Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Old Man and the Sea

Originally posted at JPG Magazine dot com on 17 April 2008

My friend Mike and I are both retired military and living the expatriate life in Okinawa Japan. Avid amateur photographers, he and I now make it a point to get together at least once every couple of weeks to go out shooting our cameras. We usually get off some pretty good shots but sometimes, more often than not, it's an excuse to get away from our wives and regain a little sense of sanity in our lives.

Both of us recent converts, we wish we had taken up the hobby much, much earlier on. Often we lament the fact that if we had saved all that money we wasted going out drinking and chasing women in our wilder youth, we'd both be professional photographers now and sporting Nikon D3's vice the cameras we now have. Admittedly, his camera equipment is quite a bit better than mine. Fortunately for me I am learning a lot more about the craft just from getting out and about with him.

We tried to make an early start of it that day but the weather that morning was threatening. Instead of going out and facing the possibility of getting soaked, we retreated to what I will refer to as his study. There we got out our laptop computers and started to edit photos we each had taken only a few days before and posting them on some of the various sites we both visit. By lunch time the threatening weather looked to be over. But it was still overcast and getting warm. We decided to wait until after 3pm when the lighting would be better and the probability of finding a shady spot to wait would be greater.

When 3pm came along, we went out to a spot where he goes and quite often gets some really great shots of egrets feeding along the shore and ospreys soaring overhead. We picked a spot under the brush near the shoreline and waited. This spot gave us a pretty good view of the bay and the sun would be off to our right. This gave us a great chance for a shot at anything coming from the north and east. After about an hour or so, it appeared that the God's were conspiring against us. I had about an hour drive back to my home as well as a whole list of "honey do" things to pick up before heading back.

As we made our way back toward his house along the shoreline to drop him off, he suddenly perked up and said to me "Doc, get a load of that!" He had spotted an old man, probably well into his 80's walking along the beach with a cast net slung over his shoulder. Mike's practically deaf from his days in the military so he tends to speak more loudly than normal. He's got a booming voice to boot. He practically popped both my ear drums when he excitedly said "pull over hear, we gotta get this, this is a story for you man! This is old Okinawa!"

We pulled off the narrow beach road and got both our cameras out. We stayed in the car so as not to disturb him. The old man walked the water's edge looking intently into the waves. He'd walk a few steps and then stop for a moment. He'd look a little more and then continue on. It was obvious that he was following a small school of fish swimming along the shore. We hadn't shot a single thing all day and now here we were sitting in the car like private detectives on a stake out. Our camera shutters were clicking like mad. It was as if we had been waiting and watching for a cheating spouse to leave a motel with someone to whom they were not married.

To our delight, the old man didn't seem to mind that we were taking his picture at all. He glanced our way on several occasions and slyly smiled back at us. It was the smile of someone who knows something you don't. He walked up the beach about another 20-30 meters and paused near a large rock. On more than one occasion it appeared as though he was readying himself to cast the net, only to relax his shoulders and lower it. We observed this scene repeat itself at least a half dozen times before he turned and returned to his bucket that contained his supplies and his catch for the day.

Although we didn't actually see this old man cast his net and bring in a big catch, it was a thing of beauty to watch this old master studying the waves and stalking his prey. We both realized that we had the opportunity to see a master in action. Our afternoon out wasn't really a total waste after all.

The Road "Usually" Less Traveled

The road to the top of Mt. Yaedake in Motobu town is usually not heavily traveled. Atop the mountain is a communications station run by the U.S. military. At one time it used to be a fully operational base but with the advent of technology and the need for personnel elsewhere assured that this once busy base was doomed for closure. These days the facility is visited sparingly by a Japanese civilian contractor who makes the rounds and assures that everything is operating as it should. Hence the road to the top of the mountain is usually not often used.

All of that of course changes every January and in to early February. The reason is of course all of the 7000 plus blossoming cherry trees that line both sides of the road all the way to the top. For a brief period of time, about three to four weeks, this serpentine road becomes one of the busiest roads in all of Okinawa.

Ohana mi or cherry blossom viewing is a big time in Japan. The very first blossoms of spring occur in Okinawa and the very first Cherry Blossom Festival in all of Japan happens right here on the slopes of Mt. Yaedake.

As you can probably guess from the photos posted here, this year "Mankai" or full bloom occured during the week of January 25th. Unfortunately the weather this time of year in the Goya Republic is terrible at worst and unpredictable at best. That didn't stop people from coming out in droves to travel this winding mountain road in this sleepy part of the island.

In fact the weather this day, though comfortably warm for the time of year, was supposed to be rainy. Of course in what occupation other than politics can you be wrong more than 50% of the time and still keep your job? If you guessed tlevision weather reporter, give yourself a gold star!

Early that morning the clouds looked as though the wrath of God was upon us but by 10am the skies had cleared and we had some beautiful blue skies in which we could contrast the bright pink blossoms of the Taiwanese Cherry Trees. Within a half hour of our arrival, the skies turned brooding again. When we left the mountain at 1pm, the skies were again clearing. On the way back home we experienced what is known locally as "kattabui" or as the Marines like to call it liquid sunshine. Yes, that means it rained while the sun was shining brightly upon us. Still we were able to get off som great shots and some awsome colors. If you have the chance, you have to come and see this. the blossoms here will last for only a few short weeks before giving way to the first greens of spring.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The International Orchid Show

I said it before and I’ll say it again, “guys don’t know squat about flowers except the ladies love them!” That’s why many of the married men out there as well as some of the single guys go out and blow a fortune on flowers for their wives or girlfriends every year for Valentines Day.

However, I happen to know that some of the “gai’s” out there dating the local girls are thinking of doing it on the cheap. Before you do, let me warn you with these words, “Houston we have a problem!” If you’re thinking about buying a cheap bouquet from one of the local grocery stores, be advised. In Japan, flowers have meaning. You got to be careful what you buy. In Okinawa, most flowers sold at the local grocery stores are for funerals or intended to be placed in the family altar found in most homes.

My advice is to play it safe. Instead of buying your sweetie flowers from the local grocer, you’ll be a whole lot better off if you take her to the Expo Park in Motobu to see the International Orchid Show. The show runs from Saturday February 7th through Sunday the 15th inside the Okinawa Tropical Dream Center arboretum.

Most of the displays are indoors so even if the weather is bad, like it is just about every year, you’ll be able to leisurely stroll along the paths and enjoy the brightly colored floral displays in the company of the one you love and all in climate controlled comfort.

The best part of it is the price of admission to the Orchid show is no different from the regular admission to the Tropical Dream Center. The 670-Yen admission price gets you unlimited access to the whole show and there’s plenty of it to see too. Growers from all around the world show their talent by putting their very best plants on display.

When you get to the back of the arboretum, there is even a small cafe where you can sit and relax, enjoy a live music show, an espresso or even an orchid flavored Turkish ice cream. It’s the perfect cheap date. If you’re an avid amateur photographer like me, you’ll want to bring your camera along too.

You can click on the title to this post for more information. The website is in Japanese but with the use of a translation widget understandable.
You can also check out the art print below. It makes a great Valentines Day gift too. Have it ready framed and shipped to your door or order the print and do it yourself.

Monday, January 26, 2009

An Old Buddhist Proverb

An old Buddhist proverb goes "The nail that sticks up will be hammered down." Japan is a nation of conformists. The average Japanese person doesn't aspire to greatness but rather to just fit in and be one of the number. They tend to be on the shy side and because of national honor, do their best in everything.

Okinawa is now one of Japan's 47 prefectures. Once upon a time, it was once its own independent kingdom and was known as Ryukyu. Commodore Perry once visited and toasted the king of Lew-Chew. They are proud of the fact that they were once great sailors and traders who embarked on successful commerce throughout Far East Asia.

They mastered the Kuroshio (black current) similar to America's Gulf Stream and traded with present day Malaysia, Indonesia Vietnam, Thailand, China, Korea and Japan. When Japan was closed off to the rest of the world, tiny Ryukyu was prospering economically. This prosperity didn't go unnoticed.

The Daimyo of Satsuma, present day Kagoshima Prefecture, without the consent of the Shogun, invaded and subjected Ryukyu and made it a puppet state. The King was for a brief time deposed and onerous taxes imposed on the general population. Ryukyu as an independent kingdom existed in name only.

Ryukyu was formally annexed to Japan shortly after the Meiji Restoration when the Shogun abdicated and the Emperor assumed supreme power. The name changed to Okinawa which in Japanese translates into "middle of the ocean rope." A look at a map of the region and you can see why.

A plan was put into place to Japanize the people of Ryukyu. Japanese became the official language and people were publicly ridiculed for speaking the Ryukyu Hogen language. When WWII visited their island in the spring and summer of 1945, the tiny island was sacrificed to save the mainland. For years the island fell under American control and only reverted back to Japanese control in 1972.

So you can say that Okinawa is Japan but the people of Okinawa remember their glory days. They love freedom and to have a good time. Throughout the year they hold many festivals and each one of them is a celebration of life. So even though they are legally Japanese, unlike many of their mainland Japanese brethren, Okinawan's tend to be a bit more independent. They have a tendency to stick out in a crowd

Every year in Late October and early November, the people of Okinawa celebrate their heritage. They call it the Ryukyu Kingdom Festival and it is a extravaganza of pomp and circumstance. During the ten day festival, three main events take place. They are the royal procession and coronation ceremony at the old castle and the grand royal procession down the main street of Okinawa's capitol city.

This year my friend Mike and I ventured downtown to get a few photos of the hoopla. A couple hours and 800 photos later we came home and downloaded on our computers. What you'll see here is from the grand royal procession which was held on Sunday October 26th. Please click on the individual photos for detailed descriptions of the action.

This is from a photo essay originally posted 28 October, 2008 on the JPG Magazine website which is linked (Here) and may be viewed for as long as the JPG site remains up and running.

The pictures from top to bottom are: 1) a member of the court poses with a tourist. 2) the Queen, isn't she lovely. 3) the King, both the king and queen were selected from local college students and made repeat performances at several celebrations throughout the year. 4) Traditional Ryukyu dancers in their Ryukyu style kimonos.

If you like you can order these post cards that feature the famous Shuri Jo Mon Gate. It was through this gate that American Commodore Perry entered the castle during his historic visit with the black ships fleet.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Global Worming

Posts originally posted at Everywhere and JPG are posted to this blog without photos. To see photos, click on the link below. Links will remain active for as long as JPG and Everywhere Magazine sites are operational.

Originally Posted at JPG Magazine

Suffice it to say, I'm not a big fan of Al Gore and all the global warming hype that permeates every aspect of our lives these days. My thinking is, the recent rise in temperatures are all part of natural earth cycles that we can't possibly influence let alone control nor, do we fully understand how it all works. After all, having been around for more than two-to-three decades, I do remember once upon a time when a public education meant something. A teacher of mine once said that a long, long time ago, Vikings were farming in Greenland. I also remember, back in the 70's, the big crisis was the threat of a coming ice age. Back then, Time Magazine thought the crisis serious enough that they did one of their magazine covers showing New York City buried in a glacier.

All that being said, I do firmly believe that we are stewards of what life presents to us and great care must be taken to leave the place as good, if not better, than the way we found it. As such, the car I drive is a real gas miser that gets around 50mpg. As hot as it gets where we live here on Okinawa island, we only use the air conditioner when its time to go to bed. It's not because I believe this is my little way to save the planet. It's because I'm a retiree with a limited income and I try my damndest to live within my means.

Another thing that I do is compost my garbage. Again, it's not my vain attempt to appease the "Global Warming Police." I do it because I love the benefits that composting does for my tomatoes and the wife's flower garden. The truth be told, even if I were more well off than I am now, I'd probably still drive the same car I do now, I'd probably still use the air conditioner sparingly and for damn sure, I'd still compost my garbage.

I really got started into composting shortly after my retirement. We moved into my wife's grandfather's old house in the countryside. It's a quaint old Okinawa style farm house with a pretty good sized yard. Not the postage stamp property one finds in the cities over here. It's a whole lot more comfortable than any apartment we could have afforded to move into. We considered the benefits from our living there in the countryside. First, the place is very quiet and in-laws didn't have to worry about it sitting empty or becoming the target of vandals. I would enjoy the physical activity of taking care of this old house. Lastly and most importantly, we just couldn't pass up the free rent.

Adding insult to injury, a good friend of mine and fellow military retiree who lives here too had become a gardening fanatic during his retirement. He let me borrow a book of his called "Worms Eat My Garbage" and it changed everything for me. It helped to convince me that I needed to start doing something about the situation too. Before reading that book, my idea of composting was the same thing that my parents always did. Unused household or kitchen refuse was always thrown into the garden and when the pile got too stinky or too big, it was either burned, buried or both. I had no real idea what a compost box was or how to build one. The book shows you how.

My first attempt at building one for myself worked okay but if I could add one word of advice, "If your going to do the job, you had better do it right." The first compost box we had was originally an old cage that the wife's grandfather used to transport his chickens to market. It had a lightweight wood frame and wood on two sides and each end. The top and front side was wire mesh which would allow plenty of air in for the worms. I trimmed off the wire on one side and used that as the top for dumping our vegetable food waste. It worked great for the first year but, unfortunately it just couldn't stand up to the elements. The frame had rotted through after only a year and it developed a real bad starboard list.

The other problem was it couldn't keep the less than desirable varmints out. Worms, of course, we love because they do all the work. Some insects and even mold are unavoidable. The bad part was that, on more than one occasion, when I went out back to dump our waste at the end of the day, I was greeted by a rat when I opened the cover. Clearly something had to be done. I began to think about buying a couple of sheets of thick plywood and building a box meant to do the job right. The only thing stopping me was the lack of tools needed to do the job and the lack of funds. As I mentioned before, I'm a retiree on a budget. Things are expensive in Japan. The cost of the wood alone would be well over the equivalent of $50.00 U.S.

Then one day while surfing the net, I saw a video someone produced wherein they made a composter from a used garbage can. They simply drilled a few holes in the side for air and Wa-La, instant composter that was not only inexpensive, it easily kept the varmints out. From that day forward, the hunt was on! For the next few weeks as I traveled about the island on business, I always made it a point to check out the various hardware stores as well as the U.S. base exchanges here. To my disappointment, the stuff was more expensive than I had imagined. Even more surprising was that it was even more expensive on base. Fortunately, we played it smart and didn't rush out and buy the first thing we saw. By taking our time and staying flexible we found a garbage container that was both sturdy and cheap.

My personal opinion is that composting only makes good sense for anyone who has a yard or garden. The benefits for your garden and the environment are tremendous. Why pay big money for fertilizer when you can make your own for next to nothing. The nutrients created by letting worms eat your garbage and yard waste are far better than anything you can buy on the market. Less garbage has to be incinerated or buried and it's just so easy to do. Now if I could just get old Al to pony up some of those millions he's making and pay me for the carbon credits I've REALLY EARNED, I'll be more than happy to let him and all his mindless minions in the live in their fantasy world!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tough Times and Business Survival

In a previous post I highlighted some of the troubles being experienced by businesses in the old Gate 2 & BC Street areas of Okinawa City. With that being said, we did see some businesses that were thriving in spite of the hard times this area has seen and in spite of the impending economic downturn too. So the question that has to be asked is why do some survive (or even thrive) while other’s die?

The answer to that question is neither easy nor is it simple. Sorry if you were studying for a final exam on your business class and was hoping I’d give you an easy “A”! But there are certain factors that make some small businesses stronger than others and these are the ones that can usually weather the stormy times.
First of all, small businesses like the ones here have the luxury of small overhead. Many are small “mom & pop” businesses that either own or rent the facility at very small fee. The places they do business in are generally small, sometimes less than a hundred square feet and without the high overhead for labor, they can get buy on a lot less than the larger establishments.

Secondly, they have to be patient. If they’ve been in business for a while, they were hopefully smart enough to save their money for the lean times. Business goes up and down in cycles. Sometimes its feast or famine and they prepare for the famine by keeping expenditures low in the good times too.

They’re also innovators. While many of them specialize in certain items, they usually don’t have all their all their eggs in one basket. For example, the Gabusoka soba chain of restaurants got its start when an enterprising butcher looked for a way to eliminate having to throw away a lot of excess meats that might have otherwise spoiled or gone rancid. He decided to start cooking it before it went bad. Once he got his recipe down he opened his first soba shop. Today it’s one of the largest chains on island.

They also provide superior customer service! Where they cut corners to save money is not where it affects the product or service. The customer’s satisfaction is their primary concern. They know that to survive in lean times they need repeat business and referrals from satisfied customers.

Lastly, they invest in their businesses wisely. They don’t always have to have the latest and greatest in equipment to get the job done. What they will do is observe what works and what doesn’t. Based on what they learn from the success and failures of others will determine how they invest their savings into their business.

The great thing about this is the principles listed here don’t just apply to already established businesses, they apply equally to start ups as well. Are you thinking of starting a business in these difficult times? It’s scary to think about it but in some cases this is the best time to do it. If you have an idea that you think may work and have saved wisely, maybe now is the time to think about becoming your own boss.

Which of the businesses pictured here will be the winners and losers in this current economic downturn? We have no way of knowing for sure but we feel safe in assuming that if they follow the guidelines listed here, they’ll have a far better chance than those that don’t!

(Edited to add) click on the title to this post for a related article from local news sources.

When it comes to quality, low price and great customer service, you can't beat what you get through Zazzle. That's why we're proud to be associated with them as one of our distributors of our fine line of Goya Republic products. Just check out the design below. Don't particularly care for the design, pick another or if you like, you can even customize it the way you like!

Tough Times Coming

A mere fifteen years ago the “Ichiba” or “market” in Okinawa city used to be a happening place. Located between Gate 2 Street (so named because it ends at Kadena Air Farce Base’s gate 2) and Chuo Park Avenue (sometimes known as BC Street), today it’s a ghost town! In times past it was Okinawa’s second city answer to the Heiwa Dori and the main Ichiba in Naha that most tourists visit today.

What made this place die? Some say it is the negative influence of the U.S. Military. I say that is a lot of bunk because, as I mentioned before, this used to be a happening place! Years ago when I was still on active duty and stationed at one of the northern camps we used to come down here on the weekends just to look around, shop and eat. One advantage that the area has is its central location.

Another reason given for its demise is the opening of more shopper friendly places in nearby Chatan and Awase. This explanation makes more sense because one advantage that those places have is plenty of free parking for the public to use. The centrally located Okinawa City Ichiba has parking available but most of it is privately owned lots that charge for the privilege of using the space.

The city did build a mall at the end of the Chuo Park Avenue some years ago at great expense to the local tax payers but, even that facility has floundered over the twelve or so years since it opened. In part this is because they charge customers for the privilege to park in their facility. Even the brand new "Music Town" which was built to attract tourists to the downtown area charges for their parking facility. When times are tough like the presently are, why would anyone want to pay money for what they can get for free elsewhere.

From what we were able to notice, most of the places now are closed down. A conservative estimate would be that only one in ten available spaces is currently occupied by a business. Now it might have had something to do with the time of day we were ther but even then, the ones that we saw looked to be anything but thriving! With a global economic meltdown on the horizon, the probability of many, if any, of these establishments surviving is seriously in doubt. Such is the creative destruction effects of capitalism and a free market.

During this current down cycle, many more businesses will fail and surprisingly many will thrive. Who are the lucky ones, at this point we do not know but we can expect that in the coming months and perhaps even years, there may be more places around Okinawa that look more like the Okinawa City Ichiba does today.

If you live on Okinawa, one thing you could consider is doing your part to support local businesses. We don't need more ghost towns in these depressed times. Whether it is in Okinawa city proper or in the town where you live, support local merchants as much as you can.

If you don't happen to live in Okinawa but are concerned about the plight of local business, you could make a purchase from my online store. In turn, I'll do my best to support the local establishments for you.

(Edited to add) you can click on the title to this post for a related article from local news sources.

Take a look at some of the deals we're offering by clicking on the product displayed below or check out our gallery of products and make a purchase today. Help Okinawa businesses survive in these tough economic times. As you can see, they're not just around the corner. In many cases, it's already here!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yonbaru Forest School

With the Cherry blossoms in bloom across the northern end of the island, many people will be getting in their cars and going out to see the sights. The cooler winter temperatures make hiking a popular pasttime as well. One place that you might want to consider is the Yonbaru Forest School in far northern Kunigami Village.

The facility is located on the back side of Aha Dam in southern Kunigami village. That being said, if you're not aware of its existence, most people would never go out of their way to find it.

The Yonbaru Forest School is home to a variety of protected wildlife to include the Okinawa Yonbaru Salamander, a unique looking red headed woodpecker whose name I forgot but it probably had Yonbaru somewhere in it, Yonbaru mountain turtles and the occasional Yonbaru Kuina or Okinawa Rail. The Kuina is the rarest of them all but be advised that all of these afore mentioned beasts are protected species. With that being said, be extremely careful when your driving along the mountain roads of Yonbaru. Penalty's are stiff and in most cases include confiscating your vehicle.

For being located in such a far out of the way place, the facility is nothing short of first rate. It includes a fantastic playground with equipment that is sturdy enough to accomodate kids of all ages and sizes. That means its for the kid in all of us and from what we could see, many take advantage of it!

The facility also includes several kilometers worth of mountain trails. They have been improved to make hiking easier but they may not be the best thing for the weak or infirmed. Some of the trails have stairs and the like but they can be pretty steep in places. Pets are not allowed and neither is letting your little ones capture and or play with some of the critters.

There is a modest fee if you want to go hiking the trails which is payable in advance at the Cafe and visitor's center. Be sure to check out the tree house and when you enter the hiking trail, be sure to wipe your feet in the anti-bacterial bath provided. As we said before the species here are extremely rare and extra precautions like this are in place to protect them from diseases that you might unknowingly bring in to the park.

The best way to get there is to go up the west coast of the island along highway 58. Travel past the recreation center at Okuma Beach and the turn off for Hiji Falls. At highway 2, head east over the mountains. As your making your way down the other side toward the sleepy coastal village of Ada, look for the sign with the frog on it. Turn right here and follow the road five kilometers to the park. It will be on the left side of the road and you can't miss it.

The other option is to drive the long way up the East coast through Higashi village. It will be some distance past the Northern Training Area at Camp Gonsalves. Look for the sign for Aha Dam and follow the road back to the dam, drive across it and up the hill to the park.

Again the faster way is along highway 58. But with this being "Ohanami" or Cherry Blossom season, the Yofuke crossroads just south of Nago will be snarled with traffic. You can avoid this by driving down the east coast or if you choose to take highway 58 back, I would suggest you turn off at Haneji dam just north of Nago. Take that road up the hill, past the dam and over the reservoir. When you get to Highway 18, turn left through the tunnel, down to Oruwa bay. Make a right onto higway 331 and drive back up the hill toward Camp Schwab and highway 329. From there its a clear drive down the east coast to the expressway exit at Ginoza.

January in Bloom?!

It's January in the Goya Republic and that means it's Cherry Blossom time. The very first cherry blossom festivals in all of Japan happen right here in Okinawa and the first of them all is at Mt. Yaedake in Motobu town.

At just over 1500 feet high, Mt. Yaedake is the second highest peak on Okinawa. It was the site of a U.S. military communications station and base from shortly after the war all the way up to and through most of the 1970's.
The base was upgraded through the years and became a fully automated facility. To show their thanks to the people of Motobu, when the base personnel moved out, the U.S. military offered to thank the people of Motobu by building something for them. Instead of a new school building or a library, the people of Motobu asked that the road leading to the top of Yaedake be lined with cherry trees.
Today over 7000 blossoming Taiwanese cherry trees line the snake like winding road to the top of the mountain. About a third of the way up is Sakura no Mori Koen or Cherry Tree Forest Park. Each year the people of Motobu hold a festival on these grounds to celebrate the blossoming cherry trees and welcome the coming of spring.

This story is one of the success stories in American and Okinawan relations. The cherry trees will blossom from about mid January till late February. Sometimes the blossoms last into early March. This year a cold snap around the new year caused the blossoms to pop a little earlier than usual. These pictures were taken on the 11th of January and Mankai (full bloom) is expected to happen around the weekend of the 24th.

Cherry blossom festivals across Northern Okinawa begin on January 17th right here at Mt. Yaedake and are also viewable at nearby Nakijin Castle. The castle will be illuminated for night viewing. There will also be cherry blossom festivals in Nago, down south in Naha and Yaese Town.

For those of you already here on Okinawa, make it a point to get out of your houses and see this rare treat. The blossoms will only last a few days once they reach full bloom. For those of you who can only see them via the internet, enjoy.

With the coming spring we're featuring one of our flowering photo art prints available through our affiliation with Zazzle. Print it as a poster to frame yourself or have it blown up and ready framed for you. The folks at Zazzle can do it all for you.

You can also click on the title to this post to see the rest of our Zazzle Gallery and some more great Goya Republic products to choose from. So what are you waiting for? You're only a click away from adopting a whole new Latitude!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Environmentalism and Unintended Consequences

A lot of things are being done these days in the name of our children and the environment. Everyone wants a clean environment right?! We want the world we pass on to the next generation to be as free from pollution as possible. I certainly do but at what cost? For example, I think it safe to say that we all want our offspring to at least have all of the opportunities we had. When it comes to our futures, environment and opportunity seem to be on opposite sides of the equation. Where do we find the balance?

If we go too far in one direction, we seem to endanger the other side of this equation. For example if we place environmental protection requirements on business that are too stringent, productivity slows, business suffers, people lose jobs and opportunities for a bright future disappear. If we go too far in the direction of progress, profit seems to outweigh responsibility for our environment and then corners are cut in the name of progress. At least that's the popular version of the story.

If you look at the problem as being a see-saw, where we are right now depends on who you talk to. Just watch anything out of Hollywood and you’ll see all of the doom and gloom our futures hold because we didn’t listen to mother earth. Listen to Rush Limbaugh and you’ll hear that the best thing about a tree is what you can make with it after you cut it down. Who is right?

From my own personal observations, we in the G8 industrialized nations of the west are decidedly in favor of the environment while those in developing countries decidedly in favor of opportunity. In fact we in the west have gone so far as to become slaves to the environment rather than its masters. We do this to our own peril. Already we’re seeing evidence of what can happen when regulation goes too far.

The pictures that accompany this post are taken from the beaches of what many people believe is a pristine island paradise called Okinawa. They are the result when government restrictions are too onerous. When people have to pay the government to rid themselves of waste, they’ll find other ways of dealing with it.

Most of the time this is done by pulling off to the side of the road at a remote location and dumping waste. Often this takes place in the middle of the night when nobody is around to see it. Their other option is to pay onerous fees to get rid of it legally or leaving it around the house where it will become a home to pests and vermin. When people are faced with the choice of paying the government to get rid of it, leaving it where their family may become endangered by it or dumping it illegally, they’ll more often than not choose the latter of the three.

The unfortunate thing is that when people dump appliances and the like in remote areas, the government ends up paying for the cleanup. More often than not, the cost of cleaning up afterward is far more than it would have been had they simply allowed people to dump their waste legally without the fees! Before government enacts another onerous environmental regulation, perhaps they should think long and hard about the unintended consequences of their actions. Either way, we all end up paying for it!

The pictures posted here are from top to bottom: An abandoned vehicle at Chibana Gusuku, A television dumped along a roadside in Gushikawa and a DVD player and a computer monitor found under a bridge in Kin and lastly a computer CPU half buried on a beach in Kin.

The below is a positive example of what mankind can do to the evironment if left to his or her own design.