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Can We Survive On this Planet?
japanese (日本語)

In the September issue of The Bridge, I discussed how I came to take interest in environmental issues, and went on to raise the issue of intergenerational inequality between the rights of our present generation and future generations. Since last issue, as you all know, the terrorist attacks on N.Y. and Washington D.C. by yet unidentified persons shook the world. In response to the attack, President Bush instantly declared a war without concrete evidence, for which the U.S. Congress formulated a nonpartisan support. Mr.Koizumi, Japanese Prime Minister, also supported Mr. Bush's declaration of war. I had not expected such an early arrival of a catastrophic event ― I thought there would be a bit more time.

First of all, war is the most severe form of environmental destruction.This requires a multifaceted and comprehensive examination. Environmental Research Institute of Japan (an institution headed by Teiichi Aoyama, who worked at The Club of Rome responsible for the publication "Limits to Growth") issued a detailed and comprehensive report on the scope of environmental destruction resulting from the Gulf War. Second, Osama bin Laden, a suspected mastermind of the Sept.11 terrorism, reportedly implied the use of nuclear weapons in an interview. President Bush also declared that he would not exclude the possibility of using such weapons. Clearly there is a chance that nuclear, biochemical or germ weaponry will be employed in a chain reaction of retaliations.

If that becomes a reality, the consequence will be much more sever than that of Chernobyl nuclear accident. And it will not be contained in the war field, but spread across the world. Even at this point, the potential targets of further terrorist attacks include everyplace from major cities around the world to nuclear related facilities. Have we humankind opened Pandora's Box? If so, our own generation would end up vanishing before taking on responsibility and obligation toward future generations. In a sense, this situation could be construed as a great punishment on our generation for enjoying prosperity by amassing and exploiting world's resources in the 20 th century. Furthermore, I believe, the foundation of this prosperity was an unfair distribution of wealth, as well as built on the bloodshed of so many people around the world who has been oppressed by the "winners."

According to FAO, 35,615 children starve to death everyday. While I mourn for the victims of the terrorism, I feel resentment against the fact that the deaths of these children are being conveniently ignored by most of the people in the world. May we call this a terrorism in a different form? In Afghanistan, where war is about to take place, 5 million people are about to starve to death now that humanitarian assistance by UN and NGOs have come to a halt. As an international society, are we to overlook the dropping of bombs on these people? I do not wish to speak in too symbolic language, but to me, regardless of who committed the act, the Sept. 11 terrorist attack seems like a notice that marks the end of the 20 th century values, values with which the U.S. drove its growth and developed a system of mass exploitation, mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal. World Trade Center was a center of the global financial systemム a center and symbol of globalization; and that may be the exact reason why the terrorists targeted it.

These are not my imaginative stories. Through TV images and pictures I see vast debris that once constituted gigantic buildings. Those are resources cobbled together from all around the world, and the amount of the debris is so large that it is as if telling us "civilization is to amass earth's resources by the largest density." What brought down "civilization" in an instance, along with the lives of many victims, into a mountain of debris was also "civilization"; technology of our own making. We may as well call this a moment when civilization denied itself. The same scheme applies to the financial system: the terrorist attack caused a symbolic AND substantial damage on the world financial system. According to a news report, suspected mastermind Osama bin Laden has received a massive financial gain, which then is funneled to assist terrorists, using the very financial system that he brought down. This looks just like an AIDS virus that invades into a system and brings it down from within.

Is the 21st century going to be a century where all of us are under a constant threat of terrorism, and in which freedom and human rights are restricted for the purpose of surveillance by government? Will those with massive wealth, military and information power promote the further concentration into a monolithic world? The Sept. 11 terrorism indeed prompted me to ponder upon the direction of the world, including my own life.We need not to depend on the fossil fuels that require large capital for mining; not to transport resources and materials from far away while emitting massive volumes of CO2. Instead we need to use a more dispersed energy production and supply system and utilize local resources as much as possible; to develop a cyclical system of resource use that takes diversity of life and rights of future generations into full account; to eliminate unfairness in the distribution of wealth and promote financial system reform by making use of community currency and ecobanking that can build reciprocal relationships. This transition will surely take time; yet unless these issues are addressed and the concentration of wealth and exploitation of human and nature eradicated, we will live under the threat of terrorism and world war. What then lies ahead is extinction of life due to head-to-head full scale warfare.

Ryuichi Sakamoto 20010926

From The Bridge, online environmental (bi-lingual) magazine.
For digest download -> www.thebridge21.net

© 2001 Ryuichi Sakamoto

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