The earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster in Japan is likely to be the most expensive disaster since disaster estimates began in 1965. Over recent decades disasters have generally had a decreasing death toll, but an increasing economic cost. The Sendai earthquake follows these trends. The Economist reports:
Provisional estimates released today by the World Bank put the economic damage resulting from the disaster at as much as $235 billion, around 4% of GDP. That figure would make this disaster the costliest since comparable records began in 1965. The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, which caused some 250,000 deaths, does not feature on this chart. Economic losses there amounted to only $14 billion in today’s prices, partly because of low property and land values in the affected areas.
Many parents of small children will have seen Miyazaki’s classic animated film My Neighbour Totoro about Totoro, a forest spirit, who befriends two young girls. Totoro inhabits a beautiful agricultural landscape known as Satyoyama. Satoyama is a Japanese agricultural landscape that combines small scale agriculture and forest – if well managed it can be a multi-functional agriculture landscape that provides provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services. Satoyama is an iconic Japanese cultural landscape that has been destroyed in Japan by development and rural out-migration, however is now being promoted in Japan and by the Japanese government for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Nagoya.
In honour of the CBD meeting in Japan, The Kyoto Journal (issue 75) has a special issue on Biodiversity that includes a large section on the ideals and reality of satoyama. The table of contents for the section on the Worlds of Satoyama is:
UN university is conducting research on satoyama, and has a number of online resources (1, 2, and 3).
Via Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog
The Chernobyl disaster created a large poisoned involuntary park. Similarly, mercury pollution (as well as other persistent organic pollutants) may perversely help wildlife conservation by reducing hunting (but damaging the health and livelihoods of those who depend upon the hunting of animals they have little to do with poisoning). The New York Times writes about how Mercury Taint Divides a Japanese Whaling Town:
For years, Western activists have traveled to this remote port to protest the annual dolphin drive. And for years, local fishermen have ignored them, herding the animals into a small cove and slashing them until the tide flows red. But now, a new menace may succeed where the activists have failed: mercury.
…Dolphin meat is a local delicacy, served raw as sashimi or boiled with soy sauce. People here are used to the international scorn that accompanies the dolphin hunt and have closed ranks in the face of rising outrage — until now.Last June, laboratory tests showed high levels of mercury in dolphin and pilot whale, a small whale that resembles a dolphin, that were caught and sold here. Schools stopped serving pilot whale meat for lunch, and some local markets removed it as well as dolphin from their shelves.