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"SOTOKOTO" October 2000 Issue

Over the past 5 years or so even people like me, born and raised in the city and leading our lives without much connection with nature, have had to think about the uneasy future of the human race due to the daily, overwhelming destruction of the environment. I myself have been enjoying my life up to this point, and I feel a sense of satisfaction. But what is to become of our children's generation? Can we expect to leave them a viable future? If, for instance, we were to learn today that an asteroid was going to crash into Earth one year from now, the world would certainly drop all silliness like disputes, and everyone, from scientists to politicians, would get together to discuss it and desperately try to do something about it. In fact, what we face now is not that different a situation. It may not be a year from now, but more like 20 years from now, that the crisis caused by the destruction of the environment might reach the point of no return.
In spite of which, what is the world doing about it?
As if nothing was going on, we are living without a care in the world,
Now is the time for the human race to show some sense.
For example, there are many poor countries in the world. In the African countries that are the most impoverished, many people, especially children, suffer from starvation and disease. 19,000 people die every day. This is outrageous. The poor countries, because they are poor, can only stand by and watch their environment being destroyed. Or, they have no choice but to earn their daily wages by cutting down the trees that stand before them. The forests are being cut down by, , Japanese companies, for example. The poor countries no way to prevent this from happening. They suffer in the name of a monster called economics.
There is a dramatic way to eliminate their problems.
These countries are carrying a lot of debts. This powerfully oppresses the lives of their people. This makes their poverty and environmental problems even more severe. The creditors are the so-called G7 nations, the ones who are attending the summit. At the time of the Cologne summit this momentous idea was put forth, to cancel the debts of the world's poorest countries. In reality it is not very hard for countries such as Japan, America, England, and France to cancel these debts!
If their debt were canceled, those countries could apply that amount of money towards medicine for the sick. Then many of their children would not have to die. By setting up industries in the right way, they might be able to devise a system whereby they would no longer have to sell off their forests.
Please think about this. Each one of the children that are dying in Africa harbors within him an immense potential. Africa, where the roots of the human race are. Their amazing athletes come to mind, as well as their art and music, so full of power. Serious talent is dying every day, talent that, if it lived and were educated, would surely bloom. In an overfed Japan, on the other hand, millions in money and resources are being spent to treat children who commit murder without thinking twice.
With the Okinawa summit approaching, I became actively involved in a movement that called upon the leaders of the G7 to cancel the debts. This movement is also endorsed by Bono of U2, Mohammed Ali, Youssou D'our, as well as Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama.
The name of the movement is "Jubilee 2000." The Jubilee 2000 conference was held on Okinawa just before the Okinawa summit. A statement of demands was produced and presented directly to the leaders. Leaders of developing countries from Africa and elsewhere also came to Okinawa at the time of the summit and had opportunities to speak.
Unfortunately, but as was expected, what unfolded at the summit was a political show. The Washington Post panned it as "an example of the worst of summits." How true. The issue of the debt of impoverished nations was discussed in form only. That was my unshakable impression. Will things move forward substantively, as thought? There are no guarantees.
Incidentally, the cost of gathering 8 men to talk to each other for a mere 3 days was said to be \80 billion [$690 million.] An amount not even double that would pay off the debt of the 41 poorest countries in the world! Something is wrong with this world.

reprinted from "SOTOKOTO" October 2000 Issue

© 2001 Ryuichi Sakamoto

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