conference

Come on a tanuki adventure with us at Shibaura House next Tuesday

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Please join @a_small_lab and me for a tanuki adventure next Tuesday, July 9, noon to 1 pm, at Shibaura House. Details below. Many thanks to Shibaura House for their support.

SHIBAURA HOUSEに来て、江戸時代から有名なタヌキさんに会いませんか? 2人の外国人が、タヌキさんをまた東京に呼び戻したいと考えています。東京メトロに乗ってタヌキが友達を作る企画(http://wp.me/piwM0-23e)は、ロンドンのテクノロジー関係の学会で承認されました。スマートフォンがなくても、タヌキさんは友達を作ることが上手です。
今回SHIBAURA HOUSEで開催するイベントでは、こんなことを一緒に考えます:都市に、動物は必要でしょうか。野生で予測できないものは、都市の生活に大事でしょうか。
一緒にちょっと冒険してみましょう。参加費は無料。イベントはランチタイムに開催します、自分のお弁当を持ってきてください。

Please come to Shibaura House to meet the famous tanuki from Edo. Two foreigners want to welcome shape-shifting tanuki back to Tokyo. Their photo story about Making Friends with Tanuki in the Tokyo Metro was selected by a London technology conference for its unusual real-time interaction. How come, even without a smartphone, tanuki is so good at making friends? Why do we need animals in cities? What is the importance of wild and unexpected things in our lives? Please bring an open mind and your own bento. Let’s go on an adventure.

Making Friends heads to London with tanuki

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Making Friends has been accepted for a tech-focused London conference on ethnography and business. This poster is a mash-up of real-time research, storytelling, and prank. Making Friends tests the boundaries of inter-species friendship while risking rejection and misunderstanding.

Please share this poster with anyone who might be interested. We are also seeking a design school, corporation, or other organization that would be interested in hosting a Making Friends talk, workshop, or consulting project.
Below we explain what Making Friends is about and the benefits for creativity, visual story-telling, and risk-taking. It also includes the anonymous conference reviews that are confused and appreciative. Thanks, as always, to my co-creator A Small Lab‘s Chris Berthelsen.
Click to enlarge, or download the 2 page PDF that  includes the poster, sponsor benefits, and anonymous conference reviews. Thanks for joining us in improving the world’s Making Friends abilities.
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COP 10 Biodiversity Conference

On Saturday I went to a symposium at Tokyo University on Biodiversity and Sustainability: Rebuilding Society in Harmony with Nature, an educational forum that precedes this year’s COP 10 biodiversity conference in Nagoya. Many knowledgeable speakers spoke, including scientists, academics, government and corporate leaders. I especially liked Todai’s IR3S director Takeuchi Kazuhiko’s succinct formulation of the satoyama human-nature balance relying on traditional knowledge, modern science, and a “new commons” or vision of shared space that transcends government, private property, and national borders.

There were, of course, many discouraging facts. I was startled to learn that a single bottle of beer consumes 300 bottles of water in production. One speaker showed a graphic of how fishmeal from all over the world is transported to Thailand’s shrimp farms, making both the production and distribution of seafood a globalized product. I also learned that the 2002 United Nations goals on preserving biodiversity had not been met by a single country as of 2010. And lastly, I heard that the 20% level of knowledge and concern about biodiversity in Japan was one of the world’s highest levels of national awareness.

Given the challenges to preserving biodiversity, I was extremely disappointed by the top-down views and assumptions of the speakers. With no audience interaction, questions, or comments, the event seemed to invite trust in the capacity of elite academics, government leaders and United Nations bureaucrats working together. When Professor Takeuchi asked at the very end what can be done to avert a catastrophic tipping point, the Coalition on Biodiversity’s Executive Secretary talked about UNESCO’s role in cultural production. A top academic then spoke about the need to involve “the media” and celebrities to raise awareness.

I was surprised that such intelligent leaders believe in the viability of a top-down approach for reshaping the global economy and land use. In this formal auditorium at Japan’s most prestigious school, it was a missed opportunity not to provide action ideas for the hundreds of attendees. And to think of the “media” as the broadcast media is to overlook the tremendous power and potential of social media and popular participation.

One speaker briefly mentioned a lake biodiversity monitoring project that included local residents, government workers, and scientists. I would like to have heard more about how urban residents can connect with nature and become advocates for protecting and expanding habitat. Tokyo Green Space has documented the passion and energy of ordinary city residents, and I believe there is much more that can be done by engaging with bird-watchers, school children, seniors, and gardeners.

Speaking at Anthropology of Japan in Japan conference

Speaking at Anthropology of Japan in Japan conference

This weekend I will be presenting a talk, “Urban Gardeners and the City of the Future,” in an Urban Japan panel at the Anthropology of Japan in Japan conference. It will be held at Temple University‘s Japan campus, and my panel is Saturday November 7 from 1 pm to 3 pm along with papers on urban bicycling, geisha, street festivals, and gender inequality.

This year is a tribute to Stanford Anthropology Professor Harumi Befu, a scholar of Japanese identity, nationalism and globalization. The conference theme is “Civil Society and Citizenship in MultiNational/MultiCultural Japan.”

Corporate reaction to climate change

With the Copenhagen international climate conference approaching in December, the reaction of business leaders to climate change is becoming increasingly dynamic.

Recently California’s Pacific Gas and Electric, PG&E, resigned its membership in the United States Chamber of Commerce in protest of their positions on climate change and cap-and-trade proposals. Its spokesperson referred to its “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort” scientific findings about global climate change. Other members such as Nike and Johnson & Johnson have tried to distance themselves from the Chamber’s environmental statements and activities.

In Japan, the nation’s most prominent business association, Keidanren, strongly supported the Liberal Democrat Party and their recent low carbon emissions targets. There seems to be considerable conflict with the current Democratic Party Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio’s ambitious goals of a 25% reduction in emissions, including technology transfers to developing countries.

I recently learned that there is a second business council in Japan called Keizai Doyukua (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), headed by the CEO of Ricoh, that is closer to the new prime minister and more open to the new global business opportunities that environmental regulation will bring. It is interesting to note which corporate executives Hatoyama recently appointed to the Government Revitalization Unit, a key committee on eliminating government waste: Kyocera Corp. Honorary Chairman Kazuo Inamori and Kikkoman Corp. Chairman Yuzaburo Mogi.

Invited to speak at Gardens and Publics conference in France

Moselle illustrated apple

This week I was surprised to receive an invitation from Monsieur Pascal Garbe to speak about Tokyo Green Space at next year’s Gardens and Publics international conference in Metz, France. The conference is sponsored by the European Union and the Conseil Général de la Moselle.

Monsieur Garbe is the Director of Jardins Fruitiers de Laquenexy, a fruit tree garden that is over one hundred years old. Laquenexy has an apple exchange program with Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan’s largest apple producer in the North. Laquenexy is one of the few European growers skilled at “printing” messages on apples (as seen above).  There is a great post that explains how it is done on the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society’s blog and Monsieur Garbe’s role in sharing this technique. Monsieur Garbe is also involved in a regional tourist cooperation network of gardens and horticultural producers spanning Frances’ Moselle department and neighboring provinces in Luxembourg and Germany.

A past speaker at the Jardins sans Limites conference is noted Japanese landscape designer and monk Shunmyo Masuno (枡野俊明) of Kenkoh-ji temple. I am humbled to present this research amidst leading garden designers, botanic garden directors, horticultural leaders, journalists and writers, and government officials.