Tuesday, April 06, 2010

2010 April Message

"'Carbon Zero' Movement" and “Office in the Forest”
Tetsuya Abe, Acting Chief, SNI Hawaii Missionary Area

   Thank you very much.

   In April we commemorate the ascension of Teruko Taniguchi, the wife of the founder of Seicho-No-Ie and the first President of the White Dove Association. I hope to see you at the 22nd Memorial Service for Mrs. Taniguchi, which will be held at Jisso Center on April 18th. It is indeed fortunate that English speakers can read and savor the beautiful articles written by Mrs. Teruko Taniguchi that appear in the Truth of Life magazine almost every month. The translations into English are well done. I appreciate the entire TOL magazine staff for their tireless efforts.

   As you already know, April 22nd is Earth Day. Have you seen the very popular 3D movie Avatar? I watched that movie at a movie theater in Windward Mall, where the Obama family also saw it at the end of last year. This is a science fiction movie directed by James Cameron in which human beings go to a lush, Earth-like moon of a giant planet to seek a precious mineral in the middle of the 22nd century. They threaten the continued existence of a local tribe that leads a life coexisting with nature, and are defeated by them in the end. It is clear that director James Cameron was fully aware of the global environment issue. Avatar is extremely popular because of the beauty of its images and novelty of 3D; however, I think people's awareness of the environment issue also contributes to its popularity.

   We have a desire to live a harmonious life with nature, but at the same time, we don't want to lead an inconvenient life giving up the modern life we enjoy. But many scientists agree that global warming will worsen, and we cannot bequeath this beautiful earth to the next generation unless a dramatic change in lifestyle takes place.

   That is why Seicho-No-Ie resolved to address the environment issue by worshipping everything in the universe as a manifestation of the life of God, leading an eco-friendly life, and encouraging people to do the same. In 2000, SNI International Headquarters and Main Temple in Nagasaki earned ISO14001 certification (which certifies that an organization is conscientiously managing its environmental impact) and issued the "Environment Policy" as follows:

Environmental Policy of Religious Juridical Person, "Seicho-No-Ie" (Excerpts)

   What is required of the humankind today is the religious mind of appreciating the blessings of nature, worshipping the mountains, rivers, grass, trees, minerals, and energy as manifestation of Life of God or Buddha, and being aware that we are given life to be in harmony with them. We believe living a life that is based on this religious mind is the key to solving the global environmental issue.
   Since its foundation in 1930, Seicho-No-le has been spreading to all humankind the way of life of worshipping all creation as Life of God or Buddha based on the teaching that taught us to "be grateful to everything in the universe."

   In this policy, it is unequivocally stated that the practice of the teaching, "everything is one under God," which is the main principle of "The Divine Message of Grand Harmony," is the key to solve the environment problem.

   Furthermore, Headquarters launched an epoch-making project called "Carbon Zero Movement" in 2007. This is aimed at reducing CO2 emission substantially to zero by offsetting CO2 which is generated by SNI propagational activities. This includes very important points. Therefore, let me explain it in detail although it may be long. We consider the following three points to be the main causes of CO2 emissions that accompany SNI activities:

  1) Business Activity
  2) Transportation to Events
  3) Workers' Business Trips

   As far as "1) Business Activity" is concerned, needless to say, the employees of Missionary Offices try to reduce CO2 emission by setting the room temperature higher in the summer and lower in the winter, using less water, and turning off lights when each room is empty, and so on.

   As to "2) Transportation to Events," instead of holding a mass meeting, they try to increase the number of readers' meetings or home gatherings, which reduce CO2 emissions as a result. To do so, you need to train new front-line leaders who can host the meetings, but by doing so, you can nurture new leaders. In Brazil, they have started to hold a nationwide Internet-based workshop seminar. The lecturers speak at Headquarters and their talk is transmitted to each Missionary Area by the Internet. Since people don't have to gather at Headquarters, the amount of CO2 emission is reduced.

   Regarding "3) Workers' Business Trips," it is mainly an issue within Japan, where they try to use trains instead of planes because a trip by train releases one-tenth of the CO2 emissions when compared to a trip by airplane.

   However, no matter how many efforts we make, as long as we are engaged in propagation, we cannot reduce CO2 emissions to zero. That is why we offset CO2 emissions in the following three ways:

  1. Natural Energy
  2. Tree Planting
  3. Green Power

   As far as "1) Natural Energy" is concerned, as an organization, SNI's Missionary Offices are actively installing solar panels to make best use of sunlight. The U.S. Missionary Headquarters office is one of those that installed solar panels last year.

   Next is "2) Tree Planting." One of the biggest contributors to global warming is deforestation. It is said that deforestation accounts for one fifth of all CO2 emissions. Therefore, SNI International Headquarters and Brazil Headquarters cooperatively launched an afforestation project in Brazil. In this project, if you give a donation to the project, your name will be linked to "your" seedlings so that you can be sure to see the growth of the trees you sponsored.

   "3) Green Power" is a system to give a certificate to an individual or organization who buys electricity produced by natural energy. The price of the electricity is higher than usual, but you can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions by doing so.

   I have described what SNI is doing as an organization, and there are many things we can do as individuals: use your own shopping bag, recycle paper, plastic bottles, cans, and other materials, buy green products, purchase an eco-friendly car, and so on. I believe you already are doing these sorts of things on your own as much as you can.

   At the same time, I recommend that you try to learn how much of an impact what we buy and use has on the environment. For example, nowadays gasoline is about $3.30 per gallon. You may feel it is more expensive than before. However, according to Mr. Lester Brown, one of the top environmentalists and the chairman of the Earth Policy Institute, the real cost of gas is much higher. He said as follows:

   Based upon a study by the International Center for Technology Assessment, these costs (note by Abe: the costs of climate change as well as the tax subsidies to the oil industry, the military cost of protecting access to oil in the Middle East, and the health care costs of treating respiratory illness from breathing polluted air) now total nearly $12 per gallon of gasoline burned in the United States. If these were added to the $3 direct cost of the gasoline, motorists would pay $15 a gallon for gas at the pump. In reality, burning gasoline is very costly, but the market tells us it is cheap, thus grossly distorting the structure of the economy. (Lester R. Brown, Plan B 4.0, p. 18)

   You can use disposable chopsticks at restaurants and lunch wagons for free and you can buy 100 chopsticks for about $1. Many of them are imported from China, where deforestation is a big problem. $1 per 100 chopsticks seems cheap; however, this does not include the cost to undo the damage caused by deforestation.

   These stories tell us that we have a system whereby future generations have to pay the cost of the damage caused by producing and using oil, cutting trees for chopsticks, and other destructive activities. Green tax is a system to prevent pushing those costs to the next generation. It is already introduced in some European countries, but not in the United States and Japan. Why? Because people don't like politicians who vote for a bill that gives a burden to people. Our politicians disagree with those bills and so do oil industries and those who would be affected.

   The Obama administration and Japan's leading Democratic Party of Japan are trying to introduce carbon tax, but progress is slow. We can easily understand that it will take time if we see the result of what happened in Copenhagen last December. Those leaders managed to agree that they would continue to address the climate change issue seriously, but they could not establish any numerical target for reducing CO2 emissions for each country. It seems the outlook is bleak.

   Therefore, what we should do is to raise the awareness of people who elect the politicians. Namely, it is necessary to have as many people as possible change their lifestyles for our future generations and all the living creatures on earth. If many people are aware of it, since politicians vote for the bills which people like, many green policies will be legislated and society will be going in the green direction. But since the environment issue is becoming a race with time, what is required is to realize that as soon as possible.

   Since the current social system is based upon taking from nature, we need to create a new system that does not take from nature. Indeed, Founder Masaharu Taniguchi already warned us about this 30 years ago. Rev. Teshigawara introduced his message in the November issue of "Light of the Truth," the newsletter for U.S. members, as follows:

   Modern civilization is based upon the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge which people are eating. That is why they seem to be doing good, but they aren't. Wrong ideas and actions are brimming over. You think you can make a profit by taking from others. You think of taking everything from the natural world. It is the result of modern civilization. The wrong idea that people can prosper by taking from the ground as much as possible by using pesticide and chemical fertilizer has been prevailing.

   The "Movement that Grows with Nature" that members around the world are promoting is the appropriate response to Founder Taniguchi's warning. This movement should be a model for the change of civilization: from civilization taking from nature to civilization coexisting with nature. For that purpose, International Headquarters is bravely planning an unprecedented project. By 2012, they will transfer at least a portion of their office from the center of urban Tokyo to a mountainous area in Yamanashi Prefecture where sunlight is abundant and people can coexist with nature while leading a modern life by using the internet and by other means. This is called "office in the forest."

   Let me summarize. SNI has been addressing the global environment issue based on the position that we are practicing the "Divine Message of Grand Harmony." With a firm belief that "when I change, the world will change," we are trying to live a life coexisting with nature both as individuals and an organization, without being constrained by conventional ideas. If we proclaim the importance of coexisting with nature while keeping our big office in central Tokyo which requires lots of fossil fuel with many workers commuting, we cannot say that our words and actions are consistent. That is why there were many discussions on how to live a life coexisting with nature while leading a modern life, and that is why they came to the conclusion that International Headquarters should be relocated. I hope you understand that changing the site of Headquarters is a very good move which will make full use of natural energy which is a gift from God, and will bring about the happiness of future generations. Thank you very much.

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