Sunday, July 6, 2008

G8 goes green in Hokkaido, while the rest of us go, "what the ?"

In a story entitled "Cars and toilets go green at eco-friendly G8 summit" Reuters reported on some of the steps being taken by the Japanese government to insure the G8 summit currently being held on the northern island of Hokkaido is environmentally friendly. My favorite quote from the article was this one about how security forces at the summit are using "eco-friendly" Segway scooters:

"Usually, we have to walk, so we get tired, but we don't get tired with this," said Kubo, an employee of Rising Sun Security Service.
Though I do have to give credit to the reporters for pointing out the obvious: "how a scooter could be better for the environment than two feet was not so clear."

Here in Otaki I've been watching thunderclouds coming from the Sea of Japan billowing up into the hazy summer sky as they smack into the Kiso Mountains. I've been listening with delight to the dry cracks of thunder as they roll up and down the canyons. We will probably have heavy rains again this evening, and perhaps tomorrow as well. The water is needed, but as I look up at mountaintops bare of trees I worry about too much of a deluge coming at once, which has been common this year. Other parts of Japan have flooded, just like the Midwest of the U.S.

Global warming? Probably. But, just slapping on the label is too simplistic--the complexity of natural processes almost certainly means that we will have little understanding of the results of global warming until we are well into them. Good thing we have eco-friendly G8 summits.

Back to the summit. What I'm trying to get at is that "eco", "carbon offset", "going green", or whatever other label the G8 or any other group is going to apply needs to be considered with much suspicion. It seems to me that if the Japanese government wants to showcase it's "eco-friendliness" they could start with paying some attention to the thousands of hectares of forestland in places like Otaki that have been left in ecological disarray after being heavily overcut in the first half of the 20th century.

Or perhaps instead of spending money installing "green" toilets the Japanese government could offer some seed money to one of the hundreds of villages across Japan that is struggling, like Otaki, to develop some sort of economic activity that can give them a future. Ah, but villages like Otaki don't really fit the whole "eco" image--they don't have spare carbon to "offset", they simply get in the way of projects--planting forests and such--that allow G8 summit-ers and the like to offset their carbon.

So, perhaps that's the sort of eco-friendly world we're heading towards: the elite gather in luxuriant hotels, use green toilets, drive green cars, and allow their tired security guards to ride Segways, while the rest of us struggle to deal with the mess that was made before the G8 became so damn green.

1 comment:

kelli alicia said...

Perhaps part of your project might serve to interrogate the "green" discourse? "Green" or "eco-friendly" has become synonymous in my mind with "advertising" and "elitist Western trend."