Man VS Nature…

(July 31)

… and Nature is the winer!

Today was a day to remind us that in the end, nature is the one controlling us…

After we had to cancel our boat tour because of the rain, we had to give up on finding birds or deer in the wetland because of the fog!

On the other hand, we had the opportunity to listen to a very interesting lecture given by Nakajima-san, and learn how the fishermen catch and raise their oysters, how to properly open the oyster, where is the stomach or the head… so many information that will enable me to show off my knowledge during Christmas and New Year dinners in France, in which oysters are THE main ingredients!

After that, we could experience once again how incredible is the hospitality in Hokkaido by going to Takada-san’s house. I was really surprised because we were literally treated like guests! Also, I have the feeling that among all the people we have encountered since yesterday, Takada-san is the one who talked the most about his feelings and emotions, his fears, joys and hopes. It really helped us to have a deeper understanding on how necessary it is to adapt to nature rather than trying to arbitrary control it. He made us understand how much courage it required to stand for what we think is right, and how demanding it is to go against the main stream and common thinking, despite the strong opposition of coworkers or family. Nevertheless, he proved that the instinct and the experience of a 70 years old shrimp fishermen is worth being listened to, because his plan eventually helped to restore the ecosystem and improve the economy of shrimps fishermen.

The afternoon was less busy with our tour to the Waterfowl Observation Center with Shibuya-san. Unfortunately we couldn’t see any animal into the wetland because of the impressive fog, but we spent a nice time looking at the information of the center and playing with the fascinating live camera.

I really hope the weather will improve for the days to come, because it really feels “mottaenai” to come from so far and prepare so much but not being able to see or study properly. I still keep faith for the days to come!

Welcome to Hok-crane-do

(August 9)

All good things come to an end! After spending countless hours to prepare for our proposal, we finally had the opportunity to present our project and show to the stakeholders how much efforts we put to bring our piece to the complex puzzle of Hokkaido…. At first, I was pleased to see that nine people had come despite the heavy rain, and I was really looking forward to listening to their opinions about the different issues they are currently facing. However, I quickly became disillusioned once they had the occasion to share their thoughts regarding our three presentations. Indeed, from the moment they heard about a proposal concerning the cranes, they almost ignored any other topic presented.

I was therefore extremely disappointed by this Winda Granda Project. I believed we had the opportunity to present a proposal that might give them another perspective and maybe eventually help them to develop a project. However, it seemed to me that apart from the necessity to protect the cranes in Hokkaido, they did not really have other opinion. Even the article in the newspaper about this event doesn’t mention the two other projects! I was therefore very disappointed and felt that all the time we all spent thinking about a proposal that could suit their situation wasn’t really necessary.

At least, this project helped me to understand that even if many people in Hokkaido present themselves as environmental protective groups in the façade, it seems in fact that most of them focus on cranes and forget about other problems that deserve attention. When we were asked about our image of Hokkaido, I wanted to share my view that even though I believe cranes deserve to be protected, they shouldn’t be the only center of interest of the associations just on the pretext that they are aesthetic to see…. In our project for instance, we wanted to emphasize the need to connect consumers and producers of Hokkaido, and to make people understand the importance of fishery, forestry or farmer products. As I see it, using the cranes as the main symbol does not bring much else than some tourists in winter to take photos, whereas I believe that emphasizing on restoration projects that concern more directly all these important fields in Hokkaido’s economy would benefit to both the planet and the people of Hokkaido.

On the other hand, the fact that the interest of the stakeholders mainly focused on cranes   showed me that in fact I might have a role to play in places like Hokkaido. Before coming in person I thought that being a foreigner and a young student studying in Tokyo wouldn’t enable me to do anything whatsoever for the people of Hokkaido. But now, I start to think that because I am an outsider and because I have another state of mind, I might be able in the future to bring my contribution.

In short, even though I was first disappointed by the result of this project, I now believe into the necessity to bring new ideas to the experience of the people of Hokkaido, and I am more motivated than ever to be a part of this contribution.

 

Yes, sciences help us to progress. But so does ethics….

(August 7)

Today was a very challenging day for my ethical believes. I was very disappointed by the laboratory analysis activity, and I hope the proceedings of this exercise will be modified in the future program of this class.

It was indeed very ironical to observe that after spending a semester studying about how humans’ selfish actions damage the ecosystem, how we do not consider nature as we should and why we should modify our way of thinking regarding the environment… we were asked to collect over fifty animals that we abandoned to their fate and let die slowly with no consideration… to eventually get to see the inside of one single shrimp on the microscope.

Wasn’t Aldo Leopold telling us that it is wrong to classify and rank species according to our selfish pyramidal view? Wasn’t he hoping that we could extend our ethical thinking to all species in the future? I was called naïve for hoping that a day like today in which we collect and expose half dead living entities for no proper reason would be forbidden in the future. In that case, how should we call those who considered hundred years ago that women worth less than insects? That a slave has the same value than a furniture? That black colored men could be killed as pleased because they didn’t have the capacity to feel like white men? That a dog worth more than a Jewish whose only sin is to have different religious thinking?

We extended our ethical consideration for women. For slaves. For people with disabilities. For colored people. For dogs and cats. So why should I be naïve in 2016 to consider that collecting living samples for no particular experience sounds wrong…?

A very welcome day off

(August 6)

Even though we spent the a great part of the day training for our group presentations, it felt good to be free to manage our schedule and knowing we wouldn’t take the road to go anywhere. However, I cannot resist to the combination nature-sunny day, and after a very light meal (vegetarian BBQ is definitely not the culinary specialty of Japan…) I took a walk around with Professor Watanabe and other students. It seemed indeed that we took the wrong “broken stairs” during our last free day with Glenn, so we were curious to know about the path so much plugged by the teacher…It was a lot of fun until I realized that rain boots were not optional… no more no less, I climbed back to the wooden tour waiting for them, and I have to admit that I will really miss this amazing 360° view once I will be back to Tokyo. Whoever needs to take a rest or meditate or enjoy a wonderful view while listening to the sounds of nature, this wooden tour is THE osusume!IMG_7666

The power of youth

(August 5)

Today was probably my favorite day of the trip! I really liked the tour given by the rangers, because I realized that I didn’t really know anything about National Parks management in Japan. I also liked their philosophy, namely that the wetland, agriculture and fishery are not separated from each other, but rather all taken into account as much as possible. It is indeed the feeling we had yesterday when we were told that a part of the canal river wasn’t entirely restore to avoid floods on a local farm. Another philosophy that the rangers shared with us and that I greatly appreciated was the fact that they don’t ban people from cutting trees because they would just go somewhere else. It seems indeed that it is the wisest thing to do, but I thought they would try to “move” the problem in order to keep a better scenery of the National Park and to show to outsiders that they respect the land. This way of thinking shows they can really feel a sense of responsibility outside of their own “frontier”, which is something I greatly appreciate. We then had an overview of the water chestnut issue, and I was really surprised to know that the view of the wetland covered with green leaves is in fact not very natural. It seems indeed that there is an overpopulation of water chestnut resulting from the flow of excessive nutrition from the mountains. Therefore, the view of the wetland which I thought was one of the most natural landscape we could see there turned out to be also impacted by humans.

Finally, I was amazed by their “tree nursery, and I realized that I greatly underestimated the task of replanting trees! I would never have thought that rangers needed to grow the trees inside a greenhouse, plant them, and then take them in again for winter! I tough that since trees are supposed to survive without human intervention they would be able to grow without problems, but I guess they need to apply this method for a good reason, like for instance because of the snow in winter.

 

After this tour to the National Park, we headed to the most amazing school I have ever seen in my life! I wished I had the same kind of high school when I was younger… When I heard in the bus that on the top of having a farm they have a MOUNTAIN on their property….! And a wetland! And a river!! No matter how many wonderful landscapes I was seeing in this school, my brain could never understand that I was in a school property and not in another wild place of Hokkaido. And the students were absolutely adorable, so welcoming, and they seemed very happy to see us. I felt like I was Obama on an official visit! We started the tour to their “mini wetland”, and even though I have talked to a teacher for 10 minutes thinking he was a student (his first impression must have been terrible haha), it was a wonderful tour that made me feel like I was stepping into wonderland! After this walk we went to their school and we had the opportunity to have a group discussion and to know about how students of Shibesha feel being in this special environment. I was sometimes a little bit surprised that many of them seemed to know less about dairy farming than us who have spent only a week in Hokkaido, but overall it was pretty interesting. The fact that the teachers asked them to emphasize what they dislike about their position and situation was an excellent opportunity to hear some opinions that they would probably have kept for themselves. For example, a student in my group talked about her worries regarding the future of young people in Hokkaido since more and more people leave for big cities, and they have less job opportunities than in other parts of Japan. I really appreciated that they felt comfortable enough to talk about their personal feelings whereas we just had met. Their presentation was also very interesting and we could see how much they prepared for us. It was so touching to see how they welcomed us, with their tour, their presentation, the food that they made, the deer skin accessories… When it was time for goodbye we all felt really sad and no one wanted to get into the bus…

It was only few hours, but I will never forget their warm welcome and I wish they will all accomplish their life goal!

The trail that we blaze

(August 4)

Today was a very adventurous day, which gave me the feeling that Indiana Jones can go to the retirement home!

However, I might have underestimated the ordeal we would have to endure. At first I thought the trail would just be a little bit challenging, until i realized that we had in fact no trail at all! This walk was sometimes tough, but at the same time it gave us a rare opportunity to be literally surrounded by nature. Moreover, the company of the members of the salmon society made the tour very interesting, and I was really impressed to see how the elderly people were so fit and active. Everyone was very enthusiastic and we were always communicating with each other, so it gave a sense of community.

I also appreciated the tour to the sluice because the first one built in wooden structure in the 1920’s looked like the ones we have in Switzerland.

As for the afternoon, I was a little bit tired from our previous walk so I couldn’t understand what our stakeholders told us in Japanese but it was still a very valuable experience. I particularly appreciated that they wanted to give us the opportunity to walk into the wetland, because it felt indeed very different from usual.