Thursday, June 21, 2007

Clearing the air

When I read about the death of Lake Tai or hear the sirens announcing the arrival of another bank of photochemical smog from Jiangsu (an important issue for the Prime Minister because his home district, the city of Shimonoseki, has been getting clobbered by China-generated air pollution this year) I try to remember the hideous pollution of the 1960s and 1970s.

While conservatives may tear up at remembering how much better life was during the high growth era--when families were strong, students were well behaved, incomes were rising and everyone just got along (a characterization designed to drive leftists mad)--it is good to look away from the unnatural projected wholesome Technicolor image in the foreground to the brown, fetid haze obscuring the details of the background.

As for the condition of the rivers and bays--well, let us say a hell of a lot of downtown office buildings built in the 1970s turn their backs to the river with only the tiniest of windows facing the water.

Now, riverfront and waterfront views, if you can secure them, are worth a fortune.

I know that in many cases, the cleanup of Japan's environment came at the cost of sullying China, with many of the most polluting processes being handed off to either Chinese factories or to foreign factories based in China. However a great deal was accomplished by the people and their government fighting together against vested interests, investing a lot of money, shifting their priorities and complaining, complaining, complaining until the pollution ceased.

Last Sunday, for example, I climbed Tanigawadake on the Gunma/Niigata border. It was not one of those it-takes-you-breath-away-everything-looks-so-close days one sometimes enjoys in late January-early February or during Golden Week. It was just a bright, clear sunny day.

Nevertheless, looking over my shoulder from the saddle between Tenshindaira and the summit, I could see across three prefectures to the snow-clad peak of Mt. Fuji 160 kilometers (100 miles) away. (Due to underexposure, Mt. Fuji is invisible in the photo below. The arrow indicates its approximate location)

Call me an optimist...but if the country can dump the absurd fears and beliefs of a few crapulous souls ("It was not 300,000 viciously murdered. It was only 20,000 viciously murdered....and they were all volunteers!") that are cluttering up the bilateral relationships, it has the wherewithal to save a lot more Chinese and Southeast Asian lives every year through sharing what it knows about pollution abatement and energy efficiency than were ever lost in the killing fields of the Great War.

All that is needed is a clear picture of what is possible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A thoughtful post, and a wondrous pictorial comparison.