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Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010
Harvest of summer heat
This summer's heat wave has taken its toll not just on humans, in a record number of heat stroke victims, but on Japanese plant life as well. A cosmos festival in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, has had to proceed without any cosmos, and the flowering of higanbana (red spider lily) is delayed. And with higher-than-normal temperatures forecast to continue into October, the vivid colors of the fall foliage might be late as well.
Seasonal fruit has also been hit hard, especially harvests of nashi (Japanese pear) and kaki (persimmon). In one area the kaki harvest started 10 days late and yielded only 20 percent that of usual years. The nashi crop is expected to be down 30 to 40 percent.
Changing patterns have also been witnessed in fish populations this year, whether due to the heat wave or to global warming. Shirasu (whitebait), which favors warmer waters, is being pulled from the sea in abundant numbers at what is usually its northern limits, while catches of sanma (Pacific saury), which favors cooler waters, are down.
A less ambiguous case of global warming is the dramatic shrinking of the permafrost zone on Mount Fuji. In 1976 it extended down from the 3,776-meter peak to an elevation of 3,100 meters. By 1998 it had retreated to around 3,200 meters and now is limited to scattered areas near the top of the mountain.
In a welcome development, Japanese companies are starting to show greater environmental awareness as consumers become more demanding. Over 40 companies have joined the Japan Business Initiative for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity, or JBIB, which was launched in 2008. And the United Nations' 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP 10, opens in Nagoya in October.
Examples of related activities include nature conservation zones created by Sumitomo Shoji and its partners around a new nickel mine in Madagascar, one yen donated by Asahi Beer to environmental protection for each bottle of beer sold, and Kokuyo's use of reeds, a sustainable resource, from Lake Biwa and the Yodogawa river in some of its paper products.