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Tuesday, July 22, 2008
WORDS TO LIVE BY
Professor Kunihiko Takeda
Professor Kunihiko Takeda, Ph.D., is vice-chancellor of the Institute of Science and Technology Research at Chubu University and one of the world's leading authorities on both uranium enrichment and recycling. The 65-year-old is also a bestselling author of books with titles such as “We Should Not Recycle!” “Recycled Illusions” and “Why Are Lies Accepted on Environmental Issues?” Professor Takeda should know why: Although a member of just about every prestigious academic and governmental entity, he has stayed independent and made a career out of challenging the establishment. He has never taken any garbage from anyone, not even during his 27-year tenure at Asahi Chemical Industries, where for five years he was director of the Uranium Enrichment Laboratory. He also kept his record clean as vice deputy president at the Shibaura Institute of Technology before joining Nagoya University in 2002. His fresh and original views are clear in his most recent book, “Hypocritical Ecology,” which has been flying off shelves at the speed of 100,000 a month since being published this June..
Our future is bright as long as we stop recycling old ideas and things. The new paradigm is always better than the one before: Our air, water and food quality are higher than in previous generations, and our life expectancy longer. There’s no need to worry: Humans are smart.
I am a teacher before I am a scientist. In the first year of university, I talk about the concept of dedication, which students don’t seem to know at all. For them, studying is something they do for themselves, but really it is what we do to contribute to others’ lives.
Recycling is rubbish: It eats more energy and creates more waste than burning our garbage in high-tech incinerators. The most efficient way of getting rid of garbage is burning it all together. Why? Because in raw garbage, plastics turn into their own fuel so you don’t need to add anything else. Aluminum and steel should be recycled, though, as we need less energy for that than to produce them from scratch.
Fear is a very efficient weapon: It produces the desired effect without much waste. Global warming has nothing to do with how much CO2 is produced or what we do here on Earth. For millions of years, solar activity has been controlling temperatures on Earth and even now, the sun controls how high the mercury goes. CO2 emissions make absolutely no difference one way or another. Soon it will cool down anyhow, once again, regardless of what we do. Every scientist knows this, but it doesn’t pay to say so. What makes a whole lot of economic and political sense is to blame global warming on humans and create laws that keep the status quo and prevent up-and-coming nations from developing. Global warming, as a political vehicle, keeps Europeans in the driver’s seat and developing nations walking barefoot.
Criticizing previous ideals is natural. In the 1930s, militarism was considered best; in the 1960s, mass production and mass consumerism. Then in the 1990s the main topic was the environment. Every 30 years we switch what we believe in. This paradigm will pass, too.
Look beyond what governments tell you. Some praise ethanol as a substitute for oil, but making fuel out of corn makes sense only if you want to increase the price of corn and fuel at the same time. In order to grow corn, one needs lots of fuel and once the corn is ready, instead of becoming a nice meal, it gets picked and turned back into fuel again. This is just a way to purposely create a food and energy shortage until only the very rich can afford to eat and move.
Getting married is easier than getting divorced. Same if we have a bowl of rice and a bowl of soybeans: It’s easy to mix the two but very hard to separate them. For water and red ink, it is next to impossible. It should take the same energy to mix and separate things but it does not: This is the rule of entropy. Now imagine the whole Earth from space and you can see entropy at work: Pet bottles, newspapers and cars are scattered around, and recycling is an attempt to put all the groups together again.
Consumerism marketed as environmental consciousness is the worst. Take the “My Hashi” campaign for example (buying and carrying reusable chopsticks rather than using disposable ones). Chopsticks should be made out of the unnecessary branches that are cut to help trees grow bigger and healthier. Instead of burning those branches, we should make chopsticks. That would be good for both the trees and us.
There’s no need to judge others: They’ll do it themselves. When it comes to tests, longer answers deserve higher scores. I tell students in advance that the test is not based on the quality of the essay, only its length. A full length essay, down to the bottom of the page, gets a perfect 100 percent score. Seventy-five percent gets a 75 percent score and so on. I had about 7,000 students in 20 years and they all proved my theory: Unless one understands something, one can’t write at length about it. I get apologies all the time with, “Sorry, I only understand it this much.”
Life has no purpose or goal. If somebody recommends me a new adventure or job, I take it.
The traditional and the modern should be mixed more. Yuton is a paper mat for the floor coated with Japanese lacquer that seriously lowers the body temperature in the summer, so even in a 33-degree room, one feels cool sitting on it. Yuton and air conditioning, now that is what I call progress!
The energy crisis is nothing to sweat about. We will run out of fossil fuel within 40 years if consumption continues at today’s rate but by that time, nuclear power plants will be even safer and more efficient. Solar and wind energy will never be enough, but nuclear fusion technology will be more advanced, and new, as-yet-unknown energy sources will be developed. No need to worry at all, and no need to save energy, either.
Don’t worry about your health. I focus on the now and don’t worry about tomorrow. Of course, I have a logical interest in the future: I am happy to take a bath, to eat good food, to find some answers and to continue having fun. Otherwise, life would just be a waste of time!
Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "Out and About." Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/