Category Archives: Environment

What Is Behind the Cheap Bananas?

“Bitter Truth of Sweet Bananas,” a DVD on the reality of the banana production in the Philippines, was released by Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC). The 78-minutes documentary film about the bananas produced for the Japanese market features the predicaments of the local banana farmers with agrichemicals aerial spraying and unfair contracts with enterprises, for example, and the futures of the initiatives to support the local farmers. PARC calls the public to see the film and “think about the relationships between Japan and the Philippines and also about the food.”

The theme of documentary is the problems on the production site relating to, for example, agricultural chemicals and contracts with large companies, and also the efforts of the local farmers to become sustainable producers and of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to support such initiatives. It touches upon indigenous local peoples’ thoughts, contains interviews with partner organizations that support the expansion of fair trades, and describes the new prospects for the future. The report carefully covers the reality of the banana production site which is out of the sight of Japanese consumers who eat cheap bananas and raises a question how they should think of the agriculture of the world and the future of the food.

Ryota Murakami, a film director, filmed the documentary that is divided into three sections.

From Japan Agri News

Read more on the Pacific Asia Research Center website (J)

CUJ has Started an Environmental Working Group

Much of CUJ’s work takes place in our working groups. They are the way for interested members to push for campaigns on a range of topics. The working groups are important for our office staff as a source of knowledge and inspiration for further action. Now we have started a new working group to focus on environmental issues. What kind of issues? Well, that is a good question.

At the first meeting, among the suggestions we are currently considering are microplastics, the construction of the “linear” maglev train between Nagoya and Tokyo, electromagnetic radiation, agricultural practices, and energy production (especially electricity/nuclear power) and “local production/local consumption” and its related challenges in an increasingly globalized world.

The blackout all over Hokkaido after the earthquake in September highlighted the multiple uncertainties regarding Japan’s energy system. The concentration of electric power to a single large unit has been identified as the culprit. More people are beginning to understand the benefit of “local production/local consumption” which has been a guiding principle for our work at CUJ. On the other hand, the debate has also begun regarding importing electricity from Honshu, or even from foreign countries. We need to counter such proposals by demanding that pollution and waste of energy should be factored into the debate.

At our first meeting, a college student with an interest in agricultural systems participated. We are hoping that the discussion will lead to concrete proposals how we can create “local production/local consumption” in this vital area, and confront the globalization of food. There are many other issues as well, and we invite people to become members and participate in this new working group.

How to Reduce the Use of Plastics?

A world-wide debate about the dangers of plastic pollution has led to the introduction of stricter laws in many countries. Japan seems to lag behind so far, but consumers can start reducing the use of plastics in many ways. Many people already bring their cloth bags to the supermarket when you go shopping. In some shops, you get a 2 Yen reduction on the price, but if everyone was serious about it, and the amount raised to 10 Yen or even more, the effect would be immediate.

In the Sugiura household, we tried to reduce the amount of plastic wrapping for food. It wasn’t an immediate success as not everyone went along with the plan. However, little steps can have remarkable consequences. Consumers Union of Japan is asking readers and members to contribute with their own creative proposals.

Essay: The Bizarre World of Plastics

When plastic materials were first discovered, they were brittle and fragile. Thus, a number of additives and “plasticizers” were introduced to counter the effects of ultraviolet light and make the materials more flexible and useful. Flame retardants were introduced as well. By the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, plastic pollution intensified. Plastic materials must be disposed of, making the garbage problem severe. In Tokyo, the toxic air pollution from the Yume-no-shima incinerators created health problems as increasing amounts of trash were thrown away by consumers.

No thought went into what would happen to plastic materials that were left in the environment. The degradation takes time. Plastic materials basically just turn into smaller plastic fragments. It becomes an invisible danger as animals ingest the fragments, even entering the human food chain. In spite of this, the makers of plastic materials, including Showa Denko, Mitsubishi Chemical, BASF and Du Pont, claim that their novel products are bio-degradable. This has led to the rather bizarre state of the world we are now facing, where the idea that plastics can simply be thrown away has been increasingly promoted.

By Amagasa Keisuke, CUJ