Japan's Election On Sunday: Massive Win For Opposition, How About Green Policies?


Images from Midori no Mirai

Japanese voters go to the polls on Sunday and opinion polls show a massive win for the opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, that could win 300 plus seats in the Parliament. There is no strong Green Party in spite of many years of campaigning by activists. Why has Japan (and the United States) failed to create an alternative party that can stimulate independent political debate about sustainable development and "green" issues, like in Europe? DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama writes in the New York Times:

"In the post-Cold War period, Japan has been continually buffeted by the winds of market fundamentalism in a U.S.-led movement that is more usually called globalization. In the fundamentalist pursuit of capitalism people are treated not as an end but as a means. Consequently, human dignity is lost."

As I took a closer look at Japanese bloggers, I found a lot of interesting thoughts about the platforms of both the ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, and DPJ.

Tokyo blogger Ekojin applauds the DPJ stance on renewable energy, but gets "very emotional" about the lack of ideas how to secure rare metals for all the new batteries and appliances that are supposed to give Japan a global leadership position, and "can't wait until we start discussing" stable energy supply issues more seriously. Several bloggers are wondering what to make of the main parties' farm policies. Hanasyoubu is not impressed by either platform. Both LDP and DPJ are proposing to continue subsidies to farmers indefinietly. But that kind of system has failed to provide food security for Japan. Hanasyoubu reminds the reader that Japan's self-sufficiency rate is around 40%, and doesn't think DPJ's proposals will be enough to help farmers in any substantial way: "Distributing money freely for farm policies will only make the public feel more uneasy about political measures." Several bloggers are also worried about a proposed Free Trade Agreement between Japan and the United States, that they feel could "destroy" Japan's farming sector.

Special mention: Marutei Tsurunen, born in Finland, now a DPJ member of parliament. He wants a Food Safety Agency modelled on the EFSA in the European Union. Check out his English website, and his plans to promote organic farming!

"...every month, I travel around Japan and continue my speaking activities to promote organic farming. I am happy to say that the number of agriculturalists engaging in organic farming is beginning to increase and the number of retail outlets selling organic foods to consumers, such as supermarkets, has also grown. In areas such as Tokyo and Yokohama, more and more restaurants are using organic ingredients. Organic farming has finally started to make a major contribution in Japan to food safety and to protecting the health of our land."

Japan's car industry has done fairly well recently, as the US Cash for Clunkers program helped Toyota, Honda and Nissan sell more cars in the US. Was it good for anything? The most popular model under the program was the Toyota Corolla, followed by the Honda Civic and the Toyota Camry. But there is concern here that such policies are not sustainable, and that the program has simply brought forward future consumption.

7 out of the top 10 new cars sold under the (expensive) C.A.R.S. program were from Japan, plus one from Hyundai, South Korea. See Department of Transportation (pdf) for details. Meanwhile, analysists in Japan are worried how this country will be able to sustain energy supplies and reduce green house gas emissions, as the political parties have proposed very costly proposals.

A green party like in Europe is an idea that some Japanese people are very fond of, and several attempts have been made to create networks and alliances to get candidates into the national parliament in Tokyo.

Yukio Hatoyama ends his op-ed in New York Times by quoting Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, founder of the first popular movement for a united Europe, written 85 years ago in "Pan-Europa" (his grandfather, Ichiro Hatoyama, translated his book, "The Totalitarian State Against Man," into Japanese):

"All great historical ideas started as a utopian dream and ended with reality. Whether a particular idea remains as a utopian dream or becomes a reality depends on the number of people who believe in the ideal and their ability to act upon it."

Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp

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