July 31, 2018


Thank You Note from Junko Edahiro on Behalf of JFS

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.191 (July 2018)

PhotoSixteen years ago, in 2002, where were you and what were you doing?

Japan for Sustainability (JFS) was established in 2002 with great ambitions of doing something to address the increasingly serious global environmental problems. We aimed to contribute to the world by spreading the message on sustainability-related efforts, ideas, and technologies in Japan, and by pushing Japan to do even more. Many of Japan's outstanding efforts and technologies for sustainability were not widely known in the world, blocked by the language barrier. Our slogan was, "The world doesn't know how hard Japan is trying!"

Since then, with financial support from about 80 businesses and organizations and the contributions of a cumulative total of 900 volunteers, JFS has published 5,054 articles (of which 560 were in our newsletters) during the past 16 years, for over 11,000 readers, in 191 countries.

This July 2018 issue is going to be the last JFS monthly newsletter. We would like to express our deepest appreciation to everyone who has supported JFS's activities in various ways for the past 16 years.

After we announced our intention to end our activities at the end of July, we received many comments such as "That's regrettable" and "Thanks for everything!" from around the world. We realized and appreciated that people have definitely received and utilized the information we sent out.

In the retrospect, 16 years have passed quickly.

Over these years, climate change and other global environmental issues have worsened. In addition, new issues like ocean plastic pollution have emerged. (Or perhaps we should say that they have drawn new attention.) On the other hand, renewable energy resources have been soaring, and that is encouraging. And momentum is shifting away from coal-fired power generation and gasoline-powered vehicles.

In the past, environmental issues tended to be addressed in the realm of environmental researchers, government people, and NGOs. They were a minority in society. Today, however, businesses in most types of industries work on environmental issues, and so do investors, schools, and the youth.

At the same time, the topics we covered have expanded from a relatively narrow focus on "environmental" issues to much broader issues of sustainability, including social and economic factors, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It has become clear that environmental issues cannot be solved if we work on "the environment" alone.

In spite of (or perhaps thanks to) our original aspirations to "Let the world know about Japan's endeavors and give the world a little push," today, many countries (developing countries included) have surpassed Japan in some sustainability initiatives, and Japan has fallen behind in more than a few areas, regrettably. We think we also need to push Japan to make further efforts under a modified version of our original slogan: "Japan doesn't know how hard the world is trying!"

At the same time, I still believe that Japan can and should have a role as one of the world's first countries to face certain issues, and as a country that in many ways is positioned between the East and the West.

  • Facing a rapidly declining and aging population, how can we create a sustainable and happy society?
  • How should we perceive and deal with the roles and linkages of urban and rural areas, which today are out of balance?
  • How should we think about the economy, which many people still think must continue to grow, even it is already far beyond the Earth's carrying capacity?
  • What is true happiness and what do we really need to be happy?
  • Many people say that modern Western civilization is in a form of gridlock today, but how can we communicate about Eastern wisdom with the rest of the world and create a new sense of values and a new paradigm together?

Although JFS operations will stop, the efforts to create a sustainable and happy society will continue. JFS's partner organization, the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economy and Society (ISHES), directed by myself, plans to publish these aspects of initiatives being done in Japan, and work to convey the wisdom of Eastern thought to the rest of the world, little by little. Starting in August 2018 ISHES will publish a monthly newsletter. If you are interested, we invite you to subscribe.

One final note, in July we held a "thank you" party for volunteers and individual supporters -- the people who supported JFS activities for so many years.

One of about 40 participants was a student in her second year of university studies for forest conservation. During our review of JFS's past 16 years, when we mentioned our separate website designed to educate children on sustainability, she spoke up and said, "I used that website when I was in elementary school! It was one of the triggers that got me interested in environment, and that led me to my current studies at university."

Another participant said volunteering for JFS got her motivated to get involved in agriculture and start a transition town movement in her own town. I was extremely pleased to hear that.

It is often hard for us to know for sure how much of our information really reaches people via the web, and also difficult to get enough feedback from readers on our impacts. But nothing would make me happier than knowing that we have contributed to these kinds of aspirations for the next generation of young people and that new initiatives are being launched in various areas.

In closing, I am sure that we will continue to interact with many of you in the coming years. I look forward to working together whenever the opportunity arises.

And I am truly thankful for everyone's interest and support, and for what we have accomplished together.

Best wishes for a bright future for everyone,

Junko Edahiro