Chasing ‘Economic growth’ has brought material wealth to Japan but also caused social problems and serious environmental challenges such as Climate Change. Though Japan conducted COP 3 in 1997, mainstream society in Japan had stressed scientific techniques as the solution for Climate Change, especially nuclear power generation, and they rushed to build more than fifty stations all around our country. Since that time, Japan has faced its worst environmental accidents at Fukushima in 2013. Hiroko Katayama, from As-One Community, Japan, reports.
What is happiness for humankind? As-One community considers all problems as inseparable, arising from the same root, as we explore the essential qualities of humanity and society. We have started challenging ourselves to investigate human nature – as well as the essence of society for human happiness in harmony with nature – since the end of 2000.
Could we realize the aspiration to be fossil-free by 2020? It is too hard for us to reply with a simple ‘yes’, living as we are in highly developed country like Japan. For the first 10 years, As-One community had focused on our mind condition that isolates and forms material prosperity. We have established an independent institute “The Scienz Institute”, for scientific investigation from scratch to find out what causes such a mind condition through the practical study of our trials and errors.
How can we be free from mega social systems of capitalism? Based on the practical investigation of human and society, and through the open-style sustainable community building in ordinary streets of Suzuka city as a showcase, we have been trying to realize a sustainable economy model; perfectly free from any monetary system.
We are now in the forth trial with Community Space Joy and 75 people joined as of 2015 Nov, sharing food, tools, equipment, facilities and energy intensive usages, accelerating regenerative and zero waste lifestyles and practices. Our target is to avoid unfair distribution of all kinds of resources, living as city people. Living as each person likes in the streets, we have come to realize that both visibly and invisibly, any kinds of materials, brains, skills, abilities and knowledge can be distributed freely from person to person; those who really want to contribute and use without any kinds of reward. We use photo-voltaic generation, solar water heater, rainwater tank, ecological toilet, traditional technologies for charcoal; both charcoal kiln building and charcoal producing.
However the community space Joy works better than those technologies; as a station of “Local use of local food and energy production with local people”. Neighbors encourage us to use their uncultivated land – a total of 6.1 acres – for rice and vegetable production using climate-friendly farming methods; leading the restoration of land in Suzuka city. We have realized an eco-footprint of 1.2, less than half of Japanese average of 2.8.
The recent situation of Climate Change and also our neighbors condition have provided us a good job opportunity. Our lunch box company has become popular among city people in the last several years, resulting in the production of an average of 1000 hand-made lunch boxes per day, using vegetables and rice directly from 10 minutes-distance-farmlands. This has resulted in the improving of soil health, restoring cycle of nutrients and water, eliminating fossil energy input to transport, and no waste management by the unsold lunch boxes going to the community space JOY for member’s meals every day. In this way, a suitable price for both of customer’s daily use and the sustainable management can be realized.
However, we need more dynamic efforts to be fossil-free by 2020. We have started ‘Eco-Station’ activities in the center of the community area since 2010. We have several meetings and workshop for E-Learning. It leads to mutual understanding between city people and community living and at the same time creates stronger links between professionals, city councilors, local people and community members.
Also, local and traditional knowledge and skills come together resulting in the charcoal kiln building, for example. Learning to build the traditional charcoal kiln from Mr. Migita (72 years old), we invited him to build one in Suzuka in early summer of 2013. Just after the kiln build was almost completed, abnormally heavy rainfall descended on the site and destroyed it in September 2013. When we started rebuilding it; local people could utilize their ‘valueless land’ with practical help, soil and more than 300 used-tiles for waterproofing. The local papers and city government help us to provide the information. This results in sustainable management: resources of charcoal, kinds of Oak and scrub, coming from the neglected woodland of Suzuka city, while at the same time the traditional culture and ways of living gradually spreading down into modern city life.
People aspiring to Ecovillage building, including city people more than 3500 people per year, join our educational program and study-tours to learn and experience community living. In order to achieve the objective indicators and view points, we are joining together with ecological professionals. One of them, Professor Ekhart Hahn, Dortmund University, has shared various ideas such as Eco-Station activities from German experiences to avoid self-righteousness and accelerate sustainability. An Emeritus Professor of Kyoto University mentions that it is worthwhile to learn and study the total figure of new society from As-One Community’s practices, from their mind condition to social structure and management manners. People from Transition Town movement, Non-Violent Communication Seven Generations “Change the dream team” and many citizens have come together in As-One community recently. We would like to go together to study and investigate for realizing fossil-free conditions in Japan while offering a safe and comfortable place to learn from each other.