Designing Your Environment

IMG_2819  Zenpukuji river is a river that flows through Suginami-ku in Tokyo. A local group which works to conserve and restore the river held a tour of the river explaining its plans of creating a new water reservoir near the river. They explained how the river includes waste water when it floods making the water quality not very well. In the past, the rivers were clean with fish and it was clean enough for children to play in it.

The second half of the tour included a workshop to create ideas on how we could arrange and construct the land for a new water reservoir. We were separated into groups and my group included the two members of the Frog society and two junior high school students that lived in the local area.

A member of the Frog group proposed the idea of digging up an entire area to create a stream from the river that would flow directly into the new water reservoir. “We can make some stepping stones on the river and we can make a small road along the river.” Another added, “We can maybe place umbrella shaped roofs to catch rain water.” I first felt the ideas were a bit too extreme. I thought we were supposed to be thinking of how to conserve and make cleaner water!

Then, I asked the junior high students how they thought and how they would imagine themselves in the proposed ideas. They said they can imagine themselves walk through the river in their bare feet and mentioned how they wanted to play and splash in the water with their friends in the summer. I finally saw that the ideas that the Frog society members proposed were not just for the cause of conserving clean water but also so that the local people could enjoy the environment. This experience was new to me, as I had never thought that a natural environment could be “designed” especially to meet the needs of the people rather than just conserving nature.

Also, as a student studying in a university that involves studying global issues and seeing the world in a macro level I had been thinking that the world is changed by those who see and analyze the big picture of the issues. By seeing the local people of the Frog Society and junior high school students take on a local issue I realized that it is the build-up of the efforts of hundreds of people working hands-on in their very own towns and neighborhood that change the world. This trip to Zenpukuji river was an eye-opening experience.

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