Tuesday, August 26, 2008

環境整備: Maintaining the Environment

Otaki is literally being engulfed by the forest. Abandoned fields and plots of forest have quickly become overgrown and wildlife has moved in. The areas of thick forest are also unappealing to most villagers, giving them a sense of becoming enclosed.

For these reasons, residents of Otaki participate in 環境整備作業 (environmental maintenance/management/improvement activities--something like that). Yesterday, I finally had a chance to participate in one of these projects: clearing weeds and trees from along the prefectural road that leads from Makio Dam to Otaki.

There were only about 10 of us there that day, which isn't bad for a village of 1,000, where a third of the population is over 65 years of age.

It was a hard day of work, but they let me use a chainsaw, so I had no complaints. I don't know what the organizers were thinking. Also, I think my chainsaw skills were being whispered about. Ah, I'm the egghead; not supposed to be too proficient with such tools.

With such a rapidly aging population, I wonder about how long Otaki can keep the forest held back. I'm amazed at how active the elderly residents are, but there's simply too much land to be managed.

Combine this trend of decline in rural areas with the rapid sprawl of Japan's urban areas and you get a frightful prospect indeed--huge swaths of unmanaged forest butted up against cities. I think it's time for politicians and the general public in Japan to begin recognizing this growing problem.

In the meantime, here in Otaki we'll keep maintaining.

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1 comment:

Martin J Frid said...

That looks like fun. You could get people from Tokyo to go up and help out as part of a eco-tourism project!

I'm curious what happened to the wood - hope it will be used somehow.