Ecology Symposium Focuses on Developing Countries

On July 18, the Tenri Citizens Network for Ecology, led by Professor Takanori Sato, a researcher at Tenri University’s Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion, hosted the Symposium on Ecology in Developing Countries at the Tenri Cultural Center under the auspices of Tenri City and Tenri University. The network was launched in 1997 as a way of facilitating cooperation among citizens, private enterprises, and the city administration in sharing knowledge and information about ecological concerns.

The first half of the symposium featured a film entitled “The Roots,” co-directed by Mr. Latif Ahmadi, a renowned Afghan film director, and Mr. Haruo Inoue, 46, a Japanese film director and a Yoboku belonging to Church Headquarters. Shown to help participants gain an in-depth knowledge about the ecological issues in developing countries, the film portrays in a lyrical style how people in Afghanistan are working to reconstruct the country in the postwar period and how the natural environment in the country has been recovering from the devastation of the war.

The second half of the symposium was held on the theme of “The Present Situation and Issues concerning Ecology in the Republic of Uganda: A Case of Tenri University’s Self-Sustained Poverty Alleviation Project in East Africa.” This project, conducted for one month starting in August last year, was intended to embody the spirit of “devotion to others,” which is the action guideline of Tenri University. The project was also meant to offer logistic support for the Tenri-kyo missionaries working in Africa, some of whom are alumni of this university. During the project, the members worked with local people to build what is called “Eco-Village” by using earthbag shelters.

At the beginning of the second half, Professor Akio Inoue, the director of the Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion, delivered a keynote speech, entitled “The Present Situation and Future Prospect for the East African Community (EAC) and Utoecotopia.” Following his speech, six panelists, including those coming from outside Tenri University, made their presentations.

One of the speakers was Professor Noriko Soyama, an associate professor at Tenri University, who monitors vegetation cover by using satellite sensor data. Showing data from various satellites, Professor Soyama made a presentation on the issue of deforestation in Uganda. “Since 1968, when the Museveni administration came into power, the population of Uganda has soared as economy grew rapidly,” says Professor Soyama. “With the development of industries, people started to use wood for the primary source of energy, which made a significant impact on the forest areas. Especially these days, they are cutting trees to expand farm land so that they can produce food for export to neighboring countries that are going through political unrest.”

Next, Ms. Mai Kobayashi, who studied Environmental Science at a university in the U.S. and had worked for an NGO in Nicaragua until last year, gave a presentation on “Agroforestry,” an integrated approach to agriculture and forestry in which trees are planted in such a way as to surround livestock and crop areas. Following Ms. Kobayashi’s presentation, Mr. Takao Sato, 63, CEO of Itte Research Institute, Ltd. and a minister belonging to Osaka Branch Church, talked about tori-tsubasa fusha, or bird wing windmill, which is, according to Mr. Sato, a ground-breaking invention. Mr. Sato started to work on the development of small-scale wind power technology 10 years ago as he realized that wind power, compared to fire and water, has a relatively small impact on the natural environment. In his presentation Mr. Sato also explained how he developed and refined the windmill over the years.

The presentations were followed by a Q-and-A-style panel discussion, where the panelists and the audience exchanged their opinions. At the end of the symposium, Professor Sato delivered concluding remarks: “When we look at the fact that air pollution in Uganda has been caused by second-hand diesel-powered cars imported from Japan, whose share amounts to 95% of the automobiles in the country, we realize that ecological issues in developing countries are closely related to our local issues. I hope the symposium we held today served as an opportunity to think globally as well as to explore the ways in which we can take eco-friendly actions in our local areas.”

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