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Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006

JAPAN LITE

Paving over the Kyoto Protocol realities


The Kyoto Protocol aimed to slow down global warming, but I have a better way of dealing with global warming in Japan. It requires each person to walk outside of their house with a jackhammer and remove a 1-meter slab of concrete.

News photo
Who needs a sea view when you can have a nice hot concrete wall? AMY CHAVEZ PHOTO

Imagine how much cooler Japan would be if we got rid of 120 million sq. meters of unnecessary concrete! Concrete retains huge amounts of heat. See for yourself: The next time you are walking on a sidewalk, just reach down and touch the pavement. Everyone knows that pavement gets hot enough that you cannot walk on it in bare feet. Although shoes protect our feet from the the heat, it is still there, rising up from the ground. It's like having an entire city resting on an electric burner. This is like playing with fire. If forest fires can break out naturally from heat and dry weather, I suspect our cities could burst into flames at any moment.

Even at night, you'll find the concrete is still warm hours after the sun has set. Many people point out that Japan does not have enough trees in their cities. Trees? There's not even a blade of grass to be found in the city. Not even a weed. Everything from parks to rivers has been paved. On my planet, the U.S., we also use concrete for roads and sidewalks. But we only use it in parts that have people walking or driving on them. Untrodden ground is left as is. This results in a strip of unpaved ground between the road and the sidewalk that sometimes has grass on it, but usually has weeds, cigarette butts and trash, as no one maintains it. But I'd like to hug that strip of dirt! At least it is not concrete.

On really hot days in Japan, I ride my bicycle with extra care, because if I had an accident and fell onto the pavement, I'd be instantly cremated. The undertaker would be happy, though, as his job would have already been done. The only difficulty he'd have is finding my "nodo bodoke," or Adam's apple. The nodo bodoke is preserved in a special box after a cremation, as this is deemed a very important part of the body. So they'd have to put out a call that if anyone saw an Adam's apple rolling past, to please catch it and turn it in.

If McDonald's has to have a warning that says, "Caution: The contents of this apple pie may be extremely hot," you wonder why sidewalks don't have to carry a similar warning, "Caution: Instant cremation possible."

Based on my experience living on a small island in the Seto Inland Sea, I think that if we had more green space in Japan, we wouldn't even need air conditioning. When I go to the mainland, I can't help but feel there is a great fire-breathing dragon lurking among the buildings. You seek the closest air-conditioned building. On our island, however, the sea breeze IS the air conditioner. We don't even use a fan at night to sleep, and we still occasionally use a blanket. But most Japanese people say, Why would you want to live on an island? It's so inconvenient!

But surely Japan wouldn't be in favor of using less concrete, as the construction companies need the work. So let them continue to lay concrete, and then employ even more people to take out the concrete after them. At least we wouldn't have to live with the effects of the concrete.

But instead, after having completely paved over the cities, the construction companies are now coming out to the islands to lay concrete. Last week on our island, they started building a cement sea wall around the port because a few years ago we had a big typhoon. It flooded the houses on the port, but there was no damage even approaching what hurricanes do in the U.S. And there is no chance of a tsunami occurring in the Inland Sea. It seems the islanders have given up on their ancient traditions of willing away typhoons by appeasing the Shinto gods. Nowadays concrete is considered stronger than faith.

With the new sea wall, the views of the sea from the first floor of my house will be gone, but at least we'll have a few extra burners to cook on at dinner time. Personally, I'd prefer to leave my fate with the Shinto gods and let the insurance company take care of the rest.

Visit Amy's Dollar Bookstore at dollarbooks.tripod.com


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