declining birthrate and increasingly toxic environment.

When I first arrived in Japan in 1984 — having been a motorcyclist for many years — I was in awe of this country’s accomplishments. I still am impressed, but who is taking responsibility to ensure that economic growth continues in a sustainable fashion? I feel like I’m watching a train wreck in slow motion and the engineer driving the train doesn’t have a clue.

robert mckinney
otaru, hokkaido

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.