Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Advanced Nations Should Speak More Humbly about Global Warming
ONO Goro / Professor, Saitama University

July 25, 2007
It is reported that an agreement has finally been reached on measures against global warming, which had been held off by the negative stance of the United States, at the recent summit meeting. The next issue is, therefore, how to realize the participation of the developing countries, including China and India, who have already become huge energy consuming nations, in the scheme. It is one of the conditions the U.S. has insisted on.

Certainly, there is no doubt that the participation of China and India in the scheme is indispensable now that the two huge countries, accounting for 40 percent of the world's total population, are making rapid industrial development and will soon become vast consumers of energy resources like the advanced nations.

It would be unreasonable, nevertheless, to apply to them the same reduction rates of gas emission as those applied to the advanced nations, since the original volume of gas emission of developing nations is rather small.

Furthermore, it would be even necessary for us to tolerate a certain degree of increase in the amount of gas emission on the part of those developing countries who struggle to extricate themselves from the vicious circle of "the poor getting poorer " as the result of globalization. We should not close our eyes to the stern reality that by resorting to slash-and-burn farming certain poor peoples can only survive, while this method of farming destroys surrounding environment.

In other words, if we want to achieve the target of "cutting by half" the volume of gas emission in the world, there is no way but to have advanced nations shoulder the additional volume to be cut, by mandate, by developing countries.

Let us recall what the Western advanced nations have said in the past? Fifteen years ago I took part in an international conference on environmental protection. I was the sole participant who did not come from Europe or North America. I sensed that there was clear consensus that "only Westerners can discuss global environmental problems, because only democratic societies, that exist nowhere but in Europe and America, can perform our mission of protecting the earth's environment."

The reason why I was invited from Japan of the Oriental world to this purely Western forum was, I believe, that they had hoped for my meaningful participation, sensing at heart that the solution of global environmental problems would require some approach other than the traditional Western approach.

"Why do you address Japan alone among non-Western countries?" I asked. "The Oriental thinking that you expect of me did originate in China and India. Besides, excluding these most populous nations, discussions of global environmental issues would be senseless." At that time I felt that the audience responded rather favorably to these words of mine.

Looking back now, it is less clear for me if they fully understood what I meant to say. It is not only because the involvement of China and India in environmental discussions was hardly sought seriously to this day, but more fundamentally the slowness of Western realization of limitation of the Western way of thinking. If the Western advanced countries had truly understood this limitation, they would have sought more positively contributions from the Oriental way of thinking, originating in India and China. Furthermore, they should not have forced China and India to follow the Western models of economic activities and social behavior.

In fact, however, the advanced countries, not to mention the United States, have encouraged non-Western developing states including China and India to copy Western methodology. As a result, the Western-style industrialization of the developing countries, including the two biggest nations, has produced the marked increase in the environmental pollution load today.

This notwithstanding, it would be too unfair to force them now to curtail their environmental load, unilaterally and across the board. It would be tantamount to that "what suits the West is fair and the opposite is unfair." If we seriously seek their participation, we should allow them rates of reduction of the volume of gas emission, not from the present level but from the supposed-to-be future level of emission after the completion of their industrial development. Wouldn't it be fair, for example, to set the per capita volume of gas emission at certain levels, irrespective of whether they were advanced countries or developing nations?

But then, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to attain the goal "to cut the volume of global gas emission by half" as the volume of gas emission by developing nations would certainly increase. Therefore, it is very important for advanced countries to carry out a large-scale reduction across the board first, on the assumption that they will radically change their present economic-social structure, which places truly heavy load on environment. Then China and India, who have already achieved a "take-off," will, from now on, have to be encouraged to take a course of development other than that of Western industrial powers. And an exception need to be made for those least developed countries that have fallen into a vicious circle of poverty.

If Tuiavii, the great chieftain of West Samoa who had realized the Oriental concept of "Ware taruwo shiru (I know what is enough)," were alive, he probably would say the following about the present situation: "Westerners, because they are poor, make efforts to save money and things. Those who are really wealthy, have no need to save, because they can get what they need at any time. Westerners, because they are poor at heart, use machines and vehicles. Those who are rich at heart do not need machines and vehicles because they can spend time fully by using the heart which is boundlessly rich."

There is nothing we can do to resolve the global environmental problem unless we try to reach such non-Western type of enlightenment, overcoming the interests of nation, company or individual.

The writer is Professor of Saitama University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小野五郎 / 埼玉大学教授

2007年 7月 25日













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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Advanced Nations Should Speak More Humbly about Global Warming