ikimonocafe position paper : A Call for A Proactive Resolution at CBD/COP13 to Mainstream Biodiversity

A Call for A Proactive Resolution at COP13  to Mainstream Biodiversity

statement from  IKIMONO Café, Environmental NGO

Edited by :
Masako Sakata
Takafumi Tomita

November 22th, 2016

[1] Preface

NGO, Ikimono Café (Creatures’ Café), is a citizen’s network of a variety of regions of Japan, established after CBD/COP10 (the 10th Conference of the Parties of Convention of Biological Diversity) in October, 2010 in Aichi, Japan.

To achieve Target 1 adopted by CBD/COP10, “By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably,” we have been providing the opportunities where people can discuss biodiversity at Ikimono Café all over Japan, including Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo, Kamakura and Saga. 

Based upon our belief that the specific actions of each community are the key for protection of biodiversity, the above opportunities have been held in a café style, to provide venues to share tangible examples of practice and problems each community faces and to exchange ideas and good practices.

In particular, after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March of 2011, we strongly feel the urgent need to build a society that values biodiversity.  We have the responsibility to tell the world first that nuclear power cannot coexist with biodiversity, and second the the need to transition into natural renewable energy, including points to consider when implementing it.  Though five years have passed since the nuclear accident, the accident itself has not been contained at all, as radioactive materials continue to greatly affect the natural environment.

At the CBD COP12, the evaluation was such that based on GBO4, “ while there is success, it is not enough.”  It is said that under the current rate of progress, the prospect of achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Target by 2020 is grim.  Yet, we are determined to continue our efforts to achieve the Aichi Target Goal 1. 

For this end, more aggressive and implementable decisions and agreements are necessary at CBD COP13.  The most important theme at CBD COP13 is “mainstreaming”.  We must strive to make visible what it means to mainstream biodiversity in all areas.

We must make clear the definition of sustainable use,  protection, and mainstreaming of biodiversity in areas such as agriculture, oceanic and energy issues, ECO DRR and multiculturalism.  Various sectors must conduct careful and in-depth discussions which determine what should and should not be done, leading to a resolution on mainstreaming that specifies the agents, methodology and numerical goals.

Based on the above concepts, Ikimono Café propose as below.

[2] Lessons from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster which threaten the future of biodiversity

1 The current situation of oceanic pollution caused by the nuclear accident

Radioactive contamination is a violation of Aichi Target 8 (pollution, including from excess nutrients).  We should come to a common understanding that radioactive pollution is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity.

In Japan, we experienced Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11th, 2011. At COP12, 2014, we should recognize that it was not just a problem of Fukushima or Japan and that the same kind of adversity could happen to anyone on the planet if we continue only seeking for economic growth, without giving any consideration to the earth. 

The Fukushima people have lived for many years, surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers and the ocean, depending on blessings of nature and coexisting with it.   However, they have been forced to largely give them up because of the nuclear accident.  Polluted nuclear coolant water keeps flowing into the ocean, the plant buildings may collapse at anytime, and the plant could explode again.  Under these conditions, Fukushima has become the most dangerous area in the world.

Radioactive substances have spread to not only within Fukushima but also to the whole eastern part Japan through wind, and it has brought a serious damage to the primary industries as well as to biodiversity.  Ironically,  we, the Japanese, are discovering that all living things live together very closely to each other and our lives are connected to any other creatures in nature, by considering the circulation of radioactive and the fear for internal exposure.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an Olympic bid presentation at the IOC committee in November, 2013,  he assured that the nuclear accident in Fukushima was “under control.”  But many citizens of Japan know that these words have no credibility.  

At Fukushima Daiichi, highly radioactive water from storage tanks keep leaking, and polluted groundwater is pushed from the mountain side into the ocean.   According to the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s press release in August of  2014, serious ocean pollution was still under way; 5,000,000,000 Bq of strontium-90,  2,000,000,000 Bq of cesium-137 and 1,000,000,000Bq   of tritium per day were pouring into the ocean.

Moreover, because of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident and the tsunami, there is a massive amount of radioactive substances and radioactive rubbles floating in the Pacific Ocean and there is a concern they will drift to reach the Pacific islands.  We have to clearly recognize that all nuclear power plants in operation have the same kind of risk for accidents and could cause irreversible environmental pollutions across borders.

London Convention is known as the international rules for the ocean pollutions, but there is no account on the radioactive pollutions in it.  At CBD/COP12, it is necessary to pursue where the responsibility lies when international radioactive pollutions, like Fukushima Daiichi, are caused, and to recognize that such kind of economic activities are a great threat for biodiversity.

While we in Japan feel great responsibilities for having been scattering radioactive substances all over the world, we strongly hope that people around the world will learn from our experiences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  Everything we live on, such as air, water, soil and food come from the ecosystem and diverse living things.  Radioactive contamination by nuclear accidents deprives us of all we rely on to live.

2 Nuclear energy, climate change and seawater temperature rise

Aichi Target 10 (preservation of vulnerable ecosystems including coral reefs) points out one of the biggest issue we should tackle is climate change, and we agree with it. However, we disagree with the argument that nuclear power is the answer for climate change, and that notion should be shared by the international community.

The massive amount of radioactive substances spewed out by the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in March, 2011, still keep spreading all over the world.  

Since 1940, when humans started uranium mining and nuclear tests, radioactive pollution caused by nuclear tests or nuclear power accidents has been one of the most terrible environmental pollutions.  It is obvious that nuclear power has a tremendous impact on biodiversity by polluting soils, oceans and the air in each stage of the process of uranium mining, transporting fuels, power generation and disposal of wastes.

In addition, the notion that nuclear power energy is a solution for climate change because it emits no greenhouse gas (CO2) is wrong.  While it emits no greenhouse gas when power is generated, it produces greenhouse gas in all the processes of mining, refining, transporting, storage and disposal of uranium.

Nuclear power is one of the direct causes of sea temperature rise.  Coolant water used in nuclear power plants in operation is heated by an average of 7 degrees and drained into the ocean, and it directly contributes to seawater temperature rise.

CBD/COP must secure its neutrality, free from influence by any government promoting nuclear power, and face and discuss what has been actually happening in the fields where nuclear power is in use.  The Fukushima disaster shows us that radioactive pollution is one of the most urgent issues in the world.

3 Industrial, scientific and radioactive wastes

In realizing the goals set forth by Aichi Target 4 (sustainable production and consumption), we must reduce the demand for natural resources to the point where the functions of biodiversity are not impaired.  At the same, it is essential to increase the  efficiency of resource and energy use.   We must weight in the fact that nuclear power does not have an effective method for processing radioactive waste, and reconsider how we consume energy.

To abide by Aichi Target 18 (respect for traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous people and local communities), we have to reflect the statements of the indigenous people, to recognize and clearly state violation of their rights and destruction of their local communities by uranium mining, and to consider uranium mining and/or residual soil as major issues to be tackled.

We have to internationally confirm that the economic activities to produce chemical substances, high-level radioactive materials and spent nuclear fuel are always coupled with disposal of these materials.  It has a grave impact on the environment and it is a great hindrance to pursue “sustainable production and consumption.”

In particular, high-level radioactive wastes and spent nuclear fuels have serious impacts on biodiversity.  We have already learned from experiences including the Onkalo case in Finland that high-level nuclear waste or spent nuclear fuels will stay radioactive for 100,000 years, and we do not even know if humans as species can survive for such a long time.   It is obvious that the current science and technology cannot safely process high-level radioactive wastes.  While knowing that, it is almost suicidal to rely on dangerous energies that generate fatal wastes.

In Japan, as of March, 2008, the amount of spent nuclear fuel at nuclear power plant storage facilities amounted to 600,000 oil drums, each containing 200 liters.  In 2010 alone, 1,300 tons were generated and stored.   The total amount of spent nuclear fuels accumulated so far is as much as 28,000 tons.  We will have to pay the price for our mistakes, having promoted building nuclear power plants without finding any solutions for disposal of nuclear wastes.

However, we have to be aware that those who will really have to pay the price for radioactive wastes produced by our mass consumption of energy will not be the pro-nuclear developed countries but the indigenous people.   It is the greatest paradox of our world today. 

For example, Mongolia is estimated to have 15% of uranium deposits of the world.   And the country will likely be the final landfill site of spent nuclear wastes with incomprehensible logic that the wastes should be returned to where they came from.  Comprehensive Fuel Services (CFS) initiative was advocated by the US Department of Energy and the Mongolian government,  and it suggested the producer country of uranium for nuclear power plants will be responsible for disposal of nuclear wastes, under an international framework.   CFS has been adopted by 4 countries, USA, Mongolia, Japan and UAE.

Currently, the governments of pro-nuclear countries including Japan are trying to promote the sales of nuclear power plants to emerging nations that want to introduce them.   To solve the spent nuclear fuel problem, nuclear plant producing countries are trying to secure the lands in the area where the Mongolian nomads live as the final landfill site.  Because that move was scooped, Mongolian President Elbegdorj had to denounce to accept radioactive wastes in his speech at the United Nation General Assembly.   However, it was discovered later that the Mongolian government included this project in its national budgets after 2012 and the dangerous project is still secretly under the way.

Though those who carry out economic activities are supposed to be responsible for the safe disposal of the nuclear wastes, the reality is such that the radioactive residual soil of uranium is discarded around the mining sites and those who are the victims of radioactivity, either individuals or local governments, are forced to gather and dispose the wastes themselves.

Radioactive contamination at uranium mining sites is becoming more and more serious.  Mardai uranium mine, Mongolia, is an open pit mine and there is a uranium waste disposal facility in the vicinity of “gers,” the traditional housings of nomads.  According to the journalist who researched the area, the indigenous people live in very dangerous area where there is 24μSv/h of radioactivity.  The level of radioactivity there is as high as that of the Fukushima danger zone.

Mass consumption of energy must be taken seriously as one of the biggest threats our planet face, by clearly recognizing it is based on destruction of traditional lifestyles and lives of the indigenous people and the local people.

4 Democracy and biodiversity related to nuclear power plant accidents

One of the major themes for CBD COP is to mainstream its goals through cooperation with other international treaties and conventions. We must implement cooperation with the Aarhus Convention and biodiversity conventions.

The actual fields where biodiversity is conserved are the local communities.  It is the local peoples who know well the values and benefits they receive from biodiversity.  Therefore, conservation of biodiversity must be done in the “bottom-up” fashion.   However, at present, various rights of the ingenious and local peoples are disregarded because developments are typically done by governments and corporations that only seek benefits for themselves.  Ironically, the biggest reason for the loss of biodiversity is development by governments and corporations.  Thus, biodiversity conservation is closely connected with radical democracy.

We need to once again contemplate the meaning of “access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters’ of  the Aarhus Convention and establish cooperation with the Aarhus Convention and biodiversity convention.  In addition, we have to include articles in the convention to ban the oppression and disturbance by governments and corporations against the indigenous people and civil activists who have been striving to preserve biodiversity.   (Japan has not yet ratified Aarhus Convention.)

In Japan, although we had the highly developed systems including SPEEDI* to provide information on radioactive contamination levels even before the Fukushima disaster, they failed to function to spread information to the citizens when the accident occurred.   It caused many people to evacuate to areas where there was more radiation by mistake.  To make it worse, the Japanese government controlled the media and it was very difficult for citizens to obtain accurate information immediately after the accident.   Without social media, no one could find out what kind of risks they were exposed to.

Even in 2016, it is difficult to access accurate information on the radiation levels of food, water and soil. Since the government has lost the confidence of the citizens, many people have had to establish their own radioactivity measuring facilities to gather information to save their own lives.  Governments and business circles must not monopolize communication networks and information.   Various information on environment, including biodiversity, has to be open to everyone.

It is regrettable that the information on the nuclear accident or contamination level of the Fukushima accident has not been sufficiently provided in Asian countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia.   We in Japan, still suffering from and struggling with radiation, strongly ask you to re-consider internationally the ways to provide the environment where all the inhabitants have an access to information equally, especially concerning radioactive pollution that spreads beyond administrative districts or across borders.

*SPEEDI(System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information)
The system to rapidly predict environmental effects such as the level of radioactive concentration in the atmosphere or and exposure dosage, based on the information of the leakage source, climate conditions and geographic data, in emergency when the massive amount of radioactive substances is emitted from a nuclear power plant or alike.  It calculates wind field, concentration of radioactive materials in atmosphere and exposure dosage based on the collected data and reported information of emission source.   The results are sent immediately to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science And Technology, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Nuclear Safety Commission, the relevant prefectures and the off-site centers via network to be used as the important information for taking disaster prevention measures.

5 Disaster and Biodiversity

We welcome the movement to promote ECO DRR (Ecosytem-based Disaster Risk Reduction) from the standpoint of biodiversity, which began in response to the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Sendai in March of 2015.  We urge all parties to go beyond disaster risk reduction,  and strive to mainstream “green infrastructure” that incorporates the perspective of biodiversity in preparing infrastructure.  

Natural disasters caused by climate change is becoming more serious around the world.  To find solutions to these disasters, we must first all hold in common the premise that “humans cannot conquer nature.”  Modernity has promoted disaster prevention and infrastructure building from the perspective of conquering nature through technology.  Examples of new types disasters stemming from the destruction of ecosystems and landscape alternation abound. 

As an example, after WWII, the Japanese government promoted the planting of cedar and cypress trees in anticipation of the demand in rebuilding the nation, without regards to biodiversity.  As a result, 70% of Japan’s forests became artificial forests.  In later years, cheap lumber came to be imported from overseas, leading to decline in demand for domestic lumber.  The forest industry is now under serious slump, any many forests are left untended.  As cedar and cypress have low water retention capacity and shallow roots,  the mountains are prone to landslides.  Today, there are many examples of landslides after a heavy rain.

In Great Eastern Japan Earthquake of 2011, there were more damages in the areas where there had been environmental destruction, such as three-sided revetments of rivers, artificial sea walls and windbreak forests.  Tsunami water instantaneously went upstream through and three-sided revetments and linearized rivers and caused profound damages in the upstream areas.  Researchers reported that tortuous and diverse  natural rivers could have reduced damages.  Keeping it in mind, we should pursue the way to take biodiversity as the basic focus for disaster prevention and not to change geography too much.

We must all reexamine how developments and disaster preventions should be, based on the notion that “biodiversity is an essential infrastructure for mankind.”

In order to balance green and grey infrastructures, we must value the wisdom that comes from thorough understanding of and utilization of ecosystems.  This kind of wisdom is held by long-time residents of each regions.  Thus, the involvement of local communities is essential to laying out infrastructure and promoting ECO DRR.

It is the local communities that can respond rapidly and flexibly when disasters occur.   It is pointed out that more active communities usually have less victims of disasters.   For example, in San Francisco, one of the most earthquake-prone areas and in New Orleans, struck by a huge hurricane, they put more emphasis on enhancing communication than on “hard-ware” building for disaster damage reduction measures.  We must strive to learn from these examples and increase superior examples of ECO DRR and green infrastructures.

In addition, there are not much “natural disasters” in a strict sense any more today.   It is now important more than ever to come up with a way to handle so-called “multiple” disasters like the Fukushima nuclear accident, which was triggered by a natural disaster.

But the current reality in Japan is totally the opposite.  There are plans to build gigantic and long sea walls to prevent tsunamis as well as Linear Chuo Shinkansen Line (Superconducting Magnetic Levitation Railway, hereafter Maglev train),* in the excuse that the new train will be necessary to secure transportation in case of a disaster.   Construction of Maglev trains will involve drilling tunnels through the mountains and the forests where there are precious ecosystems.

* Maglev train project
Maglev trains do not require railway, because they run floating 10cm above the ground.  The plan is to connect Tokyo and Osaka by the trains that run at a maximum speed of 500 km/h.  For their operation, it will  require the power generated by 3 nuclear power plants.
To keep the optimum speed, they try to avoid curves and 86% of the route will be tunnels.   Most of the tunnels will be located in mountains and forests, and it is highly  dangerous to drill them because the areas are full of active faults or underground water veins.   And there is a concern that will cause environmental destruction of the regions where biodiversity is preserved, including Japan Southern Alps, which has been designated as an Eco Park of UNESCO. The project is very likely to destroy precious ecosystems and biodiversity because of destruction of water veins and electromagnetic waves.  Businesses claim that Maglev trains are necessary for disaster prevention and they will function as the “backup” transportation.  However, the riding capacity of each train is 730 merely persons, they will no way be of any use as freight trains.  Far from that, passengers’ lives will be in danger when disasters occur.

6 Renewable Energy and Biodiversity

It is our strong hope that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster would be the last one in the history from which human beings suffer so much.  Fukushima has shown nuclear power is far too dangerous for human beings to handle.    It must be made clear to the international community that nuclear power can no way be considered to be a sustainable energy or renewable energy, and that we should stop relying on nuclear power.  Instead, we should welcome switching to renewable energies.     However,  we also have to recognize too much emphasis on renewable energies is causing  destruction of ecosystems and landscape.

Although it is important to shift to renewable energies, we must take biodiversity into consideration.   For example, the type of wind power generation that causes forest destruction or disturbs birds’ migration should not be called “renewable energy.”  To destroy nature in order to gain renewable energy is a great contradiction.  Renewable energy should be small scale, not large.   Real natural energy is supposed to be generated locally and in small scales so that energy is generated and consumed within each area. 

We must first admit that the biggest problem of the energy issue is the mass consumption of energy in developed countries.  And developing countries, instead of following the mass-energy-consuming economic model, have to build a social agreement on the definition of energy necessary for maintaining peoples lives and lifestyles.  

[3] Other proposals for important issues

1 Agriculture and biodiversity

A clear definition of agriculture that mainstreams biodiversity must be provided at COP13.  It must also clarify what kind of agriculture and agricultural methods are depleting biodiversity.  The negative effects of large scale agriculture and effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides must be presented.  The dangers from these practices must be emphasized and we must search for solutions.

We must call for national level of research, promotion and legal framework  for the protection and promotion of small scale agriculture, native seeds, pollenizers and soil organisms.  

Large scale farming can be considered to be  “industrialization of agriculture” and bears a serious  threat to biodiversity.   Farming was originally supposed to coexist with nature, but it has shifted to the destruction of nature.   For example, change of geography (securing farmlands by reclamation, deforestation etc.), large quantities of pesticide sprayed, practicing monoculture are all causes of environmental destruction.   Organic farming was once regarded as a good farming practice.  But in Japan, they regard hydroponics in the large-scale factory as organic farming, thus not quite reliable anymore.  Agriculture should be done in the fashion that maintain and protect biodiversity.

Furthermore, widespread use of genetically engineered seeds and accompanying monoculture cause serious damage and threatens traditional knowledge and lifestyles.   Industrialization and excessive mechanization of agriculture, the use of pesticides including neuro-toxins including Neonicotinoid and the increasing use of transgenic seeds can be the greatest source of environmental destruction, and we have to recognize it internationally as well as to support conservation of native crops already preserved by local communities.  National-level research, protection and promotion of native species would contribute to enhancing the capacity of agriculture to adapt to climate change and solving poverty/starvation issue.

2 The Satoyama idea and biodiversity

It is necessary to promote practical activities of the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI).   IPSI should give proposals to lead to tangible policies by identifying good practices and evaluating application of them to other areas.

We applaud new movements such as The 1st Asian Conference on Bicultural Diversity held in Ishikawa, Japan in October 2016.  The use of Satoyama and secondary nature are superior models for sustainable use of biodiversity.

Japan is a small country mostly covered with mountains.  Mountains are located in the vicinity to the ocean, and small rivers and streams connect mountains and the ocean.  Therefore, many farmers have kept their farmlands close to the mountains. 
Traditionally, the Japanese farmers not only have produced crops, but also have spent time in the mountains, picking mushrooms, wild vegetables and nuts, fishing, hunting and getting firewood.   For generations, these people have been exercising and passing various wisdoms and knowledge so that they would not over-harvest in mountains.   In other words, they have kept a sustainable and recycling-based society.    In Japan, there are not many regions untrodden by men, and nature consists two areas; the deeper mountain areas where human seldom visit and the Satoyama areas where people maintain a sustainable use of nature.

Biodiversity in Satoyama has been supported by people’s lives.  Rice paddies provide habitats for creatures and smaller fish and insects become feeds for migrant birds.  Cutting firewood in mountains contribute to biodiversity by giving underbrush chances to grow, resulting in growth of a variety of plants.  Mountains are getting devastated and the numbers and diversity of creatures are reducing, because people are stopping to go into mountains by urbanization.

The greatest cause for the loss of biodiversity in Japan is reduction of Satoyama by massive development projects and urbanization.  The lifestyle in Satoyama is a good example of the society co-existing with nature. The Satoyama concept of humans coexisting with nature as opposed to the idea of humans against nature has nurtured a wide variety of traditional cultures and religions.

The loss of biodiversity is directly connected to the loss of cultural diversity.  The development of human experiences such as traditional foods, technology, religions, calendar have all depended on biodiversity.  We must aggressively connect biodiversity with cultural diversity, and strive for their mainstreaming.

3 The way sustainable economy should be

Global economy is the greatest obstacle for the people who seek for economic activities that do not burden the earth.  Not to mention it is necessary to verify if international trades are done in a fair fashion, the essential point is to keep balance between global economy and local economy.   In addition, to eliminate trade barriers or non-tariff barriers under the name of free trade can be an obstacle for local production and consumption.   In Japan, farmers are increasingly alarmed by TPP.  We have to recognize that the easy elimination of trade barriers or non-tariff barriers without thinking will only profit multinational companies and damage local businesses.

Sustainable economy in the true sense is to promote local economy and community’s economy.  The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity can only be implemented at a local level.  Therefore, it is essential that local communities stay healthy for conservation of biodiversity.  We should share this understanding internationally and identify the damaging factors against biodiversity. 

The promotion of global economy by elimination of trade barriers, seen in TPP, under the name of liberalization of employment will lead to compelling exportation of farmers and use of genetically-modified crops or pesticides.  If the situation stays the same, it will certainly destroy local communities and conservation of biodiversity through healthy agriculture and forestry will be impossible.

Even today, for nations and corporations, it has been a common practice internationally to purchase water sources that have long been accessed by the indigenous people and the local inhabitants for free.   To make it worse, the groundwater pollution by drilling shale gas and oil is getting increasingly serious.   We have to understand internationally again that these economic activities are totally opposite to conservation of biodiversity, and we should help all people to gain an access to safe and clean water.  

In particular, it is urgently necessary to regulate water business and shale gas excavation.   We should also come up with international rules and regulations to guarantee the rights of the local people not only for water sources but also for the underground water and ground water.

IKIMONO Café, Environmental NGO

ikimocafe@gmail.com (Takafumi Tomita, Director)

Postal Address
Ikimono café, c/o From Earth Café Ohana, Hoei Bldg 1F, 1-32-6 Sangenchaya, 
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 154-0024, Japan

03-5433-8787 (0081 3 5433 8787)

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