Saturday, May 14, 2005


Though Japan is rooted strongly in its past, it has never been a tradition here to think environmentally about the future into which that past must advance. Thus in many ways Japan has become the canary in the coal mine for the developed world, as witness Minamata disease.

Despite the fact that Japanese city folks now routinely regiment their trash, little is being done to lessen the volume of trash produced, or to change public attitude toward how trash is disposed of: it's all being incinerated, as limited landfill areas run out. As a result, Japan has the most incinerators in the world (as of 1997 there were more than 1,850 municipal waste incinerators in Japan, compared with about 150 in the United States and 50 in Germany. Japan also has more than 3,300 privately owned (and poorly regulated) industrial incinerators – Source). Thanks to this approach, Japan is also the most dioxinated country in the world. To put some radioactive frosting on that celebratory cake, the country also now has 50 nuclear power plants (in one of the most tectonically volatile regions on the planet), is right up there in number of nuclear power accidents, and is reviving its plans for a plutonium processing plant, in a region that is already a nuclear hotbed.

But public attitude begins locally, where in the present instance the yellow and red "hantai" (‘against’) signs now showing up on houses and sheds and fences and poles around this neighborhood are being put up by locals who, for whatever reason (more power, more money, more jobs, it’s progress...) oppose dissolving the current town council for a new one that might cancel current plans to build just what Japan needs: another incinerator. But this time it's not just any old incinerator, for not just any old incineration, and not just in any old location: an essentially experimental gas plasma incinerator, run 24/365 (at tremendous expense), to burn industrial waste - than which the only waste more toxic is nuclear - right on the shores of Lake Biwa, the liquid heart of Japan.

You'd think something would have been learned by now, but general licensed depredation of all that is natural and genuine - for the particular advantage of a select few - seems to be the way of history, at least in the short term, though no short term has ever been as potentially deadly as the one we're now living through.

But as Mahatma Ghandi said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

GAIA (Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance)

Japan: Officials Blamed for Promoting Toxic Incinerators in Thailand

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