Last day in the outdoors and using our boots, you will be missed. Since we had a break day the day before, it took my brain some time to process my surrounding and actually sink in the fact that I have actually move today. But I think today’s activity was the one I had most fun with. The moment the bus arrived at the lake, I wonder how deep are we going into the lake today since last time we didn’t get to explore much of the wetland. Since the boat was small, we had to take turns going to the sea grass bed site. While the first team went ahead, the others and I get to actually get into the lake. That was the fun part in my opinion. We went to the part reaching our waist and it actually was a great feeling being the water. Also, using this bucket thing we get to see the underwater ecosystem. We even caught glimpse of crabs. One more thing, who knew it would be that difficult. It was quite an amusing sight, all of us basically turned into tunas being fished out of the sea. Only after we got to the site did I realized how much of the area was covered by the sea grass. So we collected some of the sea grass and went back to the shore. To my surprise, there was actually a variety of life forms revolving around the sea grass. At first glance, there does not seem to be much. We even captured a number of fishes.
Since today is another free day, we had a pretty late start for the day. By just 30 minutes actually because everyone was tired from the consecutive activity days and preparations for the Wanda Grinda project. So after breakfast, the work continues. Each group had to present their progress and receive comments from the professors. I think some of the comments we received was the fact that our choice of topic was kind of too broad. The idea of presenting the wetland flow using the Olstrom framework was not bad but we should have a chosen a particular area to focus on; for example, asdfghjkl. In the end, we changed the whole draft again. Moving on, it was time for barbecue ! I was really looking forward to it since I guess it was my first real barbecue. I mean I always see it on television but I never actually get to experience. I think I had one in Malaysia before but I’m sure the way of doing it was different. I also made a self discovery on this day. I never knew I actually liked guarana drinks. I have drank guarana coffee before so I was expecting a bitter taste but rather it tasted sort of berry-like. Eventually, I ended up drinking 5 cans since the others didn’t really like it and gave theirs to me lol. Besides that, since Bibi and I were the only ones eating meat at our table we had everything all to ourselves. We didn’t even eat half of the amount and already felt full. There weren’t only beef and lamb but also salmon, squid, onigiri and some other stuff. When the other tables we were still eating, our table already moved on to the marshmallows. I actually left early because I felt kind of sick after drinking too much guarana. I drank calpis and milk tea after too so I think my stomach couldn’t handle processing too much variety of food. I ate so much I think that was probably a day’s worth of meal.
The schedule was usually tight throughout the Hokkaido trip. We learned a lot from the stakeholders during the day through lectures and sometimes hiking; however, we still had some time to spare after dinner. On Day 5, I went to the Lake Shirarutoro (シラルトロ湖) and later the camping area of the inn to see fire flies. By 19:00 , the sun had sunk below the horizon, and by around 19:15, it was completely dark. Unlike Tokyo, where the entire city stays awake all night, there was no light source. I could not find any fire flies on the lakeside, but a few on the capming site. They lit up so faintly that it was almost impossible to find them without extreme caution. They were much smaller than I expected, and also I did not know they release flickering light. It was the first time in my life that I could closely see the fire flies and actually pick them up with my hands.
Even though finding them was extremely hard, Putting them back on the grass after was the most difficult task. When I put them on the ground, a group of ants instantlly gathered up to prey on the fireflies. Therefore, I had to put them on the grass. What made it difficult was that they were playing dead on my hands. Even if tried to put them on the leaf, they immediately fall off because they did not grab on it. It took me almost 20 minutes just to release them…
Another fun night was when I went ouside to see stars at night. It was our TA who told us that the night sky was beautiful with a number of stars. Indeed, we could observe the Milkey Way, which I was never be able to see in Tokyo.
So here I am, sitting in Starbucks in Yotsuya, back in civilization and reminiscing about the times in Kushiro. The trees changed colours from green to grey, and the rivers that I should to tread across have been replaced by asphalt. Nevertheless, this place is where I feel the most comfortable.
I have met a lot of people. All of these people have different agendas, different stories, and it really is different as compared to viewing them through a video or reading about them in articles. HER 2016 made me realise something extremely important, and that is the issue of communication.
Most sources of conflict, be it relationships or friendships or even businesses stem from the issue of communication. There are many opposing factions that we saw, such as the difference in ideologies between the My Pace farmers and the industrial farmers, or the issue of the Iwabokki Sluice that divides the Salmon Society and the Kushiro City fishery. There hasn’t been a platform to allow both sides to formally or even informally talk it out with each other, and I would like to think this course has provided some sort of opportunity for opposing factions, to bring them closer together in hopes that in the near future a compromise between both sides could be reached.
Another thing I noticed from most of the people there was their passion. Sure, it may have been selection bias, but compared to the attitudes of the salaryman in Tokyo who may be earning a lot more, the people there were happy. They were passionate about their cause, passionate about fighting and defending it, and passionate about spreading their information to other people. In Tokyo, it is hard to find people with a passion for their job. Most of them are just there for a simple pay check. Therefore, I would like to thank the majority of the shareholders to allowing me to see how passion can be an important factor while working.
Future students, if you are reading this and are still on the fence on whether or not you should join this course. Hop off that fence right now and go sign up. This truly was an unforgettable experience.
Hey that’s a nice date number!
Anyway, today was pretty much spent entirely on preparation and a little bit of napping and here and there, so there isn’t anything interesting to talk about… Or is there?
When working on the Tancho Cranes project, Professor Ito managed to bring up the idea of how Slash and Burn agriculture correlates to Tancho Cranes. Fascinating, isn’t it? I’ll briefly explain it here.
Slash and Burn Agriculture basically consist of burning forests on mountain slopes. This then will create ash, and within the ash contains nutrition for the soil. This soil will then be nutrient rich, and be suitable for growing crops. People would move around once every 2~3 years, as the nutrients in the soil are not permanent.
Back in the old days, land was abundant and people were scarce. Slash and Burn agriculture was a very effective way on creating farmland, as it did not really require a lot of labour. The technique itself was very simple in its core. Burn, farm, rinse and repeat, so not much education was needed either.
Here comes the interesting part. By utilizing this theory, we can see how people used to be nomadic in order to find food via finding fertile soil. Animals, and this case Tancho Cranes, migrate for food, hence forming migratory patterns. The state currently provides the necessary infrastructure for agriculture, like rice fields, so people have the incentive to settle down. This thus makes people sedentary, and hence easier to control in the eyes of the state. Tancho Cranes are fed during winter, and therefore will have less incentive to move. This domestication of Tancho Cranes meant that they were no longer wild. Thus, we need to restore migratory pattern in order to make them wild and free again!
Fascinating, isn’t it?
I love being in contact with water. It could be because of the islander blood that resides in me, but being in water truly is within my comfort zone. Nevertheless, when I saw the schedule that we would be visiting Hokkaido University Akkeshi Marine Station, I was ecstatic.
Upon arrival, we immediately changed into suitable waterproof overalls. There, we first observed coastal plants and other organisms through some sort of water binoculars. Unfortunately, it was too muddy to see anything clearly, besides the odd sea grass here and there. Things changed however, when we hopped onto the boat. The boat was trawling a large net, and it was pretty much scooping everything up from the lake, from different kinds of vegetation to aquatic life. We brought our haul back to the lab, and that was where the fun begins.
Firstly, we sorted them out into different categories, from crustaceans, shrimps and fishes. Then, the professor dissected one type of crustacean and examined the remains of its stomach under the microscope. We then saw what the crustacean was eating. It is simply amazing how the food chain worked, and that every living thing truly has a part to play in the local ecosystem.
After a short lecture by the professor, we then embarked on a mini hike to a cape that was overlooking Akkeshi Bay.
Man was it a sight to behold.
I have a mixed feeling while writing this. I am half glad that this is going to be my last blogpost to produce and finally be work free, but at the same time knowing that when I finish writing it will really be the end of this course. Regardless, everything has an end and I guess I just have to deal with it. For my last blog, I should write about our final presentation but I don’t have much to say about it to be honest, except to say we all did a great job.
I think the most important thing I learnt from this tip was the interconnected nature of the ecosystem that affect all living things in the environment. There is no single problem that can be solve by itself when it comes to environmental issue, and only with the skill to see the world with an open mind the closest path to see any improvement in the current situation. The importance of community building among different interest group is also a vital factor in conservation effort. The fundamental problem of the current environmental issue occurs not within the realm of the natural environment, but infant it occurs in the human community. By improving the human relationship through efforts to gain understanding of each other, I believe that it will eventually lead to better conservation.
It is best spend my last few words to thank Professor Watanabe and Ito for organising such a fantastic class and really hope that this class will continue so more students can experience the same as we did. And another person we must not for get to thank is Lise, who came along with us to support us in every way. I’m sure the trip would not have been the same without your care and support and the two professors most likely appreciated your shrewd personality more than anything! I will definitely miss this trip and most of all my intelligent classmates who gone through so much together!