'Happo-en' is a traditional, calm and silent garden in Tokyo, surrounded by crowded and noisy modernity. It looked like oasis of tranquility in a desert of milling humanity. Quite a contrasting setting! UNEP OzonAction recently held a workshop there entitled 'Destruction Technologies for Ozone Depleting Chemicals'. The contrast was even more obvious in the title of the workshop that took place in that quiet, creative and inspiring surrounding. The garden has a 200 year old bonsai and the name-Happo-en- literally means 'beautiful from all angles'. We were discussing the various destruction technologies in 'Happo-en'!
I noted such streaks of contrasts almost everywhere in Tokyo. There were Kimono-clad Japanese ladies hurrying for a marriage ceremony accompanied by girls dressed in western styles. In Tokyo, one of the most intriguing sights for me is a Japanese wife dressed in traditional Kimono, with a hairdo style of the last century, walking elegantly with her husband dressed in a full western style suit that includes a felt hat and triangular appearance of a velvet handkerchief popping out of his pocket!
I always felt that the roots of Japanese initiative 3 R - Reduce, Re-use & Recycle - are embedded in this contrasting life-culture of Japanese. 'Embracing the modernity without sacrificing the tradition' requires the culture of 'recycle'. It is not only recycling of plastics that the Japanese thought important, but also recycling of the traditional elements in modern living that they considered essential.
Mr Fukuoka, a modern day environmentalist who wrote his famous 'One Straw Revolution, 'about the agricultural practices in post-war Japan , certainly had in mind farming in harmony with nature. Practice of nature-farming requires reducing external input to zero by recycling and reusing nature's products! The new plants sprout from the buried mass of dead leaves. My firm belief is that the Japanese environmental movement of today is deeply rooted in the ancient Buddhist philosophy of 'reincarnation'. May be 3 R should be upgraded to 4 R: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and Reincarnate!
Back to Paris by the end of September, I was listening to the early morning bulletins of BBC. The Tokyo stock exchange index - the first in the world to start its daily business - was reported opening with further downward trends. The American sub-prime crisis is now taking its toll all over Asia. The world leaders, it was reported, were talking about 'new best practices' i.e. 'regulated open markets' and 'capitalism with controls', 'free markets with restriction'. I realized that the Montreal Protocol's success so far is not based on open ended voluntary measures but on setting up regulations and licensing systems and implementing them to reach the targets. The elimination of Ozone Depleting Substances was not left to the market mechanisms. It was based on global agreement and strict national regulations. In the midst of open market economy, the Montreal Protocol adopted the principles of well 'regulated' implementation to meet the compliance.
In today's crisis filled world, there is urgent need to extend '3 R' principle, not only to 4 R, but 5 R!! -Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Reincarnate and Regulate!