A different perspective – 030816

After having many pro-environment speakers, today we got the opportunity to gain insight on another perspective, being the industrial and financial side of things. Our first speakers were Mr Shimada and Mr Saka, who were the stakeholders that I had researched prior to Kushiro. I was originally very excited to meet them, having prepared many questions to ask, but the talks were different from what I expected. They mainly talked about the history and framework of their organisations, as well as talk about statistics. It could be that I am unable to understand much Japanese and therefore prevented me from understanding the talk, but I felt that it was a little too shallow. I wanted to know more about why they react in a certain way when it comes to environmental issues, such as the raising of the Iwabokki gate. However, after stripping it from its embellishments, the response was rather weak, and did not provide a deep understanding. I can understand where they are coming from, that they ultimately place financial gain ahead. The way they answered hard questions showed that they were unable to be empathetic to the pro-environment side, and therefore unable to arrive to a certain compromise. I just wish both groups would be less stubborn on their agendas and hopefully be able to sit down and negotiate for an apt compromise.

We then proceeded to Tsurui Ito Tancho Sanctury and met Mr Harada. He gave us a brief explanation of what exactly is a Tancho Crane and what does it do every season of the year. To sum it up, spring is where pairs nest; summer is where they raise their kid; autumn involves them moving closer to where people live, often competing for the leftover corn; and lastly winter is where they gather in feed stations and sleep in the river, because spring water is warm and it keeps them safe from predators. The pairs also find their mate through means of singing and dancing, and they go back to their breeding spots in mid march. The fun fact is that if they do not mate successfully, the pair will go separate ways and attempt to find new mates.

Tancho Cranes, like what we learnt in our lectures in school, is deeply rooted in Japanese history. Paintings from the Edo era shows that Tanchos existed in Tokyo during the winter time, and was seen as a sign of longevity, with high ranking officials and even the shogun consuming it.Thus, a ban was imposed on the common folk from hunting it. However, in the Meiji Era, the ban was lifted so people started hunting, which lead the tancho cranes to head down a path towards extinction. In 1924, more than 10 cranes were re-found within the Kushiro Marsh, and then the conservation process started. It was only in 1950 when some farmers, one being Mr Ito, started to feed the cranes with corn as a way of serving the species, and it exceeded 1000 cranes in 2005.

However, this led to problems. Firstly the cranes then began accustomed to artificial circumstances, and began prone to man-made problems. They also started to interfere with the agriculture, looking for food, as their original habitat which is the wetlands was being threatened. The sanctuary’s current focus is to increase the number of sites that cranes can go to feed without relying on humans, clearing of shrubs to open up rivers and feeding of naturally produced foods.

Mr Harada then brought us to show the nature reserve, where he brought up an important point that it was not completely state owned, as there are still land that are classified as private property for logging. Although the loggers have been provided subsidies to grow a type of tree within a certain period of time, it was not native to the local habitat and therefore could pose numerous problems. The view was beautiful though, and it made me want to treasure it more.

Mr Fujiwara’s large scale dairy farm was introduced in the middle of Mr Harada’s tour. Mr Fujiwara talked about how his farm operates, with most things automated and the cows are being fed corn, which he was growing himself. He also talked about how the Tancho Cranes came to his farm to feed on the cow’s corn in the winter, and therefore had to implement certain countermeasures, like shutting of the barn. It was rather unfortunate that we ran out of time, because I wanted to get his opinion on the management of My pace dairy farmers, which one hectare of land per cow. All together, I got to play with a baby cow, and hopefully I don’t get sick! (Apparently us city folk is not used to growing up with cows around us and therefore prone to certain bacteria, with the exception of Eloise who was raised by cows.)

All in all, I am starting to see a trend develop. There are opposing factions with different mindsets, such as the fishery cooperative and the salmon society, as well as the my pace farmers against the large scale industrial farms. If they could somehow put aside their differences and talk about their problems rationally and come to a compromise, I think results could be produced. That is where we come in, because we can be a great conduit.

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