Can the Human Civilization and the Global Environment Coexist ?
Professor of Graduate School of Frontier Science, The University of Tokyo / Special Adviser to the President of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
General Editor of Nature Interface
Various aspects of the environmental problems of differing demand levels depending on people, societies, countries, and areas.
Environmental problems have various aspects in accordance with the people, societies, countries and areas. The earth that has nourished various ecosystems, including human beings, is only one. This earth is nevertheless afflicted by a serious illness. The environmental problem is one of the examples. This time, Prof. Hiroyuki Ishi, the author of "Report on Global Environment I-II" who has visited various countries in the world to research environmental issues, tells us about the serous situation of the earth.
In your book "Report on Global Environment I" (Iwanami Shoten,) you wrote, "Without exploiting even the 'frontier districts' under bad natural conditions, it would be impossible for the earth to accommodate human beings. We could only understand this as an 'environmental problem', and didn't see the aboriginal inhabitants who had lived in these frontier districts. " We are frightened that human beings have exploited even frontier districts and the global environment in the 20th century has become stuck in a stagnant situation.
To start our discussion, could you talk me about the research theme that you are currently dealing with?
Basically, I am studying with three themes. First, the loss of biodiversity by researching how the deforestation in Southeast Asia influences on the local people and community. For example, in Borneo Island, the oil palm plantation has been rapidly developed and now covered huge areas with oil palm trees. The oil taken from palm fruits is used for various materials. Especially, the "vegetable oil soaps" made of this oil have become popular, as the synthetic detergent was said to be "bad for the skin and the environment" and restricted its use. Unlike the animal oil and fat, it is considered to be healthy, and used widely for foods, even for the substitute of coffee cream. The tropical rainforests have been rapidly disappearing by the large-scale development of the plantation. As a consequence, indigenous people living in the forests are oppressed.
The second is the research on the influence of environmental degradation in the semi-arid regions in Africa where people have been often suffered from serious draught and starvation. This research has been interrupted for about ten years, but I'll go to Africa this April and resume it.
The third research is about how the transition to the market economy in the former East European countries has affected the environment. They were boasting in the socialist period that there were no environmental problems, but when the Iron Curtain was opened, the most serious pollution and destruction of the environment in the world had emerged. I have been involved in the international organization to recover their environment.
In addition to these researches, I have recently started researches on the problems of the waste management. Especially in the least developing countries in Asia, as the economy has been growing rapidly, the waste has been also increasing enormously. Anyhow the quantity of the waste per head in Cambodia is about 1.1kg per day, which is almost the same as in Japan. They import the liquid products contained in a plastic pack or bottle from Japan and other countries, however, these countries do not have the system to collect and process the waste. Illegal dumping can be seen everywhere. Since they incinerate in open air freely, the dioxin and other chemical pollution occurs as a result. How we should build a system to deal with the rapid increasing waste in developing countries is very urgent.
Research into the forests from the local residents in Terai districts, Nepal
(1/5) next >>