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Sunday, June 20, 1999

JAPAN LITE

All it takes is a miracle to save the Earth


Last weekend I attended the 55th All Japan UNESCO conference in Okayama, where together we solved Japan's environmental problems. It's easy for everybody to do their part to help the environment. But it's surprising how many people don't do anything. So many people are environmentally unconscious -- to the point of passed out. It's as if people are waiting around for a miracle to happen.

The following is an outline of UNESCO's four-point action plan to save the environment, along with comments of my own, including specific miracles I think people are waiting for.

UNESCO plan No. 1: Clean up the air. As I sit here in my tiny office on my tiny island in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea, a gentle dioxin breeze blows through my house. No one around here believes in dioxin, which is why so many people have their own private trash incinerators. Those who don't have their own incinerators burn their garbage on the beach. No one seems to care that we are poisoning each other and the world. But there is one lady who seems to be concerned about dioxin: Rather than burning her garbage, she tosses her bag of trash onto the beach and walks away.

Cars create carbon dioxide, another contributor to air pollution. Yet it is not uncommon to find people in Japan, sealed inside their cars, asleep with the motor running.

All these people are waiting for a miracle to happen. The Miracle: We will soon discover that if everyone in the country turned on their vacuum cleaners at the same time, pointing the nozzles up into the air, we could suck out all the bad air and force the good air down from the heavens to replace it.

UNESCO plan No. 2: Clean up the water. In Japan, a lot of garbage ends up in the sea. Much of the garbage in the Seto Inland Sea comes from the rivers on the mainland that flow into the sea. People dump so much garbage into the rivers that when a big rain comes, garbage floods into the sea and onto the beaches. But no one tries to do anything about it. They are hoping for a miracle instead. The Miracle: Garbage goats. Some day soon, everyone will have their own goat to eat their garbage. Hopefully, this goat will know how to operate a vacuum cleaner.

UNESCO plan No. 3: Make our soil healthier. Country people in Japan are very good about composting leftover food. Composting returns natural products to the soil. However, not far from here people are composting appliances in the side of a mountain. This is not a proper way of returning something to the soil. But people don't seem to be concerned about the disposal of appliances. They're too busy camping out at the nearest electronics store to buy the latest appliance to be sold at a special reduced price to the first 100 customers. These people don't worry about disposal of appliances because they are hoping for a miracle. The Miracle: Self-destructing appliances. The first 100 people to buy self-destructing appliances will receive a free gift: A garbage goat who knows how to operate a vacuum cleaner.

Plastic is another product found in landfills. Plastic can take 500 years to break down, and even then, it never completely biodegrades. It is of great concern to me that all those plastic Hello Kitty products are still going to be around in another 500 years! I know I can't stop Japanese consumers from buying Hello Kitty products. But I can at least hope for a miracle. The Miracle: Hello Kitty menopause.

UNESCO plan No. 4: Value life. All life exists in a delicate balance. We must preserve our ecosystem. That means we must insist on clean air, clean water and healthy soil. That means you have to do your part to help the environment. Maybe you're not doing enough. Maybe you're waiting for a miracle to happen. The Miracle: Japan will start growing upward. Soon, Japan will be a two-story country. On the top layer we'll have clean air, we'll plant rivers and grow soil. The top floor with have a healthy, happy ecosystem, including a stable of garbage goats. The bottom floor of Japan will have the latest model of vacuum cleaners, self-destructing appliances and Hello Kitty products.

And we'll all live happily ever after. At least that's the miracle we're hoping for.

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com


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