Rikuzentakata, like many towns on Japan’s rugged north-east Pacific coast, was in decline even before last year’s tsunami killed 1 700 of its 24 000 inhabitants and destroyed most of its downtown buildings.
With two-thirds of the remaining residents homeless, mayor Futoshi Toba questioned whether the town could recover. Damage to infrastructure and the local economy, he said, would force people to move away to find jobs.
Sixteen months later, the town is trying to rebuild in a way that Toba says will reinvent the region and provide a model to overcome obstacles that have hobbled the Japanese economy for more than 20 years: the fastest-ageing population in the developed world, loss of manufacturing competitiveness to China and South Korea and reliance on imported fossil fuels.
Boston’s handful of scenic parks — while filled with trees — are outmatched by sources of air pollution. These huge mushroom tree things called Treepods could help filter CO2 from the air, powered only by the sun and little kids on seesaws.
The Treepods would be constructed purely of recycled plastic bottles. On top, they’d be covered with solar panels to help power the CO2 filtration process, which would take place throughout the branches using a ‘humidity swing’ process. The trunk of the tree sports an integrated seesaw, where children can get off their lazy butts and start generating some electricity to help save the world already.
We all know Japan is second only to Singapore when it comes to keeping things clean, so it’s little surprise to see the country’s captains of industry come up with a futuristic vehicle called the Solarve Bus (a contraction of "Solar Vehicle") that’s sparkly both inside and out.
Sanyo and Ryobi teamed up to outfit (Japanese) the standard road-going bus with solar panels on the outside to generate power and some nifty air scrubbers in the cabin for the passengers to enjoy cleaner air.
Japan’s envoy to climate change talks expressed doubt Wednesday that a final agreement would be reached at the UN summit on tackling global warming that starts next week in Copenhagen.
“Due to time constraints … we would have to say it will be difficult to agree on a legally binding text” at the December 7-18 meeting, said Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa.
However, he expressed hope that a non-binding political agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be signed by 192 nations there that would pave the way for a final text.
Such a political agreement should include the reduction targets of industrialized countries, mitigation actions by developing countries, pledges of financial aid, and a deadline for a legally binding text, he said.
“The negotiations will be complex, with a high degree of difficulty, but I believe it is possible to achieve a historical politically binding agreement,” he told reporters.
The center-left government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has promised to slash emissions by 25 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, as long as major emitters such as the United States and China also take meaningful action.
Japan, where the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, has so far struggled to meet its own previous target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by six percent between 1990 and the 2008-2012 period.
Tokyo has also pledged 9.2 billion dollars in aid to developing countries by 2012 to help them combat global warming.