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Japan: The Slow Life – Tune in, drop out, grow rice
Jason Cohn, PBS Frontline
FRONTLINE/World reporter Jason Cohn, who has lived in Japan and speaks the language, understands the adrenaline rush of Tokyo, but prefers the quiet island of Shikoku, which is, in his words, “the spiritual center of the nation, the farm country.” In this week’s edition of Rough Cut, we present Cohn’s window into this other Japan, outside Tokyo where people live “the slow life.”

“Out there in the big city, the pace is really fast, and I found it really difficult to keep up,” says Misa Ichikawa, who left Sapporo, another of Japan’s hectic cities, to seek the quiet life in rural Shikoku. “I’m a country person, a country mouse, so I think it suits me.”
(Nov 2005)
Check the link for an 8 minute video about a Japanese back to the earth movement reversing the flow of urbanisation. -AF

Eric Brende on “The Party’s Over: Going Local”
Jason Bradford, KZYX via Global Public Media
Eric Brende was an MIT graduate student who questioned the value of too much technology. So for his thesis work he spent 18 months in a retro-Amish-Mennonite community in America’s heartland. Can a suburban kid learn how to farm and get along with the neighbors? Is the Agrarian life dull drudgery, or is Eric’s family “Better Off?” Find out in this interview with Eric by Jason Bradford, host of “The Party’s Over: Going Local” on KZYX in Mendocino County, CA.
(2 Mar 2006)

Oops, we helped ruin the planet
Guide owners join to discourage ‘casual flying’

Patrick Barkham, The Guardian
They are the gurus of globetrotting, the men who built publishing empires from their adventures and wrote guidebooks encouraging millions to venture further afield than ever before. Now the founders of the Rough Guides and Lonely Planet books, troubled that they have helped spread a casual attitude towards air travel that could trigger devastating climate change, are uniting to urge tourists to fly less.

Mark Ellingham, the founder of Rough Guides, and Tony Wheeler, who created Lonely Planet after taking the hippie trail across Asia, want fellow travellers to “fly less and stay longer” and donate money to carbon offsetting schemes. From next month, warnings will appear in all new editions of their guides about the impact of flying on global warming alongside alternative ways of reaching certain destinations.

But the founders of the UK’s two biggest travel publishers are refusing to give up flying and admit they are not paragons of environmental virtue.
(4 Mar 2006)

All the organic broccoli in the world won’t be enough to save the planet

Natasha Walter, The Guardian
Adopting an ethical lifestyle is meaningless unless we carry its principles outside our own homes and gardens
Switch to a sustainable power supply. Get your organic vegetables delivered. Cycle. Recycle. I am as keen as the next Newsnight viewer to go along with those goals, and happily tick the boxes in my own life. I too get a nice warm glow from putting scraps in the compost bin or going to the farmers’ market. I too resolve to do even more and be even better next month and next year…

I can see that ideal shining out of the writing and lives of a few people, and admire those who live by it in their carbon-neutral homes with their compost loos. Those few have turned their backs on the lifestyle sold to us in travel magazines and fashion catwalks – a lifestyle that looks so brilliantly bright with its transatlantic flights to glittering beaches and endlessly renewed clothes, but is in fact so dirty and leaves a snail’s trail of filth across the world. …

This pick’n’mix ethical lifestyle is hardly going to start a revolution. You can drink Innocent smoothies while standing in the queue for your transatlantic flight; you can eat locally grown broccoli but be unable to resist the imported blueberries beside it; …

While I’m not saying one should junk those shopping decisions, it’s possible to be more honest about their limitations. Because it’s pretty depressing that so often the personal choices of ethical consumerism, however good in themselves, are seen as all you need in order to get political change going. Of course it is comforting, in this world in which many people have lost faith in collective action and in the response of political parties, to believe that simply by picking something different off the supermarket shelf we have paid our political dues.

The other kind of political action, the kind that involves trying to push other people and governments into making the same choices, is a whole lot harder and more risky.
(4 March 2006)

I’m lovin’ it
Falling sales have forced the closure of 25 UK McDonald’s branches

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, The Guardian
At last, it seems that McDonald’s is losing its hitherto stellar domination of the vast fast-food market in this country. This is not a regional or temporary blip, or a mere tactical realignment. They really are in trouble.

…It’s tempting to ask, then, whether this is some kind of a tipping point in our food culture. Is it the beginning of the end of the domination of the mediocre, the mass produced and the homogenous? Is the tide of junk really turning? Are we as a nation, and is our youth in particular, becoming a little less susceptible to the remorseless clout of marketing megabucks? Are we at last beginning to ask what’s really in our food, and question whether it should be there? Are we finally beginning to think and work out for ourselves how best to feed ourselves, what good food really is, and the part it can play in keeping us happy and healthy, and effective at work and play?
(4 March 2006)