- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Monday, March 03, 2008

No More Pork !

What does this graph represent? It represents the percentage of people, according to a survey by TV Asahi, who support the current Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda's cabinet plan to spend 59,000,000,000,000 Yen on roads over the next ten years. 17% support the plan vs 65% do NOT support the plan. Is this a mandate for change or WHAT?

So what DO people want? Well you can be pretty damn sure they don't just want cheaper gasoline either. What people want are bold solutions from government that will provide real lifestyle improvement, not just a shot in the arm to "growth" because people are driving cars more.

I saw a news piece recently about a local train line North of Tokyo. The line was on the verge of being closed permanently. The news report talked of the aging population and yes of people driving more these days. Well, if the government is spending 59,000,000,000,000 Yen every ten years on roads, then OF COURSE people are going to drive cars more. Is this a Good Thing? No, of course not - and 65% of people instinctively recognize this.

Recently the "yellow sands" (黄砂) have been very bad in Tokyo also. Last weekend it looked like a thunderstorm was approaching, but it was just a yellow dust, blown over from China. Chinese desertification is expanding by the rate of minutes per hectare. Tests show that the yellow sands blow over as far as North America, and collect all sorts of pollution along the way from Chinese coal power plants, Korean industry and Japanese automobiles. It is a disgusting haze that looks like a yellow fog, but leaves a foul dust on and through everything, and gets in your eyes and mouth.

I am surprised that Japan does not try to do more to help China deal with its environmental problems, because if we don't, these problems are most likely to spill over (they already are). But then I fear that Japan may have already sold out - we are largely a nation of auto makers. They used to be only for export to America where they raped the countryside there, but gradually thanks to budgets like 59,000,000,000,000 Yen on roads every 10 years, Japan is also in danger of becoming a gas-guzzing nation ruled by impatient, horn-blowing, self-centered, egotistical, serial dangerous-drivers also. Our biggest banks give huge loans to automakers to build auto factories in the very neighboring countries that we should be trying to help save from this fate - but all we are doing is help rape them just like this country was and continues to be raped in the name of "economic growth".

Wow. I am glad I got that off my chest...

No comments: