April 22nd was Earth Day. Except for an event held at Yoyogi Park the weekend before, we didn’t hear of any major events in Tokyo. The fact that Japan has pledged a 25% reduction of its 1990 greenhouse gas emissions level by the year 2020 makes it sort of a shame that there was nothing special. To be fair, April 22nd was an unseasonably winter-like cold and rainy day in Tokyo and because of global warming there are certainly people who are conscious of the climate change problem and were aware of Earth Day.
A long time ago, I read that Tom Cruise once gave a speech on Earth Day where he said that in the beginning it’s okay if it’s trendy or “in vogue” to think about the environment because we just want people to start doing something. Years after his speech, the actions taken toward trying to solve environmental problems have clearly become more widespread and the number of related goods and services has increased. While there are goods that are seriously involved in helping the environment, the reality is that in Japan there are a lot of goods labeled “Eco” simply to promote sales.
For the current Japanese government to realize its goals, it has to change the consciousness of not only corporations, but also average citizens. How does the Government plan to move forward with social approaches to environmental problems that are now just seen as fashionable (only in consumer goods)? It almost seems that they are just leaving things up to “nature.”
I sometimes come across articles that say Japanese were “eco” even a long time ago and it is certainly true that there are elements to being “eco-friendly” that come from Japanese customs. At the same time, Japan is a culture of “disposable,” “new release,” “anytime, anywhere.” Finding solutions to environmental problems means you also need to consider the cultural aspects, which is something that requires time.
Will Japan be able to meet its goal ten years from now? We hope there will be a little more promotion and action from the Japanese Government.