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Clarkson on the Honda Insight hybrid

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, May 20, 2009

HAVE YOU EVER seen or heard anyone slam a Japanese-made automobile? Apart from labor unions in North America or Europe, of course.

Honda Insight hybrid

Honda Insight hybrid

My uncle’s opinion is typical of most of those I’ve heard about Japanese cars. Now in his late 80s, he was a young naval officer in World War II, and his adulthood coincided with the zenith of American economic and military power. If anyone might be expected to buy American, it would be him. But he doesn’t—at least not cars, anyway.

Uncle Bob has bought nothing but Toyotas for the past 30 years, and he’s very particular about the kind he buys. “I don’t want any of those Toyotas they build in the United States,” he insists. “I want the ones they make in Japan.”

But today, I read for the first time a review savaging a Japanese automobile–though I admit I spend little time following auto trends. (There are probably plenty of other negative reviews that I haven’t seen.) Jeremy Clarkson, hailed by some as Britain’s premier auto critic, had this to say about the Honda Insight 1.3 IMA SE Hybrid in the Times of London:

It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more.

It’s not that Mr. Clarkson dislikes either Hondas in particular…

Normally, Hondas feel as though they have been screwed together by eye surgeons.

…or Japanese cars in general. (Here he is talking about the Mazda 6 MPS):

“This really is a magnificent driver’s car.”

In fact, he seems to like Mazdas a lot. It’s just that he really detests this Honda:

The only hope I have is that there are enough fools and madmen out there who will buy an Insight to look sanctimonious outside the school gates. And that the cash this generates can be used to develop something a bit more constructive.

One of the factors informing his opinion of this Honda is that he doesn’t care for hybrids:

“…let me be clear that hybrid cars are designed solely to milk the guilt genes of the smug and the foolish.”

Though he does like another Honda hybrid, the Clarity:

“The car feels like a car. And, best of all, the power it produces is so enormous, it can be used by day to get you to 120mph and by night to run all the electrical appliances in your house. This is not science fiction. There is a fleet of Claritys running around California right now.”

In addition to writing articles for the Times of London, Mr. Clarkson appears on BBC TV in a show called Top Gear. At one time, it was the highest rated show on BBC Two in Great Britain. My cable package includes the BBC World Service, and I’ve seen Top Gear in Japan. It’s quite entertaining, even if you think cars are nothing more than machines to transport people and things from Point A to Point B quickly and conveniently. A friend in England named Paul (who studied kendo in Japan for two years) had this to say in an e-mail about Clarkson’s reputation at home:

Clarkson is a God to some and an arrogant, self-important wanker to others.

There’s enough ammunition for either side in his review of the Honda Insight hybrid!

Now get ready for the best part: The car, which was officially released in February in Japan, became Japan’s first best-selling hybrid ever in April. Last month, Honda sold 10,481 Insights in this country, more than any other model by any other manufacturer. The car was a hit from the minute it debuted on the Japanese market, doubling Honda’s initial target during its first month in showrooms. It went on sale in March in Europe and last month in the United States, where prices start at slightly less than $20,000.

As with the proverbial Frenchmen, can 10,000 Japanese be wrong?

Note: The model names for these vehicles are the ones used overseas. I don’t know what the corresponding models are called in Japan. (They’re not always the same.)

Posted in Environmentalism, New products | Tagged: | 11 Comments »

On with the show!

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, November 22, 2008

THOSE WITH A TASTE for outré entertainment will be delighted to learn that this year’s revival of the reality version of South Pacific is shortly due to begin now that the Nisshin Maru has left port for its annual whaling expedition.

But those who enjoy fine entertainment might find the upcoming episodes to be less satisfying than programs in the past, despite a surprise addition to the cast.

Here’s the big downer:

Australia will not send a fisheries patrol ship this year to shadow Japanese whalers and protests near Antarctica, the government said on Friday, appealing for activists to keep high seas protests peaceful.

As Japan’s whaling fleet heads to the Southern Ocean to hunt close to 1,000 minke and fin whales, Canberra said it was pursing a diplomatic solution to Tokyo’s yearly research hunt after Japanese complaints last season about the Australian patrol ship.

Australia's Mr. Environment

Australia's Mr. Environment

Former hard rock singer and current Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett said in a radio interview that Australia won’t be using the Oceanic Viking, a patrol icebreaker, to shadow the whalers. Instead, the government will focus on a legal challenge to whaling. They’ll also conduct their own research to prove that studies of the population can be done without culling the herd.

Perhaps unintentionally demonstrating the Not In My Back Yard philosophy in action, Mr. Garrett also said that most of the hunting would be done in the New Zealand “patrol area” anyway. (New Zealand may “patrol” the area, but those are still international waters).

The Austrialian government aren’t the only ones who’ll be scaling back the production:

Greenpeace will not go to Antarctica this year to concentrate on an anti-whaling campaign in Japan and a court case against some of its activists over the alleged theft of whale meat.

Isn’t it fascinating how the possibility of a jail term can so quickly change an organization’s priorities?

But why did the Australian government change its mind? Might the June meeting between prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Fukuda Yasuo have had something to do with it?

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Japanese counterpart Yasuo Fukuda have failed to resolve an emotionally charged row over whaling, but agree that the rift should not hurt the countries’ alliance.

“Prime Minister Fukuda and I agreed that you can have disagreement between friends,” Mr Rudd told a joint news conference. “We’ve also agreed that this disagreement would not undermine in any ways the strong and positive nature of our bilateral relationship. And we will be working in the period ahead diplomatically in search of a solution on this question.”

How jolly diplomatic it all sounds!

Perhaps the diplomatic solution was Mr. Fukuda reminding Mr. Rudd–if he needed reminding–that Japan is Australia’s biggest export market, and many of the products it purchases, such as beef and grain, can just as easily be purchased elsewhere. Japan is also one of the country’s largest foreign investors. That’s not an unimportant consideration, because Australia encourages foreign investment as a way to ameliorate its current account deficit. Another consideration is that they would prefer the investment to come from Japan rather than from China.

Though it won’t be the same old show without Austrialian and Greenpeace ships in the Sea Hunt, one of the other players has added a cast member for this season’s tour. The Eastern Hemisphere’s version of the insane clown posse, Cap’n Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd, announced that actress Daryl Hannah would be joining his crew. Ms. Hannah is a noted maritime affairs expert whose father was the owner of a tugboat and barge company. She also played a mermaid in the film Splash and starred in the TV film Shark Swarm. The latter film seems to have been an effort to maintain the viability of Grade C science fiction in the entertainment industry:

A fisherman and his family fight to take down a greedy real estate developer who has released toxins into the ocean, turning the area’s sharks into bloodthirsty hunters.

Then again, maybe they were presenting a parody. It’s hard to tell with Hollywood these days.

It’s also reassuring that the lovable skipper hasn’t changed a bit since he last showed up on our radar:

Watson himself was shot during one of the forays (last year). “I was wearing a bullet-proof vest, ” he told an Australian newspaper, “but the bullet hit my badge (an anti-poaching badge) so I had this bullet and I jokingly gave it to the guy who played Grissom in CSI (actor William Petersen) – he’s one of our supporters – and said ‘Hey, take a look at this because no one else will.’

Could it be that the reason no one else wanted to look at his bullet is that no one believed his story? Had someone from the Japanese whaling fleet actually fired a lethal weapon at him (and when was the last time you heard of someone employed by the Japanese government using a firearm overseas?) the shameless publicity hound would have hauled the Japanese crew members in front of some court faster than you can say Captain Queeg.

Not that they have to worry about lacking firepower in the unlikely event it comes down to a gun battle. Sea Shepherd reportedly carries AK-47s on board their ships.

Here’s the old salt describing his objectives to a sympathetic reporter:

“We intend to sink the Japanese fleet economically,” said Watson.

Now that’s a great idea for a musical: A seagoing version of Man of La Mancha!

Here’s how the reporter describes Sea Shepherd’s approach:

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas.

The “innovative direct-action tactics” that Sea Shepherd takes “when necessary” has involved the sinking of 10 ships around the world by ramming, and a failed attempt at ramming the Nisshin Maru two years ago (which did more damage to their ship than to the Japanese vessel). It’s also worthy of note that Paul Watson’s confrontation of “illegal activities on the high seas” landed him jail time in two different countries on two different continents.

The Steve Irwin, the lead vessel in Sea Shepherd’s two-boat fleet, flies the Skull and Crossbones during its voyages. When will someone take them at their word and start to deal with them as real pirates instead of playacting pretenders?

That would be unlikely to bother the wealthy Hollywood stars who back the group. Their agents undoubtedly purchased some insurance before the actors forked over the cash for the mini-fleet to serve as their proxies in the environmental war while they serve on the home front on back lot and sound stage.

The Steve Irwin is due to weigh anchor and set sail on 1 December after Watson lines up some more financing, so expect the curtain to rise on the latest installment in this farce sometime in January.

Posted in Environmentalism, Food, International relations, Traditions | Tagged: , | 8 Comments »

Bubbling waters run shallow

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BIG RIVER WAS THE NAME of an early hit by American country and western singer Johnny Cash. The Man In Black also had a puckish sense of humor, so it’s no stretch of the imagination to think he could also have found the material for a hit song in Japan’s Butsubutsu River.

The Butsubutsu River

The Butsubutsu River

That’s the name of a body of water in Nachikatsu’ura-cho, Wakayama, which the prefecture designated a Class 2 River on the 21st. The Butusbutsu River is only 13.5 meters (14.7 yards) long, so it is now officially the shortest river in Japan. That distinction was previously held by the 30-meter long Honbetsu River in Shimamaki-mura, Hokkaido.

Short as it is, the Butsubutsu River is a tributary flowing into the Konoshiro River. It has an onomatopoeic name that is derived from the water bubbling to the surface from streams below ground. But it’s just as likely that the municipal officials filling out the application thought Butsubutsu was as good a name as any and stuck it on the form.

The local Wakayamanaians use it for washing fish or vegetables, and even for drinking water, according to reports. At least that’s what it’s used for by the folks who know how to find it. The municipal government asked Wakayama for the upgrade in July because the prefecture has jurisdiction over Class 2 rivers. (That’s part of a classification system used by the Japanese government to facilitate river management.) The prefecture agreed because they thought the Class 2 designation would help protect water quality and the surrounding scenery.

They also freely admitted they hoped it might bring some PR to the area. Well, here they are!

*****
How much did he spend a year on hair tonic?

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Posted in Environmentalism, I couldn't make this up if I tried | Leave a Comment »

Semi-deaf

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, July 30, 2008

PEOPLE USED TO ASK ME when I first came to Japan whether I suffered from culture shock. Whether it was because I had read extensively about the country before coming, my experience living in different regions of the US, or having two grandparents who weren’t native English speakers, I could honestly answer no.

One day, however, I did feel as if I were living on a different planet!

There was a serious heat wave during my first summer, and summers are intensely hot in Japan to begin with. The temperatures were above 40 degrees Celsius (100+ Farenheit) several days in a row.

One morning I woke up and stepped outside the front door. It was obvious already that the heat wave was going to continue. The heat was one thing, but the sound I was hearing was quite another. In those days I lived next door to a temple with a large, old tree, and by then it was filled with semi, or cicadas.

The combination of the brightness, the heat, and the otherworldly sound of the cicadas made me realize I wasn’t in Kansas anymore!

It’s difficult to describe that sound to people who have never heard it, but fortunately, reader Mac sent me an e-mail with a story about cicadas that is too good to keep to myself.

So here is Mac’s story. At least I hope it’s Mac’s story–if it’s not I’ll have to apologize and take it down!

*********
It’s my first summer in Japan. I disappeared just at the start of the manageable and comfortable rainy season and arrived back at Kansai in full blown summer.

Heat … humid … pools of sweat I can just about cope with … but the noise? Nothing had prepared me for that. Walking along tree-lined avenues in the morning, I thought it was some high-tech emergency services vehicle alarm going off.

What was it? Cicadas.

Lifting some stats from a related article, their noise can exceed 90 decibels and peak at 120 db. That is about as loud as a bulldozer or comparable to lawn mower peaks on hot days. By comparison, motorcycles are factory-limited between 82 to 86 decibels and 100 plus is on a par with a Harley-Davidson at speed.

Industrial noise expert Billy Martin, a hearing scientist at Oregon Health & Science University, said that “Exposure to 91 decibels of sound for two hours, or 94 decibels for one hour, could begin to cause some permanent hearing damage” and noise-induced hearing loss. “Such noise also could cause psychological strain … anxiety, aggravation and high-blood pressure. Loud sound is very stressful.”

Meanwhile in Nature magazine (last year), David Cyranoski reported that Cicadas are cutting off Osaka’s citizens from their Internet connections. “A cicada known as the kumazemi is descending on Japan en masse, deafening the citizens and wreaking havoc on the country’s fibre-optic system. The 6- to 7-centimetre-long black cicada (Cryptotympana facialis) inhabits western Japan.

Shiyake Shigehiko, curator of the Osaka Museum of Natural History, and Numata Eiji, a biologist at Osaka University, show that the cicada population increases every year for four years, after which it returns to base level and the cycle restarts. From the past three years’ data, the scientists calculate that this year will be the four-year peak, with nearly 2.5 times as many cicadas as in 2006. The noise level is also set to climb. Measured at 90.4 decibels at another Osaka park last year, this year the same spot is expected to hit 94 decibels — decibels follow a logarithmic scale, so that’s more than double the volume. Prolonged exposure to this level of noise causes deafness.

The kumazemi are also cutting households off from their Internet. Apparently mistaking fibre-optic cables for withered branches, they have been punching their one-millimetre-diameter egg-laying tubes into the cables and laying eggs allowing water to seep in and causing failures.

You know what this means? Given the role internet services provide in setting up dates and meeting new partners … the little blighters are attempting to interrupt human reproductive cycles!

It’s them, or us.

Posted in Environmentalism | 19 Comments »

The nascent Japanese eco-skepticism

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, July 27, 2008

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace in a continual state of alarm (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing them with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
– H.L. Mencken

When people come to know the truth, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.
– Dr. Akasofu Shun’ichi, Professor Emeritus of the University of Alaska and Founding Director of the International Arctic Research Center

THE JAPANESE USED TO SAY they were 10 years behind the Americans in everything. Of course that wasn’t true—after all, college students in this country in the late 1970s never did dose themselves with LSD to turn on, tune in, and drop out.

But there’s one instance in which they may be right. Their growing skepticism of the claims of the radical environmentalists about global warming, carbon dioxide, and rising ocean levels is just now becoming apparent. That skepticism has been building for the better part of a decade in the West. It fully emerged seven years ago when former Greenpeace member Björn Lomborg revealed in his groundbreaking book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, the blantant exaggerations, mythology, and untruths behind what is now more new religion than scientific concern.

Consider the statement above by the Nagano-born Dr. Akasofu, now an American citizen. Then consider his credentials. A geophysics professor since 1964, he was named one of the “1000 Most Cited Scientists” in 1981 and 2002. He has received the Chapman Medal from the Royal Astronomy Society of London, the Japan Academy of Sciences Award, the John Adams Fleming Award of the American Geophysical Union, and the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star, a Japanese medal.

He has written a paper titled Notes on Climate Change, which you can read here. Dr. Akasofu compares the current climate change scare to the panic caused in the U.S. by 30 October 1938 radio broadcast of Orson Welles’s realistic dramatization of The War of the Worlds.

Another skeptic is Dr. Itoh Kiminori of Yokohama National University, who has written several books on this subject in Japanese. The most recent is Lies and Traps in Global Warming Affairs (地球温暖化論のウソとワナ –Here is the Amazon.jp link for Japanese readers.)

Despite serving as an expert reviewer of the work done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared a Nobel Prize with Al Gore, Dr. Itoh sharply disagrees with their conclusions. In a guest post on a climate science website, he outlined six points for policy makers to consider when formulating environmental policy:

  1. The global temperature will not increase rapidly if any. There is sufficient time to think about future energy and social systems.
  2. The climate system is more robust than conventionally claimed. For instance, the Gulf Stream will not stop by fresh water inflow.
  3. There are many factors to cause the climate changes particularly in regional and local scales. Considering only greenhouse gases is nonsense and harmful.
  4. A comprehensive climate convention is necessary. The framework-protocol formulism is too old to apply to modern international issues.
  5. Reconsider countermeasures for the climate changes. For instance, to reduce Asian Brown Cloud through financial and technical aid of developed countries is beneficial from many aspects, and can become a Win-Win policy.
  6. The policy makers should be “Four-ball juggler.” Multiple viewpoints are inevitable to realize sustainable societies.

A third Japanese eco-skeptic is Dr. Takeda Kunihiko, vice-chancellor of the Institute of Science and Technology Research at Chubu University. His most recent book is Hypocritical Ecology. (偽善エコロジーHere is the Amazon.jp link for Japanese readers.)

The Japan Times recently ran a profile of Dr. Takeda, in which he said:

Fear is a very efficient weapon: It produces the desired effect without much waste. Global warming has nothing to do with how much CO2 is produced or what we do here on Earth. For millions of years, solar activity has been controlling temperatures on Earth and even now, the sun controls how high the mercury goes. CO2 emissions make absolutely no difference one way or another. Soon it will cool down anyhow, once again, regardless of what we do. Every scientist knows this, but it doesn’t pay to say so.

Dr. Takeda speaks of fear; H.L. Mencken spoke of alarm over the hobgoblins.

Why is this Japanese awareness emerging now? Could it be part of a larger emerging global awareness of the combination of improbable claims and tyrannical methods of the environmentalists?

It’s not out of the question. Take for example the Physics and Society Forum of the American Physical Society, which has recently crossed over to the camp of the skeptics.

The APS is opening its debate with the publication of a paper by Lord Monckton of Brenchley, which concludes that climate sensitivity — the rate of temperature change a given amount of greenhouse gas will cause — has been grossly overstated by IPCC modeling. A low sensitivity implies additional atmospheric CO2 will have little effect on global climate.

Larry Gould, Professor of Physics at the University of Hartford and Chairman of the New England Section of the APS, called Monckton’s paper an “expose of the IPCC that details numerous exaggerations and “extensive errors”

In an email to DailyTech, Monckton says, “I was dismayed to discover that the IPCC’s 2001 and 2007 reports did not devote chapters to the central ‘climate sensitivity’ question, and did not explain in proper, systematic detail the methods by which they evaluated it. When I began to investigate, it seemed that the IPCC was deliberately concealing and obscuring its method.”

Here is Monckton’s paper on their website:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) concluded that anthropogenic CO2 emissions probably caused more than half of the “global warming” of the past 50 years and would cause further rapid warming. However, global mean surface temperature has not risen since 1998 and may have fallen since late 2001…More importantly, the conclusion is that, perhaps, there is no “climate crisis”, and that currently-fashionable efforts by governments to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions are pointless, may be ill-conceived, and could even be harmful.

He concludes:

  • Even if temperature had risen above natural variability, the recent solar Grand Maximum may have been chiefly responsible.
  • Even if the sun were not chiefly to blame for the past half-century’s warming, the IPCC has not demonstrated that, since CO2 occupies only one-ten-thousandth part more of the atmosphere that it did in 1750, it has contributed more than a small fraction of the warming.
  • Even if carbon dioxide were chiefly responsible for the warming that ceased in 1998 and may not resume until 2015, the distinctive, projected fingerprint of anthropogenic “greenhouse-gas” warming is entirely absent from the observed record.
  • Even if the fingerprint were present, computer models are long proven to be inherently incapable of providing projections of the future state of the climate that are sound enough for policymaking.
  • Even if per impossibile the models could ever become reliable, the present paper demonstrates that it is not at all likely that the world will warm as much as the IPCC imagines.
  • Even if the world were to warm that much, the overwhelming majority of the scientific, peer-reviewed literature does not predict that catastrophe would ensue.
  • Even if catastrophe might ensue, even the most drastic proposals to mitigate future climate change by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide would make very little difference to the climate.
  • Even if mitigation were likely to be effective, it would do more harm than good: already millions face starvation as the dash for biofuels takes agricultural land out of essential food production: a warning that taking precautions, “just in case”, can do untold harm unless there is a sound, scientific basis for them.
  • Finally, even if mitigation might do more good than harm, adaptation as (and if) necessary would be far more cost-effective and less likely to be harmful.

In short, we must get the science right, or we shall get the policy wrong.

The conclusion cites as an example of misguided policies the starvation caused by the use of food crops for biofuel. Here’s what the World Bank thinks:

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% – far more than previously estimated – according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian…It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.

Rising food prices have pushed 100 million people worldwide below the poverty line, estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh to Egypt. Government ministers here have described higher food and fuel prices as “the first real economic crisis of globalisation”.

“Without the increase in biofuels, global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate,” says the report.

Winnipeg climatologist Tim Ball says that severe weather patterns are the result of global cooling, rather than global warming, but that the proponents of human-caused climate change ignore that. In addition to the bad science, Dr. Ball says the proponents are pushing a fraud:

The world is cooling while CO2 levels continue to rise. In every record for any period in history temperature increases before CO2, not as assumed. Plans to implement carbon taxes to offset warming exacerbate soaring fuel prices. Effects of policies implemented to replace fossil fuels with biofuels are driving food and total living costs rapidly higher.

The graph from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that severe tornadoes were higher in the period from 1950 to 1975. Global temperatures were falling during that time. Since then frequency has decreased as the world warmed to 2000. Since then the world has cooled slightly and the pattern shows a slight increase in severe tornadoes.

This trend of severe weather is most likely to increase as the Earth continues to cool. Proponents of human caused climate change will claim it proves them right. They will continue their practice of claiming natural events as unnatural. Unless people understand the basic science they will continue the fraud and pressure politicians into even more damaging energy and environmental policies.

Meanwhile, in The Guardian, the aforementioned Björn Lomborg says we’re being force-fed vastly over-hyped scare stories that block out sensible solutions to climate change.

Fear…hobgoblins…scare stories…

When it comes to global warming, extreme scare stories abound. Al Gore, for example, famously claimed that a whopping six metres of sea-level rise would flood major cities around the world.

Gore’s scientific adviser, Jim Hansen from Nasa, has even topped his protege. Hansen suggests that there will eventually be sea-level rises of 24 metres, with a six-metre rise happening just this century. Little wonder that fellow environmentalist Bill McKibben states that “we are engaging in a reckless drive-by drowning of much of the rest of the planet and much of the rest of creation.”

Given all the warnings, here is a slightly inconvenient truth: over the past two years, the global sea level hasn’t increased. It has slightly decreased. Since 1992, satellites orbiting the planet have measured the global sea level every 10 days with an amazing degree of accuracy – 3-4mm. For two years, sea levels have declined. (All of the data are available at sealevel.colorado.edu.)

And:

This doesn’t mean that global warming is not true. As we emit more CO2, over time the temperature will moderately increase, causing the sea to warm and expand somewhat. Thus, the sea-level rise is expected to pick up again. This is what the UN climate panel is telling us; the best models indicate a sea-level rise over this century of 18 to 59 centimeters (7-24 inches), with the typical estimate at 30cm. This is not terrifying or even particularly scary – 30cm is how much the sea rose over the last 150 years.

Simply put, we’re being force-fed vastly over-hyped scare stories. Proclaiming six meters of sea-level rise over this century contradicts thousands of UN scientists, and requires the sea-level rise to accelerate roughly 40-fold from today. Imagine how climate alarmists would play up the story if we actually saw an increase in the sea-level rise.

Here’s the truly scary part:

Increasingly, alarmists claim that we should not be allowed to hear such facts. In June, Hansen proclaimed that people who spread “disinformation” about global warming – CEOs, politicians, in fact anyone who doesn’t follow Hansen’s narrow definition of the “truth” – should literally be tried for crimes against humanity…Campaigner Mark Lynas envisions Nuremberg-style “international criminal tribunals” against those who dare to challenge the climate dogma.

Of course the politicians aren’t interested in the science–they’re seizing the chance to make themselves look good by confronting imaginary hobgoblins. Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo led the way earlier this month at the Toyako Summit.

The Group of Eight powers took a step forward Tuesday in the fight against global warming at their summit in Lake Toyako, Hokkaido.

They agreed to “seek to share” with both developing and developed countries the goal of halving global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 2050. They called on all signatories to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to share this vision and to adopt this goal at their meeting.

What better solution for today’s G-8 leaders? They’ll be long gone by 2050, but meanwhile they’ll get the credit today for their empty but expensive promises.

The parties to the pact are preparing to create a framework to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, whose implementation period expires in 2012. It is, therefore, significant that the G-8 requested parties to the pact to adopt this goal.

The United States did not readily accept the 50-percent reduction by 2050 goal. Instead of giving up, the G-8 decided to leave the matter to the U.N. framework. In effect, Japan and Europe brushed aside outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush’s reluctance to ensure that the United Nations leads the initiative.

American CO2 emissions have declined since the Kyoto Protocol was written, while those of Europe, signatories to the treaty, have increased. So what does the G-8 decide to do? Take the matter out of the hands of the people who were successful and put it into the hands of the people who are “deliberately obscuring” their methods to produce bad science.

The Asahi would also have us think global “warming” is a question of security.

In June, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), a U.S. government organization that analyzes foreign policy issues based on data provided by the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence bodies, published its assessment of the security threats posed by climate change.

In its report, the council warned that global warming could aggravate the problems of poverty and resource shortages, thereby triggering more civil strife and conflict in already volatile regions.

The world must brace itself for all sorts of problems triggered by continued warming of the Earth. At the same time, it must take every possible step to eventually curb harmful climate change.

As demonstrated by the biofuel solution, the only problems we’ve have so far have been those caused by governments responding to hobgoblins.

Global warming is projected to have disastrous consequences–a rise in sea levels and more frequent droughts and flooding.

Refer to the link above regarding the satellite measurements of sea levels showing that no disastrous consequences are in the offing. The Asahi didn’t.

Security strategy among the major powers tends to concentrate political and military power on regions which are most likely to experience conflicts or which involve intertwined national interests. Europe was such a region during the Cold War, just as the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula are today.

The impact of global warming, whether it be sea-level rises or extreme weather, will cut wide swaths around the world. Such crises could emerge simultaneously in many parts of the world.

If the fallout brought on by global warming causes conflicts to break out all over the world at the same time, even the overwhelming military power of the United States or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the world’s largest military alliance, will be powerless to handle this intractable situation.

Now that took some writing skill: the Asahi needed only three paragraphs to turn hot air into uncontrollable global chaos.

The basic principles of sustainable security include…spreading democratic governance to prevent the proliferation of failed nations that are unable to govern their people.

Good luck with China. They didn’t think the Kyoto Protocol had anything to do with them either.

The threats posed by global warming, if compounded by delayed policy responses, will only cause more confusion.

So stop confusing yourself by thinking and do as we say!

Developing countries are likely to be hit the hardest by sea-level rises, floods and other damaging effects of climate change. This is particularly troubling.

Harmful climate change could widen the gap between rich and poor in these countries, thus setting the stage for riots and political unrest. This could trigger a huge refugee exodus as people flee their devastated countries. Some people may even be tempted to join terrorist organizations.

A worst-case scenario including the above developments must be taken into account when we map out strategies for expanding aid to developing countries….

If a “worst-case scenario…must be taken into account”, none of us would get out of bed in the morning.

But give them extra credit for those writing skills: three more short paragraphs to spin some more hot air into a justification for a global income redistribution scheme to prevent terrorism.

And if you object, Jim Hansen will put you on trial for crimes against humanity.

Support should also be provided to help developing countries improve their political systems and administrative abilities so they can respond more effectively to problems caused by climate change. But such support should be provided in the least intrusive manner.

Wouldn’t you love to hear just how they propose to accomplish that?

All these threads converge in the recent visit of Tavau Teii, deputy prime minister of Tuvalu, to Japan to shake down the government for money.

Well, that’s not what he said, but that’s what he was doing. The Asahi—natch—has the story:

The audience gasped as Tavau Teii, deputy prime minister of the tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu, presented his slide show. Frame after frame showed how global warming threatens to submerge the island group that is home to fewer than 12,000 people.

Get ready for it.

“Tuvalu stands as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. There is no time to waste,” Teii said, addressing about 650 citizens at a public awareness symposium organized by Tokyo’s Adachi Ward late last month ahead of the Group of Eight summit that starts Monday in Hokkaido…The event was to serve as a showcase for Japan’s first program to help Pacific island states cope with the impact of global warming under the Cool Earth Partnership, a wide-ranged program for helping developing countries deal with climate change.

In mid-December, Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia submitted a proposal for dealing with climate change, aimed at prodding the major emitters to heed the demands of island nations.

The proposal called on industrialized countries to create systems to compensate for damage caused by global warming, with funding from taxes that would be levied on international airline fees and shipping fees.

While welcoming the package, experts based in small Pacific island nations note that more will be expected from Japan.

What a lovely scam.
Step one: Make up false charges about a real issue.
Step two: Force other people to pay for a false solution.
Step three: Congratulate yourself for finally achieving income distribution from the developed world to the undeveloped world using the hobgoblin of rising ocean levels that aren’t rising.
Step four: Get the Japanese to pay even more for an even longer time.

Patrick Nunn, a professor of geology at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji…called Japan’s program a “short-term measure, not a long-term sustainable one.” At the current pace, it is inevitable that parts of island states such as Tuvalu will become uninhabitable in 50 years, he said. The Japanese program, as he understood it, would “likely only help islanders survive for another 30 years.”

In other words, the beggary/buggary will go on for half a century.

Get ready for more:

“Climate change is a problem caused by industrialized countries, with the burden borne disproportionately by developing countries, like those in the Pacific. Those responsible for causing the problem should shoulder greater responsibility in alleviating it,” said Jyotishma Naicker, a climate change specialist at WWF South Pacific Program based in Fiji…

What’s the point? To shame people into feeling so guilty they won’t object when the contents of their wallets are stolen in the name of morality and environmentalism—even though income distribution is the real name of the game.

If the facts don’t get in the way first:

It is likely that the beach erosion and building on (Tuvalu) caused the sea flooding of areas over the last decade. And that is a true environmental concern. But it is a local, man-made problem that will not be solved with massive cuts in carbon dioxide emission.

An environmental official of Tuvalu, Elisala Pita, is concerned with the alarmism of western eco-imperialists. In an interview in the Canadian Globe and Mail on November 24, Pita says that, “This [coastal] erosion is caused by man-made infrastructure. Tuvalu is being used for the issue of climate change. People are telling all these lies, just using Tuvalu to prove their point. No island is sinking. Tuvalu is not sinking. It is still floating.”

Careful, Mr. Pita–you might be looking at a stretch in jail for saying what you think.

Some Japanese have finally gotten wise to what’s going on. The Asahi is surely a hopeless case, but what will it take for the rest of the country?

Charging Dr. Akasofu Shun’ichi–who received a medal from the Emperor of Japan for his scientific work—with crimes against humanity at the Nuremburg/Tokyo Environmental War Crimes Tribunal?

They’re not going to stop, you know. Now that they’ve been exposed, they’ll fight back with more extreme claims and more despotic measures.

Get ready for it.

Posted in Environmentalism, Mass media, Social trends | 8 Comments »

IWC: International Whaling Circus

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, June 29, 2008

We do not like (animals) much for themselves, for what they are — only for the fictions we have imposed upon them…We ascribe to the animals we like intelligence, compassion and a sense of playfulness; to those we despise stupidity, savagery and cold-bloodedness. The wolf, as a case in point, falls into the first category these days whereas 100 years ago it would have fallen most definitely into the latter.
– Rod Liddle, The Spectator

ONE OF MY UNCLES was known for having a quirky sense of humor. During the 1992 American presidential campaign, a three-way race involving George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, he often said that he hoped for a Perot victory because “the circus over the next four years” would be hugely entertaining.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your taste in these matters), Perot lost, and Americans were instead treated to eight years of a different circus: the Clinton Administration, known in some quarters as the Exploding Cigar Presidency.

Who’s to say that a Perot Administration wouldn’t have been even more uproarious?

But with the emergence into the international Big Top of minor acts masquerading as center ring attractions, promoting self-important and eccentric notions as life-or-death issues, politics is no longer the only source for free circus entertainment. The ringmasters of the mass media give them microphones and the spotlight and give us the best seats in the house. Then they both turn all of us into their pantaloons.

The latest performance was sponsored by the International Whaling Commission during its annual meeting in Chile last week.

That doesn’t mean people were eating corn dogs and watching seals balance balls on the tips of their noses while the commission conducted its business. The delegates spent a week debating quotas and the question of whether the body should transform itself into a whale protection group or maintain its original function of being a conservation group. The countries that caught whales last year get to catch just as many whales this year. Meanwhile, meetings will continue to find a compromise between the whalers and the anti-whalers.

Japan can continue to hunt some 1,000 whales per year for scientific purposes after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Santiago agreed Wednesday to postpone any far-reaching decisions on the protection of these cetaceans.

But nothing ever stops the media from painting a different picture, however. How’s this for a lead sentence to a news report?

Whales emerged the big losers as a weeklong International Whaling Commission meeting wrapped up in Chile on Friday, said conservation groups…

Let’s try that same approach to rewrite a lead sentence from a different story that appeared a month ago.

Cows emerged as the big losers as the South Korean government lifted a ban on American beef imports, said vegetarian groups…

Take another look at that Rod Liddle quote at the top of the post. The man’s on to something.

The lead sentence of the news report is written to make it seem as if whales are just as involved as a human lobbying group. Strange ideas seem to have captured some elements of the popular imagination. Try this from a month ago.

Great apes should have the right to life and freedom, according to a resolution passed in the Spanish parliament, in what could become landmark legislation to enshrine human rights for chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and bonobos.

Both reports start with assertive declarations of goofy ideas as if they were actual facts, followed with a few words to weasel out of any responsibility for the game being played.

1. Whales are the big losers—say conservation groups.

2. Great apes should have the right to life and freedom—according to a Spanish parliament resolution

And journalists wonder why so many people give them a hard time.

The biggest surprise of the IWC meeting didn’t involve Japan. Greenland, represented by Denmark, applied for permission to allow its aboriginal inhabitants to catch an additional 10 humpback whales in addition to the special whaling concession they already receive.

The IWC’s scientific body endorsed this request. But environmentalism is now the hip religion, and we all know how the scientist Galileo fared against the Church. The request was denied, with the EU voting as a bloc against it.

Some found the European tactic difficult to digest. As we recently saw, South Korea has stringent restrictions on whaling (despite a long Korean history of whale-eating), and the EU move cheesed even them off.

South Korea described the EU bloc vote as “interference with the legitimate process of this organisation and the due process of law”.

How much longer will it take the Koreans to realize that in these enlightened Dark Ages, religious faith in environmentalism transcends science and the due process of law?

For the real circus atmosphere, the media had to go outside the IWC venue itself. They filed more stories about the whaling circus than they did about the decisions of the international whaling body itself.

Such as:

From Australia to Japan, California to Chile, surfers around the world are uniting to protect humpback whales from world No.1 hunter Japan – by getting towns and communities to adopt the giant mammals. Sixty towns in Australia alone have adopted whales under the initiative by Surfers for Cetaceans, set up by surfers to protect whales and dolphins.

In Australia, the markings on humpbacks’ tails – dubbed fingerprints because they are unique – are lifted up over the entrances of towns that have adopted whales so the flourishing whale-watching industry there can identify its adoptees.

“No longer are they just a whale out there in the ocean, they are a whale with a story, a name, a family, a history and a personality. There are some that are theatrical in their approach when they come in touch with humans.”

Rod Liddle’s starting to look like a genius.

They also filed this detective story for mystery fans:

Forensic-style DNA sampling of whale meat in Japanese markets turned up fin whales that can’t be accounted for, Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute reports….Meat from at least 15 individual fin whales was being sold in 2006 and 2007 — two more than the Japanese government reported killing as part of its scientific whaling program during the same period, Scott Baker, associate director of the institute, said Friday.

Consider if you will what sort of people would conduct “forensic-style DNA” sampling of whale meat in Japanese markets and trumpet the news that they found one John Doe whale a year.

Then consider what sort of people would think it was important.

Some people prefer eroticism to stories about sleuths:

For Yves Paccalet, a French naturalist and philosopher who helped push through the 1986 moratorium, the intelligent and highly-social creatures may be so exhausted from their centuries-long combat with humankind that they have simply have given up the fight.

“The psychological consequences of our aggression have compromised their will to live,” said Paccalet, who worked extensively with French marine explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. “To reproduce, whales need a large number of individuals to ensure that they meet, and then to frolic and excite each other. Otherwise, a species may give in to a kind of sexual melancholy and simply stops breeding,” he told AFP.

Fancy that: A Frenchman speculating on whale sexuality.

A media circus with whales as the main attraction isn’t complete without an article hinting that the Japanese are still the cruel, unfeeling beasts of World War II. After all, look at what they do to their own children!

Japanese 10-year-olds taken on school trips to whale slaughter

Japanese children as young as ten are watching whales being slaughtered to teach them the “cultural importance” of Japan’s controversial commercial whaling industry.

This was the lead to an article ostensibly about the IWC meetings.

Never mind that it’s not controversial in Japan. Never mind that the whales were already killed and the children watched them being processed, not “slaughtered”. Some of those children have already seen fish being cleaned—people do catch a lot of fish here–so the sight of a whale being cut up is unlikely to cause nightmares.

If they really needed a shocking, bloody word, they could have used “butchered” instead. But that might spoil the fun.

After all, isn’t that what Westerners do to cows?

There have to be clowns to make it a real circus, and when it comes to a whaling circus, there’s always one man who can be counted on to wear the cap and bells—Jolly Roger himself, Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd. Here’s one report:

Canadian-born renegade sea captain Paul Watson has set his sights on sinking Japan’s whaling industry, the largest in the world — and reckons he is halfway there.

He reckons he’s halfway there because the Japanese took only half of their whale quota last winter after he harassed them with just one ship. Now he’s going to get a second ship.

That’s reminiscent of the famous fictional seaman, Captain Queeg:

I proved with geometric logic that a duplicate key to the icebox existed.

Clown isn’t the only word that could be applied to Cap’n Watson, however. There’s also pirate. In an excerpt from a Newsweek interview:

Q: You have argued that your tactics are legal. How so?

A: We are upholding the UN Charter of Nature and operating within the principles of this charter which allows for non-governmental organizations to intervene to uphold international conservation law. For instance, in 1986, we sunk half of Iceland’s whaling fleet…

And vigilante

Sea Shepherd campaigns are guided by the United Nations World Charter for Nature. Sections 21-24 of the Charter provides authority to individuals to act on behalf of and enforce international conservation laws.

Go on a sea hunt of your own and see if you can spot any justification for his behavior in those sections.

And then there’s the word buffoon:

Paul Watson launched the 5th Sea Shepherd Antarctic campaign to stop Japanese whaling on Thursday June 26, 2008. The campaign is called Operation Musashi after the legendary Japanese strategist and samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, a personal role model and hero of Captain Watson. “Sea Shepherd intends to transform Setsuninto – the sword {harpoon} that takes life – to Katsujinken – the sword {harpoon} that gives life.” said the press release.

The media assures us that they are impartial, so surely there are stories presenting the opposite viewpoint. It took a bit of digging to find any, but here’s one about a colorful old salt from the whaling fleets. It starts off by telling us that the good guys in the white hats don’t like him:

Reviled by conservationists, Icelandic whale meat exporter Kristjan Loftsson is unapologetic, saying anti-whaling groups and nations are neurotic and that whale meat is highly profitable — and delicious.

“Those who speak loudest, the UK and US, Australia, they used to whale before but they couldn’t manage their whales, so everything is gone. So they have no interest in this any more,” Loftsson told Reuters in an interview.

“Whales are just like any ordinary fish,” he said. “But in Iceland the bottom line is it has to be sustainable. If it is sustainable you do it, and if it is not you stop. We also do that with fisheries, there’s no difference.”

“It tastes just like any ordinary, very good red meat. You can eat some of it raw. Depending on which loin (cut) of the whale, whale meat is most like tuna,” he added.

Just as consumers have to go upmarket to get quality in an automobile or fine wine, they also have to leave the mass market to get quality in journalism. The best place to find that last week was National Geographic:

If (Iceland, Norway, and Japan) are permitted to whale a little, the idea’s proponents argue, then their hunts can be monitored and the effects of these hunts better understood.

“It would resume our science-based methods for determining how many whales can be safely harvested from a particular population,” said Andrew Read, a marine conservation biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, (who) has served on the IWC’s scientific committee for more than a decade.

Susan Lieberman is the director of the World Wildlife Fund’s global species program. She said whaling itself does not help conservation, but a compromise that ended unregulated killing would be worth considering. “I think governments have an obligation to try to see if they can bridge the gap here,” she said.

They even present an opposing viewpoint–but not first:

Patrick Ramage directs the global whale program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which opposes any compromise that would allow for a resumption of commercial whale hunts. “We should be discussing how Japan, Norway, and Iceland will join the vast majority of IWC member countries in putting down their harpoons, picking up cameras, [and] going whale watching,” he said.

No wonder those sensitive whales are sexually frustrated. Who could perform with all those voyeurs watching your every move—and taking pictures!

National Geographic also wonders why everyone focuses on Japan.

Why is Japan’s Whaling Bogeyman when Norway Hunts Too?

For the anti-whaling lobby, Japan appears to be its Moby Dick, a foe to be singled out and endlessly pursued…But are the attacks fair, when other nations also engage in substantial amounts of whaling—and unlike Japan, in open defiance of international conventions?

…Japan is the “head of the zombie and needs to be cut off,” said Willie Mackenzie, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace U.K…

…Shigeko Misaki, a former spokeswoman for the Japan Whaling Association, said the anti-whaling campaign has gone too far.

“It has almost become a religion, that whales are the only symbol of the marine ecosystem,” she said. “People who believe this religion think all Japanese people are evil, because we kill whales…

Claire Bass of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, conceded that cultural differences do color the debate.

“Japan manages whales under their fisheries agency. They basically see them as big fish,” she said. “We see them as intelligent, charismatic, captivating creatures. So I wouldn’t deny there’s a difference in the starting point at which we view whales.”

You did read that Rod Liddle quote a second time, didn’t you?

Once upon a time, the circus paraded through town, pitched its tent, gave a couple of weeks of performances, and then left for a new city. Now, driven by the demands of the infotainment culture, the print and visual media offer us fire-breathers, sword-swallowers, and bearded ladies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And they just give the tickets away.

Japan and Australia

Before the Chilean media extravaganza there was an overlooked prelude in Tokyo when Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd met Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo.

Last year, when Mr. Rudd was still in the opposition, he was free to talk tough about the cetacean slaughterers. He vowed to track every move of the Japanese whaling fleet in the South Pacific to collect evidence and haul them before the International Court of Justice.

Now that Mr. Rudd is in office and his words actually have consequences, his attitude seems to have changed.

Rudd told reporters at a joint press conference after the meeting at Fukuda’s office:

”On whaling, Prime Minister Fukuda and I agreed that you can have disagreements between friends. We’ve also agreed that this disagreement should not undermine in any way the strength and positive nature of our overall bilateral relationship and we will be working in the period ahead diplomatically in search of the solution on this question.”

Did Mr. Fukuda remind his visitor that Japan is the biggest customer for many important Australian exports? It’s more likely that Mr. Rudd didn’t need to be reminded and turned out to be a paper tiger instead.

This did not go over well back home in Australia:

In 2005 Kevin Rudd said: “We cannot afford another year of complacency. The Howard government must act immediately to take Japan to the International Court of Justice.”

In 2007, the then leader of the Opposition said it was necessary to “take Japan to international courts such as the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to end the slaughter of whales”. He also said: “Obviously, that approach of international pressure through the IWC has not worked.”

The threat of taking Japan to the ICJ was not even raised in talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda….What has become clear is that Australia stands to lose more at an international court than Japan because it would expose Australia’s tenuous legal position of controlling waters in the Southern Ocean.

Following this costly debacle, Australia then went to the IWC meeting in Chile with a radical proposal to completely invert the commission’s role and turn it into whale protection group completely banning whaling, instead of a whale harvesting body setting sustainable levels of the hunt.

On the other hand, Japan went to the IWC with a plan to avoid divisive votes for a year and reform the processes of the commission. Japan, as an act of good faith, continued its own suspension of the hunt for 50 humpback whales but has kept the legal right to take 900 whales next year.

But one Australian found out that not all Japanese are barbarous whale-murderers.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith met on the 26th for talks with Hatoyama Yukio, the secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. Here’s a story the latter told Mr. Smith, according to a report in the Sankei Shimbun.

“Actually, my wife served some home-cooked whale this morning. I don’t believe in eating whale, so I turned it down, but it is in fact a popular dish on the Japanese table.”

Back-translating from the translation into Japanese, Smith’s reply was, “You’re a braver man than I. My policy is to eat everything my wife serves.”

Mr. Hatoyama later said his wife had made a type of whale stew for breakfast. He also explained that he didn’t eat whales because people from the district he represents in Hokkaido were trying to develop whale watching as a tourism resource.

And yes, it is stretching it a bit to have us believe that the wife of a politician in his 60s doesn’t know he refuses to eat whale and serves it to him in a breakfast stew on the very morning he is to meet the Australian foreign minister.

But the Japanese will recognize the practical application of their proverb, uso mo hoben, or, circumstances may justify a falsehood. Mr. Hatoyama first established common ground with his visitor by telling him that he too, like most Australians, does not eat whale out of principle.

At the same time, he also made it known that plenty of Japanese like whales a lot–to eat. He then told the foreign minister that the extreme obstructionist tactics used by environmental groups for the whaling survey fleet “cannot be overlooked”.

I’m not sure that Mr. Smith swallowed the story about the breakfast any more than Mr. Hatoyama swallowed his wife’s whale stew.

But he certainly got the point, delivered most diplomatically.

Posted in Environmentalism, Food, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations | Tagged: , | 23 Comments »

How to deal with Sea Shepherd

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, April 6, 2008

ACCORDING TO THIS POST from Tim Blair, the French dealt with the eco-twerps Sea Shepherd and their leader Paul Watson much more assertively than Japan did.

As described in a link from the post, about 100 French fishermen were upset when Watson said the death of baby seals was a greater tragedy than the recent death of some sealers.

If you haven’t seen it already, please click on the first link (on the word “attacking”) to see a Japanese video of a Sea Shepherd ship deliberately ramming a Japanese whaling vessel. A similiar video was shown last year on the website of Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (whose site is linked on the right sidebar).

Yet during the whaling season earlier this year, no one in the English-language mass media could bring themselves to call a spade a spade. They usually described it a “collision” rather than a ramming.

Would you care to speculate on their approach had the Japanese taken steps similar to those of the French fishermen?

It should be obvious by now to everyone that the daily media, whether print or broadcast, is little more than an infotainment vehicle for advertising, with little interest in the concept of journalistic integrity. It is time to draw conclusions from that fact.

Posted in Environmentalism, Food | Tagged: , | 19 Comments »

Turning up their noses at Chinese seafood

Posted by ampontan on Monday, January 21, 2008

THE WORLD IS WELL AWARE that the Chinese are choking on the polluted fumes they spew daily into the atmosphere, and that the noxious gases they export with their manufactured goods are causing serious health problems, particularly for their neighbors.

Now, reader S.B. sends along this article from the International Herald Tribune, which explains the Chinese have developed a large fish farming industry that has created water pollution problems so severe as to prevent consumers in other countries from eating the exported fish.

The country has become a global fish farming colossus:

China produces about 70 percent of the farmed fish in the world, harvested at thousands of giant factory-style farms that extend along the entire eastern seaboard of the country. Farmers mass-produce seafood just offshore, but mostly on land, and in lakes, ponds, rivers and reservoirs, or in huge rectangular fish ponds dug into the earth.

What has this accomplished?

The government hoped the building boom would lift millions out of poverty. And it did. There are now more than 4.5 million fish farmers in China, according to the Fishery Bureau.

They have gotten gloriously rich in the process:

The boom did more than create jobs. It made China the only country that produces more seafood from fish farms than from the sea. It also helped feed an increasingly prosperous population, a longstanding challenge in China.

Many growers here struck it rich as well, people like Lin Sunbao, whose 25-year-old son is now studying at Cambridge University in England. “My best years were 1992, ’93, ’94,” Lin said. “I only had one aquafarm, and I earned over $500,000 a year.”

That success has come at a heavy price, however:

But that growth is threatened by the two most glaring environmental weaknesses in China: acute water shortages and water supplies contaminated by sewage, industrial waste and agricultural runoff that includes pesticides. The fish farms, in turn, are discharging wastewater that further pollutes the water supply.

“Our waters here are filthy,” said Ye Chao, an eel and shrimp farmer who has 20 giant ponds in western Fuqing. “There are simply too many aquaculture farms in this area. They’re all discharging water here, fouling up other farms.”

The problems are just as enormous as the industry itself:

More than half of the rivers in China are too polluted to serve as a source of drinking water. The biggest lakes in the country regularly succumb to harmful algal blooms. Seafood producers are part of the problem, environmental experts say. Enormous aquaculture farms concentrate fish waste, pesticides and veterinary drugs in their ponds and discharge the contaminated water into rivers, streams and coastal areas, often with no treatment.

Now, no one wants to eat Chinese seafood:

Importers of Chinese seafood quickly caught on. In recent years, eel shipments to Europe, Japan and the United States have been turned back or destroyed because of residues of banned veterinary drugs. Eel shipments to Japan have dropped 50 percent through August of this year.

Do I need to tell you that some Chinese in the industry have found a way to be critical of Japanese behavior?

Some growers have lashed out at Japan, arguing that it keeps raising the drug residue standard simply to protect its own eel farms against competition.

Forgive the Chinese public; after years of government propaganda, they know not whereof they speak. Food safety—particularly for imported food products–is a matter of extreme public concern in Japan. According to an American source:

Japan has been developing the new regulations for more than three years…The new Japanese regulations are based on international standards established by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization to ensure food safety.

The same source notes that the American pork industry changed its behavior to protect its livelihood, and used the example of the Japanese ban on American beef as a cautionary tale.

Besides, Japanese domestic production of eel, beef, and pork is insufficient to satisfy domestic demand.

In fact, Japanese standards covered more than eel and pork, as this Xinhua report admits:

The new criteria involve 302 food products, 799 agricultural chemicals and 54,782 inspection criteria and is (sic) believed to be the world’s strictest by far.

Xinhua also notes that the standards have had the desired effect:

A ministry spokesperson has promised the ministry would follow Japan’s new criteria strictly so as to guide Chinese exporters. Since 2001, says the ministry, China has suffered 24 major trade and technical barriers hindering its exports of farm produce to Japan.

This is confirmed by Chinaview:

China has resumed exports of grilled eels to Japan after a four-month suspension triggered by reports saying banned drugs had been found in the products. Inspection and quarantine authorities in southern China’s Guangdong Province, the country’s leading eel exporter, said exports to Japan resumed in mid November…Chinese grilled eel products were taken off Japanese shelves in July amid concerns about the use of antibiotics and some banned substances, said Huang Weiming, Guangdong inspection and quarantine bureau vice director. He said Guangdong had not received a single order for grilled eel from Japanese importers over the past four months.

Some misunderstandings still remain, however:

Many Japanese love grilled eels from China. They make up about 80 percent of the market and are sold at prices 40 percent cheaper than similar Japanese products, Huang said.

Here’s how the first sentence should read: Many Japanese love the price of grilled eels from China.

Some Chinese are still blustering, as the IHT reports:

“Our market will expand in Russia and Southeast Asia, and the EU,” Wang said.

I wouldn’t count those eels before they’re hatched. Or at least before reading this from the Wall Street Journal:

The European Union said Friday that it will follow the lead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which said it is stepping up scrutiny of Chinese farm-raised seafood.
EU authorities in Beijing are talking to Chinese authorities and conducting an investigation, said Philip Tod, an EU spokesman. They have already asked EU countries to increase their vigilance. “We will not hesitate to take action,” Mr. Tod said. “The same substances banned in the U.S. are also banned in Europe.”

Mr. Wang unfortunately has another view:

“In five or six years, as we transfer our export destinations, Japan will be begging us.”

I wouldn’t bet the fish farm on it.

Some observers think the Chinese will get it right eventually:

“Water is the biggest problem in China,” said Peter Leedham, the business manager at Sino Analytica, which advises companies in China on food safety issues. “But my feeling is China will deal with it, because it has to. It just won’t be a quick process.”

I wish I could be so optimistic.

Posted in China, Environmentalism, Food | 8 Comments »

Japan launches YouTube salvo against Australia

Posted by ampontan on Monday, January 7, 2008

IT APPEARS THAT SOMEONE IN JAPAN has decided that enough is enough and they’re not going to take it lying down anymore.

There is now a 10-minute video on YouTube with English and Japanese titles that contains the following:

  • The claim that Australia is a white supremacist nation prejudiced against the Japanese, backed by images from the Cronulla race riots
  • The claim that Aboriginals and Asians are second-class citizens in Australia
  • Several images of slain dingoes, which it claims are an endangered species, a wallaby being killed by a child slamming it against a wall, and a man taking a baby kangaroo from its mother’s pouch and stomping on it
  • A young Australian woman using her hands to eat what seems to be a kangaroo limb at a barbecue, while a young Japanese woman delicately eats some whale with chopsticks as part of a larger meal. (The Australian woman is standing up while eating, or tachigui, which is considered rude in Japan. This subtlety will probably be lost on the Australians.)
  • An excerpt of a beer commercial in which two restaurant employees kill an obese Japanese who orders the whale course. The commercial calls for a boycott of Kirin. The Japanese brewer protested, saying they have nothing to do with whaling, and that the commercial is racist.

The Australians don’t care for the video very much, as you can see from the article here. Here is the link to the YouTube video.

The article says:

The video will inflame already high tensions between Australia and Japan over the whaling issue.

Sorry, but that excuse cuts very little ice with me. As we used to say in America when I was growing up, “You can sure dish it out, but you can’t take it.”

The article, of course, continues to self-righteously dish it out. Note their choice of words (emphasis mine):

The Japanese whaling fleet, which is in Antarctica hunting the sea giants, aims to slaughter up to 935 minkes and 50 endangered fin whales this summer.

The first word of the photo caption accompanying the article is “smear”.

I have no idea who put it together. They should have used a native-speaking translator for the English, but the language is very understandable.

Those who want to debate the accuracy of the Japanese claims, or the appropriateness of the tone, can do so in the comments section. What interests me is that the Japanese are finally starting to respond to the mudslinging to which they are subjected from some quarters overseas.

It’s about time. My only suggestion is that they use a bit more professional polish to package their rebuttals in the future.

And to those Australians who don’t care for it: Quit your whingeing, mates. The truth hurts. If you don’t like being on the receiving end of it for a change, you’ve got no one to blame but yourselves.

Update: AFP is carrying a report that says the YouTube video now has 100,000 hits and counting. Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says:

“It is un-tasteworthy in the extreme, that’s the kindest thing I can think to say about it,” Smith told reporters. “Its general overtone, its general content, I absolutely condemn. It’s anonymous, so that tells you something before we even start.”

In other words, it’s just fine for Australians to broadcast and disseminate the bloodiest possible images of Japanese whaling ships catching whales, use language like “slaughter” and “kill”, and compare the act to cannibalism and human slavery, but when the Japanese broadcast and disseminate images of Australians doing the same thing to dingoes, wallabies, and kangaroos, and then eating the kangaroo at a barbecue, it’s “un-tasteworthy in the extreme”.

Having one’s hypocrisy exposed can be uncomfortable, can’t it?

But untasteworthy? I’m not so sure. I’ve eaten kangaroo, and it’s not bad.

But I think whale is better.

Posted in Environmentalism, Food, International relations | Tagged: , | 81 Comments »

BBC: Inciting racial hatred of the Japanese?

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 27, 2007

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent.
– Epictetus

THE UNITED KINGDOM HAS A LAW known as the Public Order Act of 1986. This website describes the intent of the law as follows:

The law covering criminally racist material makes it an offence to stir up racial hatred against a group of persons in Great Britain defined by reference to colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.
This act makes it an offence for a person who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, is guilty of an offence if –
(a) he intends thereby to stir up racial hatred, or
(b) having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.

The website notes that the government has not put the text of the law online, though it does sell hard copies.

The British Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as the BBC, is based in the United Kingdom and is the largest broadcast organization in the world. The BBC motto is, “Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation”.

They operate BBC News, which is the world’s largest broadcast news organization. They present news stories on television and radio, and place the text and audio of some of these stories on their website.

One such story is “Can Whaling Be Justified”. For this story, BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher—an appropriate name for a journalist covering a whaling story–will report on the Japanese whaling expedition from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza.

The BBC allows its audience to comment on the stories it places on the website in a feature called Have Your Say. This feature has been activated for Jonah Fisher’s reports on whaling.

Posters must follow certain rules when commenting in the Have Your Say area. Some of them are as follows:

No defamatory comments. A defamatory comment is one that is capable of damaging the reputation of a person or organisation.
Do not incite people to commit any crime, including incitement of racial hatred.
Do not post messages that are unlawful, harassing, defamatory, abusive, threatening, harmful, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, homophobic or racially offensive.

When they refer to the crime of racial hatred, they are referring in part to the activities prohibited by the Public Order Act of 1986, as explained above.

To make sure that posters abide by the rules, the BBC moderates this message board. There are two types of moderation. The type of moderation in force for the whaling story is “Fully Moderated”.

Here the BBC defines Fully Moderated:

This is also known as pre-moderation. Every comment submitted to a fully moderated discussion has to be checked by a BBC moderator before it is published on the site.

The readers of the website can complain about comments the moderators have allowed. The BBC explains the purpose of this option as follows:

It is only for serious complaints about comments, namely that they are obscene, abusive, threatening, unlawful, harassing, defamatory, harmful, profane, racially offensive, or otherwise strongly objectionable.
The Have Your Say moderators will decide whether the comment breaks the House Rules. If it does, they will remove it. If it doesn’t, it will be allowed to remain on the site.

The following comments were posted on the Have Your Say area of the BBC website in regard to the whaling story. Because this is a Fully Moderated topic, the BBC moderators read each one first and thought that racial hatred is not “likely to be stirred up thereby”. Also, if any of the posters complained, their complaints were rejected.

I leave it to the readers’ judgment to determine whether the following comments comply with the law of the United Kingdom and BBC standards.

PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING:

  1. The names and countries of origin of the posters have been removed. However, the posts here were sent not only from Great Britain, but also continental Europe, North America, and Asia.
  2. The posts are copied exactly as they appeared, including punctuation and spelling.
  3. They are displayed here in alternating italicized and bolded text. This is only to facilitate reading and is not intended to imply a special emphasis on my part.

START QUOTED TEXT

two words….. Enola Gay. Worked last time.

How about we harpoon a few Jap Whalers to let them know how it feels to have an exploding warhead tearing through them.

Are we allowed to hunt Japanese? Seems only fair.

Would anyone shed a tear if the whaling boat had an accident and sank it? Not me.

During the second world war propaganda said the Japanese were a cruel barbaric race…maybe it wasn’t propaganda

It is barabaric and wrong and any nation that undetakes it under any pretext demonstrates its savagery and lack of civility.
No need to say more.
Or should we hunt nips for research?

maybe they would feel a bit differently if we said we wanted to continue our scientific pursuits on nuclear fision by droppin a bomb or 2 on hiroshima or nagasaki again?

so those Nipponese love whale, some love other fish and they eat them. now i heard that some cannibals love japanese, they have less hair and smooth skin and can be easily consumed. i heard they are easily digestable too.

the Japanese have a long histroy of hunting things to extinction. 1000 whales for “research” who the he*l do think they are kidding. A barbaric culture that care for NOTHING but themselves.

Japan, you are whale and dolphin murderers and we still see you as sneaky liars.

It also used to be part of the Japanese culture, that a member of the samurai class had the right to kill anybody non-samurai jhust for the hell of it, if they so wished. “I’ve just bought a new sword I need to test its edge, you peasant come here and bow your head” SWOOSH, THUD “Ooooh lovely sharp sword”, “You peasant remove that unsightly headless corpse and clean up the blood, unless you wish to go the same way”
The Japanese have always been a brutal race, just ask any former Allied POW.

Japan never did care much about life anyway

…can the Japanese justify the slaughter of whales for research that never gets published? Then again, some of them can justify the treatment handed out to WWII POWs and ‘comfort women’ so who knows what goes on in their minds?

Whales are not a necessary foodstuff. Why doesn’t Greenpeace buy an old russian sub and torpedoe the greedy people who want to do this? Seems an infinitely more civilised use for them than their original purpose. “You want to go whaling? Die then.” Easy.

Its surely time that we boycotted all products form Japan until they start behaving a little less like the savages that they obviously are!

It is not just the Whales. The Japanese are a bestial nation as proved over and over in World War 2. Look at what they did to prisoners and the nations that they occupied.
Their whole creed was that the Japanese nation was superior to all others and therefore could do what they wished.
We stopped that nonsense the last time with two buckets of instant sunshine at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Obviously time for another one – perhaps on Tokio? Or are they going to learn?

Maybe we should start eating Japanese; it could become part of our culture.

Would the Japanese feel that it was okay to hunt them for food? Their numbers have been replenished since 1945.

If the Japs carry on with the hunting of the other two species of whale, gunboats by the international community must be used to sink the whalers. Any deaths of humans is purely by the by.
We have a duty to protect any species under threat
.

I wish the slowest and most painful death possible for whalers. ME ME ME is all humans think about. We should be extinct.

Japan is, and always will be a boil on the backside of the earth.
It is a country steeped in brutality, and covered in the blood of the innocent. I cannot understand why we have anything to do with these people. I would rather shake hands with Mugabe.

Maybe seeing as whales are quite big we could start whacking a few torpedoes into Jap fishing boats as I suppose subs look like whales from a distance and they may steer clear of harmless mammals in case they get blown up. Just a thought.

The time has come to make an example “pour encourager les autres”. Target practice the odd torpedo on a whaling ship. Forget the toothless old UN.

END QUOTED TEXT

The BBC notes that they’ve rejected 192 comments on this topic as of the time I wrote this post. If this is an indication of what they think is acceptable, one can only wonder about the content of the rejected comments.

“Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation” indeed.

BONUS SECTION!

I offer the following comments here for your entertainment. Some of them might leave you laughing so hard that your navel could boil tea, as the Japanese would say. Note the sheer number of errors regarding easily verifiable facts.

Reading them calls to mind the observation by former American Vice-President Hubert Humphrey: “The right to free speech does not include the right to be taken seriously.”

BEGIN QUOTED TEXT

Our planet is on overheat, rain forests are fading away, acid rains are common, animals are going extinct by handfulls and the Japanese continue hunting down whales like on a picnic.

Save the whales, the planet, yourselves. Use birth control.

What is it with Asians and their culinary fetishes to eat certian species into extinction because it will give them sexual fortitude?

Mankind is so brave that it has to destroy beautiful and harmless creatures who were here a longtime before we were and have more rights to belong on this Planet.
Sometimes I wonder if humans belong here at all.

How would we like it if whales hunted us, and we were powerless to stop?

Has anyone ever tried Sushi made with Spam? Would be a more ‘environmentally friendly’ alternative to whale meat. Prefer to see whales in their natural habitat than used for humankind’s greedy purposes.

Is whaling more dangerous and harmful to earth, than, ” GOLBAL WARRING, GOLBAL WARMING, GENOCIDE IN IRAQ, NEOCOLONIAL THUGGGERY OF REST OF WORLD RESOURCES, UTTER POVERTY, & LIVING IN “STOLEN LANDS, WITH ,LOOTED WEALTH ” OF REST OF “FREE AND CIVILIZED HUMANITY ” IN THE 21ST CENTURY?.
White Neocolonial masters&their mobs are responsible, for all the above harmful effects ,in the WORLD, ever since evil white terrorist colonila thugggery genocide living mobs, drifted out of their slums in europe.

Do whales have large or small brains?
Whales actually have fairly large brains compared to humans. Whether they are large overall depends upon how you look at it. That is, compared to the size of the whale’s body, the whale brain is similar in size ratio to human brain-to-body. Especially the toothed whales whose brains are largely built to process sound. By the way, they have no sense of smell!

Leave the whales alone.
Do not ignore climate change.
Be nice to your neighbour.
Do not drop litter.
Recycle.

I think Japan should be HEAVILY punished for its dishonesty. It disgusts everyone. I think the controled whaling of certain species is great! I use expensive cream made from whale that is not synthesized by any company – because an equivalent formula is not available. Doctors are amazed at how well my skin is doing. I use this cream rarely. Greenpeace is doing a good job hasseling the sneaky whalers. We need controlled whaling. Eat organic beef – hug a cow today. Mostly, be real.

The Japanese claim they ‘have’ to kill whales for ‘research’.
What utter poppycock!
They like to kill these magnificent creatures because they want a gourmet food!
These are the same people who catch sharks, rip off their fins, & throw their (sometimes still living) victims back in the sea to die in helpless agony – and for what? A bowl of SOUP!
Despicable!
And what happens when the whales run out?

I’m not in Japan, but am very surprised at the Japanese…they’re so conscious about life, and health, even to point of not using the term “nuclear” (using isotope, instead), yet would consider slaughtering whales. I’m shocked!

The Japanese don’t study whales, they eat them, to study an animal it has to be alive. Iv’e never studied my dinner.

How can it be justified so Japanese men can have an aphrodisiac?
Give Greenpeace Haproons so they can sink the Whaling boats.

Don’t sperm whales eat giant squid?
If I was a giant squid I’d want all sperm whales wiped out.
By saving sperm whales we are condemning squid to death.
makes you think…..

I highly recommend that all commentators watch Star Trek: The Voyage Home to see the potentially devastating impacts of not having any whales on the Earth….Analysis and reflection: these form the basis of SF and is no different then Shakespeare.

What a lot of drivel on here about the sentience, IQ, free-spirit etc of whales….If they are so clever why do they spend all their time swimming around sucking up plankton? They’ve done nothing in the way of art, literature, science or technology. They just swim around and can’t even breath underwater like fish, they have to keep coming up for air. Stupid animals that belong on my dinner plate. Yum yum!

Most civilized nations revere cetaceans, but a few nations massacre them under the pretense of science. The Japanese revere the crane. What if an Asian nation decided to do “scientific craning” and invaded Japanese airspace to harpoon cranes to satisfy their drooling barbaric instincts?. Japan- clear up your act of continuing sadistic, primitive, caveman-instinct-driven behaviour.

Killing whales could have a positive impact on global warming.

And when the Greenpeace ship reaches the hunting ground, they will be pinging the oceans with their sonar equipments to find out where the humpbacks are. They will ping so hard and so furious that the humpbacks will go berserk. And then some of them humpbacks will commit suicide.

I have committed my life to making the world a better place because of what the country of Japan allows so that their restaurants can serve what they consider a delicacy. Sadly, they often discard most of the whale except the fin. What a shame!

Dogs aren’t even safe over there…they eat them too.
——
Actually, it’s not the Japanese but the Chinese who eat dog meat…

I mean, like, the Japanese live in a really sick society? one that eats whales ? like, every day whales are, like, murdered so that people can eat their filthy raw whales, and, like, society is immune to that, so it’s just a short step to killing people? i like screw you, i’m killing whales today so i’m killing people tomorrow?
i campaigned and gave a flyer to a guy, and i’m like, “hey dude, like boycott Japan?” and he asks if I’m gonna protest in front of halal butchers so i said “you racist”

END QUOTED TEXT

“Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”

– Edward R. Murrow

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Posted in Environmentalism, Food, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Mass media | 101 Comments »

China credits Japan where credit is due

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 24, 2007

THIS IS ALMOST A MAN-BITES-DOG STORY: The People’s Daily of China ran this article about a new yen loan agreement with Japan for environmental projects, and it sticks to the truth from beginning to end!

It reports that:

  • The loans will help six cities and provinces in central and western China build six projects to reduce air pollution and deal with urban waste.
  • The 46.3 billion yen ($US 420 million) loan for FY 2007 will bring the total amount the Japanese government has lent to China since 1979 to 3.316 trillion yen.

(These are de facto war reparations, though the article doesn’t go so far as to admit that.)

  • Yen loans are part of Japan’s official development aid, and are used on environmental projects and infrastructure.
  • Japan has been reducing its official development aid to China from a peak in 2000/2001 in view of its fast-developing economy.

It’s good to see Japan get credit where credit is due, though the Chinese will of course pitch the propaganda the other way whenever it suits their purposes.

But if the People’s Daily can play it straight every once in a while, why can’t the Western media?

Posted in China, Environmentalism, International relations | 1 Comment »

Eat whale and save the planet

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 23, 2007

“LESS INTELLIGENT WHALE SPECIES are much like sheep and should be sustainably hunted.”

Is that an argument presented by Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research?

No, guess again. It was one of the key points of an essay titled Beautiful Lies written by Australian environmental scientist Tim Flannery and published four years ago.

Said Dr. Flannery:

“My view is that at present the anti-whaling lobby is frustrating the attempt to develop a sustainable industry based on these creatures, and is therefore frustrating good management of marine resources…I think the Japanese are right. They are actually trying to create a sustainable whaling industry.”

In an interview on Australian radio (transcript here), Dr. Flannery stated:

The issue of stopping whaling, for example, now really has no environmental basis. People are investing a lot of time and energy in protecting whales from being harvested for what is almost no environmental return.

Resist the temptation to label Dr. Flannery an oddball. Time Magazine International referred to him as a Hero of the Environment in 2007 in this article written by Peter Garrett, Australia’s new environmental minister. Mr. Garrett, a former singer in the group Midnight Oil, compares him favorably to Al Gore.

Of equal interest is the thinking of those who disagree with him. Here’s the reason one reviewer objected to Dr. Flannery’s argument:

“We need to consider the significant psychological impact on humanity of allowing the killing of such majestic creatures.”

Here’s another:

“The problem for me is we know that whales are intelligent, gentle creatures – and who are we to conduct cranial and virtual IQ tests on them to determine whether they live or die? Far better, for this reader, that they be left in peace to sing their songs of the deeps.”

Those who look askance at the quasi-religious nature of environmentalism can take no comfort from his other views, however. The issue of whaling is one of Dr. Flannery’s few forays into environmentalist apostasy. As you can see from this interview, he is livid about global warming (even though the subject is outside his field of expertise).

Note: I found the link to the first article on Tim Blair’s website and went from there.

Posted in Environmentalism, Food | 11 Comments »

Japan to postpone humpback whale catch

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 21, 2007

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY MACHIMURA NOBUTAKA announced on the 21st that the government had decided to postpone their planned catch of 50 humpback whales during the current whaling expedition on the condition that the operations of the International Whaling Commission, in which whaling nations and nations opposed to whaling are in conflict, are “normalized”.

The intention to catch humpbacks created such an uproar in Australia and New Zealand that some countries pleaded with the Japanese to call off that part of the hunt. The Australian government planned to shadow the Japanese whaling fleet to film the operation for a possible legal challenge.

Mr. Machimura’s comments are worth noting. He said, “We didn’t give any consideration to Australia in particular, but hope this will result in improved relations…Some Australians cherish the humpback whales and give them names. Those sentiments are a little difficult for me to understand.”

One wonders what he would say about Sea Shepherd, which considers whaling to be cannibalism. That radical eco-group will still try to interfere with the expedition, regardless of the Japanese decision.

Posted in Environmentalism, Food, International relations | Tagged: , | 13 Comments »

China at Bali

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, December 11, 2007

EARLIER THIS YEAR, pollution drifting over from China caused alerts in Northern Kyushu. Some Chinese rivers run black, with the sludge floating up on the shores of Taiwan and South Korea. The country spews mercury into the atmosphere, which winds up as far away as Massachusetts. Polluted water causes 750,000 premature deaths annually. And they ditched their Green GDP index when the results showed some regions posting negative growth.

Nevertheless, as Gordon Chang writes in Contentions, the blog for Commentary magazine, China is doing some world-class lecturing at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali.

“I just wonder whether it’s fair to ask developing countries like China to take on binding targets,” said Su Wei, a member of Beijing’s delegation, referring to mandatory caps on emissions of greenhouse gases. “I think there is much room for the United States to think whether it’s possible to change lifestyle and consumption patterns in order to contribute to the protection of the global climate.”

There should be no question by now that the Chinese are causing the world more harm than good. They never pass up the chance to pass up a chance to be cooperative. How are other countries to deal with behavior of this sort? This question is particularly pressing in northeast Asia.

Some might think it a short-circuit in logic to jump from environmental intransigence to weaponry, but the only way to protect oneself from people–or nations–such as this is to arm oneself with a big stick, just in case.

The time might not be far off when Japan concludes that the United States is an inconstant ally, and that the Chinese are an unstable and unpredictable neighbor whose immensity and endemic ethnocentrism mean that it will always insist on having its own way. There is no point in holding discussions with people who talk like Mr. Su.

And the biggest stick around is nuclear weapons.

How else to keep the Chinese at bay?

Note: Sorry for the blog-style posts, but translation work is still keeping me busy.

Posted in China, Environmentalism | 2 Comments »

Meet Jolly Roger

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 9, 2007

WE’VE MENTIONED SEA SHEPHERD HEAD Paul Watson and his group’s efforts to stop Japanese whaling several times before. Kyodo is running a profile on him here.

“Put simply, there is no difference between opposing Japanese whaling and opposing people who are poaching elephants for ivory or robbing a bank,” he said.
Watson sees his adventures in the Southern Ocean not as a protest action, but as an “intervention” against what he calls a “highly criminal operation.”

How interesting that Kyodo refers to Watson’s actions as “adventures”. The Japanese call them terrorism. Last year, Greenpeace and the Australian and New Zealand governments refused to have anything to do with him. Quite the adventurer.

People say you can’t tell a book by looking at the cover. I’m not too sure about that one; I’ve always thought that people can–and do–tell a lot by looking at the cover.

The article includes a photo of Watson. See what you think.

Posted in Environmentalism, Food, International relations | Tagged: , | 81 Comments »