Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Japan after Fukashima--The Tipping Point

Reporter Mark Pendergrast visited Japan shortly after the Fukashima disaster. In his book Tipping Point, he describes tested, working options for a post-nuclear, post-fossil fuel future for Japan.

"Japanese trains run to the minute, and the country's businesses pride themselves on energy-efficiency. The Japanese boast of their eco-services for eco-products in eco-cities. Yet they rely primarily on imported fossil fuel and nuclear power, live in energy-wasteful homes, and import 60% of their food. That may be changing in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Maybe. Japan is at a crucial tipping point. As an island nation, it offers a microcosmic look at the problems facing the rest of the globe. And as Japan tips, so may the world." Mark Pendergrast, Tipping Point (Kindle Locations 65-69).

On May 5, 2012 Japan shut down the last of its 50 nuclear reactors after the Fukashima disaster.

Japan, like the rest of the world is at a tipping point: it can go renewable or continue on the fossil/nuclear path. Pendergrast traveled through post-Fukashima Japan to survey a wide range of small-scale renewable energy projects. Tipping Point is unflinching in looking at the political and economic obstacles facing each of these projects. As I read the book, I could not help thinking that Pendergrast had found and reported on dozens of real reasons for hope. Although none of the renewable energy projects was in itself a single 'magic bullet' to solve Japan's energy crisis, when combined they may offer a profound opportunity. If Japan chooses to go renewable, each of these small projects shows a proven way to implement a workable solution within the Japanese culture and political system.

Tipping Point is a important book about a subject of critical importance to the entire industrialized world. As I read it I couldn't help but think that Japan and the world was fortunate to have a gifted reporter like Pendergrast on the scene to report on these options, and assemble them into one, short readable book. Coincidentally, all the solutions that Pendergrast describes are equally valid in other industrial nations.

I found the book surprisingly optimistic because it shows what can work, and what has worked. The question now is, will Japan accept this challenge? Will we?

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