Solidarity March for Japan – Chiang Mai Tapae Gate 7.00 am Sunday 20 March 2011 – Walk & bike to US & Japan Consulates.
Dear Chiang Mai Friends
I wish you well for your Solidarity march this Sunday but as I am in Viet Nam I regret I cannot join you.
I suggest the terrible tragedy still unfolding in Japan will prompt the Japanese people to seriously consider the defects in their society which have made the consequenses of predictable natural event so very dire. It should also be a lesson to the rest of the World on how not to develop. The challenge for all countries will then be how we can restructure our societies to lessen the likelyhood of more simlar disasters.
I remember in the 1970’s meeting Japanese activists visiting Australia when the office of FoE (Friends of the Earth) was in a tiny house in Melbourne’s inner suburb of Carlton. They brought with them pictures of the horrors of Mercury & Cadmium poisoning from Mimimata in Japan and together we campaigned to prevent the mining of Australian Uranium for export. Then we predicted the nuclear disaster which we are now living through.
I also recall some years ago a radio program which described the Tokyo region, with its megapolis covering a huge area as the first place on Earth likely to undergo catastrophic collapse. The next great quake in the Tokyo region has the potential to be far more destructive in terms of life and property than what we witness now. Far worse than the Atom bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
So why has Japan found it self in this situation? There appear to be two reasons.
Firstly the population has grown far greater than the fragile environment can safely support. When natural disaters strike they need not be human calamaties if people occupy sturdy homes and work places far from land which will sweep them away in landslides and out of flood zones. But building communities to accomodate large populations in such a manner requires massive amounts of energy hungry steel and concrete.
This leads to the second factor. Japan is a high energy use society which uses and produces great quantities of consumer goods. Despite the fact that the country has excellent public transport networks and bicycle use is very high, as can be seen from the wake of the tsunami, the private motor car is widely used and Japanese aviation (according to last nights news report) accounts for around 10% of World aviation.
So how can folk in other countries best help the Japanese, or for that matter Pakistan where 6 million people were made homeless in last year’s floods? Is not the rest of the World building societies like Japan with too many people and excessive energy use? To make life in Japan sustainable does not the country have to say goodbye to the motor car and to flying? To help Japan do we not have to do the same.
In Chiang Mai is it not time we turned from the car and motor bike to the bicycle? Is it not time to cease building concrete and steel apartment buildings and houses, stopped concreting and widening roads? Doing these things is the best way we can help Japan rebuild but there is more to be done.
We need to make Chiang Mai safe for the eventuality of an earthquake here. Four hundred years ago a quake rent asunder the Chedi Luang. We need to survey all the city’s buildings to ensure they do not suffer collapse. For example I live atop a twelve storey apartment house which has a large empty swimming pool on the roof. Were it to be full of water I am told the building would be more stable in a quake. Should the owners not be required to maintain the pool? And what about the neighbours? Next door a new eight storey block is under construction. The building itself is earthquake proof as it has a huge thick solid steel and concrete foundation, but could my building topple and bring about its destruction?
And my last suggestion is about how to help the many Japanese residents of ChiangMai. Perhaps some would benefit from being given an extended period of refuge here as their homeland struggles to re-house the people who have lost their all. Please use the solidarity march to ask our Japanese friends here how best we can help them. … Best Wishes, Ricky Ward