Relieving environmental malaise

Regarding naturalist C.W. Nicol’s Oct. 6 article, “Canadian sojourn helps to shake off Japan malaise“: Wouldn’t it be grand if Nicol’s son-in-law, Don McCubbing, could travel to Japan and get to work restoring some of those salmon streams that the construction ministry has bulldozed under in the name of progress.

Years ago, before venturing to Japan, I was naive enough to believe that all Japanese loved nature. It’s perhaps the worst myth about modern Japan. This island nation’s bountiful nature, which in the pre-industrial era was a wonderland of green splendor, has been crushed, broken, polluted, bulldozed over and tamed to a degree rarely seen in the West. Hokkaido does have its share of wildlife preserves, such as the Shiretoko National Park, but I sense that most folks in the region pay scant attention to it. Perhaps the wild is looked upon as a nuisance or an opportunity to profit.

I can well understand Nicol’s admitted sense of malaise after the 3/11 disaster and amid the ongoing cleanup fiasco. As for the planned Great Sea Wall of Japan — such folly! And at what cost? All the money that has been and will be pissed away on the nuclear village idiots could be used far more wisely on the construction of far safer alternative energy sources. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks about a “beautiful Japan,” but I don’t think his vision is shared by naturalists like Nicol. Abe belongs to the concrete club.

Having visited Vancouver Island back in the early 1980s, I can attest to Nicol’s description of the abundant wildlife and the beauty of its north Pacific shoreline, flowing rivers and verdant woodlands. British Columbia is still a wilderness paradise, though global warming has taken a terrible toll on its vast evergreen forests in the form of a destructive beetle. As of 2009, over 33 million acres of lodgepole pine had been destroyed by this “tree killer.”

Obviously the Canadian government has taken steps to protect its marine environment and fisheries, making them more sustainable. It isn’t simply about making a profit or exploiting a natural resource. (Then again, British Columbia doesn’t have a population of 126 million people to feed.)

Glad to hear that along the Keogh River “The gulls … eagles and ravens were having a grand old time!” Not sure how such predatory birds would fare in Hokkaido these days. Or if the fish they’d find would be safe to eat. Some very hardy salmon will be making a brief appearance in Otaru later this month, swimming along one of the city’s concrete “streams” near the tourist district downtown.

I fear that if things go from bad to worse in Fukushima, Nicol will be joining his daughter and her partner in British Columbia on a more permanent basis. Nicol should cheer up; after all, he has the 2020 Summer Olympics to look forward to.

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.