Friday, July 19, 2002

The Value of Air Conditioning

There are probably a lot of people who think that "Air conditioning is one thing you can't do without in hot, humid Japan." I'm mostly in agreement with that statement. I have a reason for saying, "mostly" and that's because, at the beginning of the 20th Century, no one in Japan thought so. The reason I'm certain that is so is because, at that time, all people in the world, not only Japanese, were able to live their lives without it. So, to be more precise, the first sentence should read, "For most Japanese today, air conditioning is essential in getting through the hot, humid summers." The high in Tokyo today is 32.7 degrees Centigrade (90.9 degrees Farenheit), 3.5 degrees higher than in years past, and the humidity is at 63%. I turned on the air conditioning in my office for the first time this year.

With global warming becoming increasingly more serious, I generally don't turn on the air conditioning at work, but, instead, use an old electric fan. On days like today, though, when I meet with people for extended periods of time in my office, I like to avoid forcing my own "preferences" on others. Although I've never looked into the difference in energy expenditure between an electric fan and an air conditioner, it's obvious that the latter uses more electricity. Another problem with air conditioning is that it's made so that "in making things cool on the inside, it heats the outside." It seems to me that this is really the ego of people of this day and age. With individual families, businesses, shopping arcades, and even the countless number of cars that are driven through the city all contributing to this, the temperature in the city climbs needlessly higher. In trying to lower the temperature, we are actually increasing it.

Reading this, it might seem that I don't appreciate the value of air conditioning, but that's not necessarily so. It's just that I don't think there's a need to cool the cities of Japan to that extreme. There are department stores and movie theaters so cold that there is an unmistakable waste of energy. This all goes against the demands of environmental preservation. But when one thinks of the use of air conditioning on a global level, this technology has had too big an effect on the lives of people, and changed the economic structure of too many countries to be called "of no value."

This year is the 100th Anniversary since the invention of the first air conditioner. The first air conditioner was an "Apparatus for Treating Air" installed at a printing plant in Brooklyn, New York by Willis Carrier in 1902. This printing plant made lithographs, and the color in these lithographs would fluctuate with the change in temperature and humidity. The need for something to resolve this problem brought about a new invention, and, a century later, has changed the lives and economy of people dramatically. Before air conditioning, people in New York would sleep on their front porches or on stair landings, or even on the grass in Central Park to escape the heat.

The city of Houston, situated in southern Texas in the United States, is known for being the place where NASA is located, but being at 30 degrees latitude, it's extremely hot. This is approximately the same latitude as Amami Ooshima in Japan, Cairo in Egypt, or Delhi in India. Without air conditioning, it's doubtful that the more than 1,600,000 people would be able to live there. And, in Dallas, located in the same state in the U.S., it would probably have been difficult for Texas Instruments, the world's foremost manufacturer of computer chips, to establish itself were it not for air conditioning. When you think of it in those terms, then, with air conditioning, it would be possible to manufacture computer chips in India.

There's no doubt that, with the birth of air conditioning, the manufacturing productivity in the "subtropics" or "tropics" has improved. But, now, as it has spread explosively throughout the world, what should we think of it in terms of being a major factor in global warming? With my brain feeling dizzy from this extreme heat, I don't seem to be able to come up with a good answer.

A movie that details the hot summer nights before air conditioning, is "The Great Gatsby", starring Robert Redford (1974). Set on Long Island in the 1920's, it depicts the flamboyant life of Gatsby who owns a huge mansion there. There's a scene where, gentlemen dressed in white three-piece suits, their faces red with the heat, trying to find a way to pass the time with the woman of their choice. So, even 20 years after its appearance, air conditioning hadn't yet made its way into the homes of even the richest people. Strange when you think about it.

Pondering these things, I went to my mother's house next door, and found a beautiful indigo blue fan there. It made me feel cool and refreshed just looking at it. I realized that, in the days before air conditioning, Japanese people used their visual and aural senses to feel cooler. Goldfish, cotton kimonos, wind chimes, and shishiodoshi (bamboo scaredeer), unlike air conditioning, don't actually lower the temperature, but play on a person's senses in perceiving coolness. It struck me as being a very refined way of doing so.

- MT

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Vegetarianism in the United States

The July 15th issue of the Asia edition of Time magazine ran a special feature on "Vegetarianism," which surprised me somewhat because I'd always thought that there are probably aren't more countries where meat eating is as popular as in the United States. This article showed us that the recent trend in this country is not necessarily so. The title of it was "Should We All Be Vegetarians?"

There were a lot of interesting facts throughout the article: "...for many, meat is an obscene cuisine. It's not just the additives and ailments connected with the consumption of beef, more and more Americans, particularly young Americans, have started engaging in a practice that would once have shocked their parents. They are eating their vegetables. Also their grains and sprouts?" According to a poll of 10,000 adults taken in April of this year, some 10 million Americans today consider themselves to be "practicing vegetarians" and "an additional 20 million have flirted with vegetarianism sometime in their past."

There are a number of reasons why vegetarianism has grown in popularity, and one of those is the return to that statement, "Thou shalt not kill." But, it's not that those in the United States have suddenly become so very religious, but, rather, the influence of movies such as "Babe" and "Chicken Run" where animals are the main characters. According to this article, "Vegetarianism resolves a conscientious person's inner turf war by providing an edible complex of good-deed doing; to go veggie is to be more humane. Give up meat, and save lives!" And the "vanguard" for this seems to be, not adults, but children.

It appears that about 25% of teenagers consider vegetarianism to be "cool." In a study conducted by psychology professors at Arizona State University, "salad eaters" were rated more moral and considerate than "steak eaters." A professor at the University of Pennsylvania states, that "Kids today are the first generation to live in a culture where vegetarianism is common and publicly promoted on health and ecological grounds." The interesting part is also that these children don't become vegetarians because their parents taught them, but, in many cases, they decide on their own to become vegetarians. According to the article, "It's often their first act of domestic rebellion?"

I myself don't eat the meat of any mammals, but I do eat seafood, dairy products, eggs, and chicken, so I'm probably not considered a real "vegetarian." Apparently there are many types of vegetarians. Going in order from the most strict, the eight types are: Sproutarianism, fruitarianism, raw foodims, veganism, ovo-vegetarianism, lacto-vegetariansim, ovo-lacto-vegetarianism, pesco-, pollo- and semi-vegetarianism. I would probably belong in the last type. With so many varieties, it's difficult to decide which is best, but Time magazine recommends that, taking all nutrition elements into consideration, any category from lacto-vegetarianism on down is relatively "safe."

I wrote somewhere before that the reason I don't eat the meat of mammals is "to prevent negative effects on the environment." The study by David Pimentel, a Cornell University ecologist supports this: "In terms of caloric content, the grain consumed by American livestock could feed 800 million people...and, if exported, would boost the U.S. trade balance by $80 billion a year. Grain-fed livestock consume 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of food they produce, compared with 2,000 liters for soybeans. Animal protein also demands tremendous expenditures of fossil-fuel energy...eight times as much as for a comparable amount of plant protein...And the U.S. livestock population consumes five times as much grain as the U.S. human population." And the most extraordinary fact being, "the U.S. livestock population--cattle, chickens, turkeys, lambs, pigs and the rest--outnumber humans 25 to 1."

The accuracy of the numbers quoted at the beginning--10 and 20 million--cannot be guaranteed. That's because, out of the 10,000 people surveyed, 4% of the respondents considered themselves to be vegetarians, and out of that group, 57% considered themselves to be "semi-vegetarians." And 36% of those considering themselves to be vegetarians answered that they were "ovo-lacto-vegetarians." So those who don't eat any eggs, dairy products, seafood, or poultry--the "strict" vegetarians are the remaining 7% (in other words, 0.28% of the population). According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the population of the United States is 281,421,906, so, that makes the estimated number of "strict" vegetarians 790,000. If those are the numbers, then my initial impression wasn't that far off.

- MT

Thursday, July 11, 2002

"Fuji Evening News" and "Shincho Weekly"

News regarding the litigation that I'm involved in was in the July 11th edition of the Fuji Evening News and the July 18th edition of the Shincho Weekly. Having been a newspaper reporter myself, I was saddened to see the very biased and one-sided points of view written quite matter-of-factly. I'd hoped for improvement in the quality of reporting by the media, but, as it turns out, I felt greatly disappointed. Of the two, however, I think that the Fuji Evening News, having included some of my points of view, was relatively "reasonable." On the other hand, the Shinchou Weekly filled their article with opinions of those who've been criticizing me, and only the last 10 lines of the 112 line article were about my opinion.

The "Fuji" article began with the title, "Publication of a Money-Making Book Cancelled--Conditions in the Seicho-No Household," and continues, "The reason for the cancellation of the book had to do with it getting in the way of Seicho-No-Ie propagational policy in the 'Chinese Market' where there are hopes for growth and development. In other words, since the book in question unfavorably attacked the Chinese as though they were a nation of low ethics, continuing publication by the Seicho-No-Ie publisher, Nippon Kyobunsha, on a book like this would adversely effect advancement into the Chinese market" is how it was analyzed. It was so much like a business section article that I was even a little impressed to think that "there ARE people who actually think this way."

Those familiar with the recent Movement Policy of Seicho-No-Ie may not need an explanation, but there are no plans at present for any large scale propagation into China. I believe, however, that the fact that the article points out my opinion that the book in question "slanderously attacks the Chinese people" is commendable. After the lead-in, the article continues on to say, "The reason behind the sudden cancellation of this book is this religious group's desire to propagate in China", but this is not true. The real reason is that the book fundamentally contradicts the Seicho-No-Ie teaching that "Man is a child of God." For example, it claims that some races are morally and ethically inferior to others, implying they are not children of God. We cannot publish a book that contains something like that. From a religious perspective, we must learn from history that recognizing such "evil" in some people and regarding them as "enemies" has led to many religious wars.

There is something important missing in the "Fuji" article. The reason publication of the book in question was cancelled is not only because of the negative comments about the Chinese, but it refers to the political objective of an "independent Taiwan", and, at the time, the author was involved in a serious political confrontation. There are probably many readers who remember a similar situation involving a book, Taiwanron(Talking about Taiwan), by Yoshinori Kobayashi. This comic book clearly supported Taiwan's independence, and in it, the author of the book in question appears and is introduced as being an "advocate of an independent Taiwan." Moreover, the book in question itself is depicted with its actual title, and, in the comic book, the author makes the political statement that "There were no mandatory arrests for wartime prostitutes." The danger, then, is that Nihon Kyobunsha, the publishers of the book in question, and the parent organization, Seicho-No-Ie, might be viewed as supporting the author and his political objectives. So, for Seicho-No-Ie, which in 1983 decided to stop any political activities and concentrate rather on religious activities, the book in question actually became quite problematic.

I'm wondering whether or not to say anything more regarding the article in the Shincho Weekly because, beginning with the title, everything written is so very ridiculous. It says, "'The Leftist Thoughts' by Its Next Religious Founder That Are Shaking Up 'Seicho-No-Ie'." There are no "Religious Founders" in Seicho-No-Ie. Dr. Masaharu Taniguchi writes about that himself in Volume One of the Truth of Life books. The reporter writing the article in the Shincho probably thought that was the only expression that the average reader would understand, but, what about "Leftist Thoughts"? Having used this in the headline, I would've thought that he'd read my books and other writings, and identified that there are "places here and here, so that's why he's leftist", but that's not the case at all. It simply quoted from a "former member" who quit Seicho-No-Ie because he was unhappy with Seicho-No-Ie's withdrawal from political activities.

I'd like you to read the following (the "he" used in the article refers to me):

"Since becoming Vice President in 1988 he has done what he pleases. He was under serious attack by followers who claimed that his statement in the monthly magazine, Riso Sekai (The Ideal World), during the Gulf War, that 'the wars in the Pacific were acts of aggression,' was different than the teachings by the First President.' He then cancelled sales of the nearly 30 'patriotic books', such as We as Japanese and Kojiki and Prophecies in Modern Times, written by the late President Masaharu, that touched on the history of Japan and wars. He has also prohibited publication of manuscripts which have yet to become books.",

This is almost, from beginning to end, simply nonsense, but I did write that "The wars in the Pacific began with Japan's aggressive conduct." I explained this quite extensively, however, in the series in Riso Sekai, in bulletins, and, in the monthly newspaper called Seishimei (Holy Mission) of our organization. Also, the then-Chairman of the Board explained it using quotes from Dr. Masaharu Taniguchi. If these editorials were, indeed, contradictory to the teachings of Seicho-No-Ie, there is no way that the President of Seicho-No-Ie, Rev. Seicho Taniguchi, who is still alive and well, would sit by and say nothing. Moreover, decisions regarding the reprinting of books by Dr. Masaharu Taniguchi are not currently, nor have they ever been in the past, made by the Vice President alone, but, rather, are made by collective decisions. The decisions are based on financial feasibility as well as content. Those who think and say that the sale of "30 books" by the person who started this religious movement with emphasis on propagation through the written word would be cancelled without checking are, in essence, saying that the current President and the entire managerial operations of the organization have been defunct for the past 10+ years (The "former member" more than likely thinks so).

Now, it may not be something that we need to ask readers to keep in mind, but this is generally what articles in Japanese weekly magazines are like. They run some exaggerated headline, and grab the attention of readers with a misleading article. One can only think that they do so just so people will buy them at the newsstands. This is particularly true for groups such as Seicho-No-Ie, where there are many followers who are used to the printed word. They probably think that writing articles that worry and concern the followers leads to an increase in magazine sales. As a former journalist myself, I am deeply disappointed at this sorry state of journalism in Japan, but the imperfection of the phenomenal is not something that's just recently begun. All we can do to rid the dark clouds of the phenomenal world is to continue on brightly and positively with activities that express "the will of God."

- MT