People | 20 QUESTIONS

Environmentalist Kenro Taura talks about why he thinks Japan is a laggard in the fight against climate change

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Contributing Writer

Name: Kenro Taura
Age: 62
Nationality: Japanese
Occupation: Executive director of Kiko Network
Likes: Justice and equal rights, positive thinking
Dislikes: Selfishness, authority


1. What does Kiko Network do? Kiko Network is an environmental non-governmental organization that works to tackle climate change by bringing forth major changes in society.

2. How did you become involved in the fight against climate change? When I studied sociology in university in the U.S., I realized environment protection is the most important issue. I also joined a student organization called Non-Violent Alternatives and learned about nonviolent philosophy. Since then, my core policy has been environment protection and justice.

3. Is Japan a leader or a laggard in fighting the climate crisis? Japan is definitely the laggard because of weak regulations on coal-fired electricity and not promoting renewable energy. The target of greenhouse gas reduction is not sufficient and carbon pricing policies have not been implemented.

4. Why doesn’t Japan have a national policy to charge for plastic bags in shops? Environmental regulations in Japan are usually slack in order to protect poorly performing companies because lawmakers are influenced by the industrial lobby. The Japanese government does not want to force responsibility on producers and shops to reduce plastic bags.

5. Was Japan’s nuclear power project a mistake? Yes. It has not contributed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and has wasted huge amounts of money. In addition, there is no safe way to store nuclear waste.

6. Why do you think we keep on destroying our habitat? The desire of pursuing quantity instead of quality.

7. You lived in Sweden for a time. What did you do there? I taught Japanese at the University of Gothenburg. I had a great time being exposed to a society where human rights and solidarity are esteemed.

8. Why do you think people question climate science? The minority doubt climate science in Japan. However, voices of skeptics are expanded on social media, which seems to be an influence.

9. Are you hopeful or pessimistic about the future? I am hopeful about the future, because renewable energy is dependable. But there will be more than a few victims, which makes me sad.

10. What everyday things do you do that we can all do to help fight climate change? Boycott unhealthy food, products sold in vending machines, and all the products advertised on TV commercials.

11. Should we eat less meat? Yes, I believe consuming less meat contributes to reducing carbon dioxide emissions as well as keep one’s health better.

12. Why don’t we see mass demonstrations on climate change in Tokyo or Kyoto, like those in London? People in Japan do not believe such demonstrations affect any change of policy or social structure. A lack of political education is one of the reasons for that.

13. Why does Japan dump so much waste on developing countries? The total amount of materials imported exceeds that of exports. Therefore, Japan has waste that exceeds its treatment capacity. Subsequently, so-called recyclable material is dumped on developing countries.

14. Why do you think student turnout to climate protests was low in Japan this year? Students are very busy nowadays attending classes, part-time work, internships and looking for employment. Japanese education still emphasizes being obedient and follow the existing order.

15. Japan seems intent on building new coal plants — why? Because the Japanese government wants to maintain a centralized energy system such as is supplied by nuclear and coal power plants, companies cannot stop building them.

16. Should we worry about seafood given how much plastic ends up in the sea? We should worry about plastic. It will be a bad cycle for it to come from fish to humans — bad for the total ecosystem. So much plastic is symbolic of a mass producing, over-consuming and wasteful society.

17. What are the biggest obstacles to combating the climate crisis? In Japan, the weakness of civil society is the biggest obstacle. The number of members of environmental NGOs is far less than that in Germany or other European countries.

18. Have you forsworn air transport? I have a rule to avoid using air transport within a 1,000-kilometer trip.

19. What does real climate crisis leadership look like? I think everyone should be a leader because real democracy and public involvement are needed to construct a decarbonized economy and society.

20. Best ways to relax that don’t impact the environment? Smile and sleep well, and enjoy walking in the forest or a green environment.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5