From gray to green
Posted by ampontan on Friday, July 29, 2011
THE CITY OF KITAKYUSHU has long been one of Japan’s major industrial centers. The concentration of industry in the area was the reason the Kokura district was the intended target of the second atomic bomb. Cloud cover on the day of the mission sent the pilots to their backup target of Nagasaki further to the south.
By the 1960s, the city was one of the four largest industrial zones in Japan, and the pollution was horrific. The first time I saw it, through the windows of the Shinkansen in 1988, the smoke and the factories reminded me of Chicago or Gary, Indiana.
But the city had already begun to take steps in the early 70s toward a drastic remedy of its problems, however. Their objective was to become the world capital of sustainable development, and that link describes some of the steps they’ve taken.
The world is taking notice. Yesterday, the OECD announced the selection of Kitakyushu as the first green growth model city in Asia. Noted the Kyodo report:
“It is the fourth city selected for the OECD’s Green Cities Program, following Paris, Chicago and Stockholm.”
The city is also generous with the expertise gained from its experience. People from around the world, particularly those associated with local governments, regularly visit to see what’s been accomplished and what they can learn. Representatives from the city travel throughout Asia, and China in particular, to promote region-to-region ties in the environmental sector. (Of course it’s also good for local business.) A day doesn’t go by without another story appearing in the Nishinippon Shimbun, my local newspaper that covers northern Kyushu, about the city’s efforts.
Those among the all-seeing Western punditocracy ready to declare Japan down for the count might want to glance in the direction of Kitakyushu to discover just what the nation is capable of. These stories are consigned to the back pages or the skipped-over sections of the newspaper or website news aggregators, but they’re often more important in the long run than the ones on the front page.
Kitakyushu’s name literally means “North Kyushu”, but it’s in the south (west) of Japan.