How green is Tohoku’s ‘Green Connections’ project?

News review by Ong Shi Rong

How green is Tohoku’s ‘Green Connections’ project? by Winifred Bird

Bird reports on two projects that aim to protect coastlines by restoring forests destroyed during the Great East Japan Earthquake: the “Green Connections” project (緑の絆再生プロジェクト), started by the Forestry Agency, from Aomori Prefecture to Chiba Prefecture; and the Great Forest Wall Project by Morihiro Hosokawa and Akira Miyawaki.

The article then focuses on the disapproval of such moves from some people like ecologist Yoshihiko Hirabuki, citing that the forests will destroy the native species by taking over their land, which can have far-reaching consequences to biodiversity in Japan. The opponents of such moves also lobby for the Forest Agency to at least assess such moves.

The Forest Agency responded by agreeing to create a team of people to assess such moves (with scant details of this provided) but more interestingly, also countered that needs of people are more important than of biodiversity, citing local laws requiring them to restore the forests since they were made by locals.

It would not be surprising if readers feel that Japan has (unusually?) a lot of control over its environment with all these plans of (RE)making forests and more importantly, the idea that people do have a say over their environment. Notably, the environment and its future too can shape people’s lives.

I am also intrigued by how the different ideas of “green” can be in conflict with each other: The supporters of these plans seem to have a traditional idea of “green” as in having forests everywhere, while those who do not support these plans see “green” as lands (and therefore, animals and plants residing there) untouched by humanity.


One thought on “How green is Tohoku’s ‘Green Connections’ project?

  1. These are two fascinating projects that at first glance look “green.” Planting trees seems like a great idea, especially if they enable farmers to return to the land and potentially reduce future tsunami damage. However, as some scientists point out, some species that have established themselves in these coastal areas will lose out to others in these schemes. People may feel better by doing something to bring their landscape back to its previous state (although admittedly not an “original” state, since the forests were planted during the Edo period).

    Geographer Paul Waley has written about the importance of certain insect species as symbols of a healthy ecosystem in Japan (fireflies, in particular). Trees have a similar role to play here, with locals, politicians, and people donating to the project convinced that a forest is a more eco-friendly alternative to the native grasses that survived and thrived in the aftermath of the tsunami.

    This article mixes complex ideas of nature with memory (what people recall and imagine as a healthier environmental state), science (what different ecologists consider healthiest for the coastline), and engineering (what structures engineers might build to protect populations from future disasters).

    The major difference between this article and Sebastian’s article on Fuji Rock is that the controversies about what is “green” are all explicitly laid out here, while they are below the surface in the latter case.

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