1. Three Key Concepts
2. Domestic: Mainly within Japan
3. International: Toward Asia and the World
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In response to the United Nations questionnaire, the Government of Japan recently gave a report implying "support" concerning environmental problems. Unfortunately their report lacks "a stance" toward women and the environment. For want of saying more, we hereby designate the governmental report in question as "passive".
During the twentieth century, people have put a heavy burden on the earth's environment by giving priority to economic development, mass production, mass consumption and mass disposal. Though women tend to be the most sensitive to this artificial environment, they are facing the twenty first century without putting great pressure on this important issue. Being used to a male-created, economy-first society and convenient life styles has made them live in the present. Upon reflection, we must think seriously about the future of the environment and take action together across all borders. Also for the next generation and the twenty first century we have to confirm to put our ideas into action with enumeration of the following viewpoints.
Firstly, our concerns lie with the environment and gender. As we have seen, the weak suffer from environmental destruction all over the world. There are more problems than we can count, such as logging of tropical rain forests, waste results from Official Development Assistance (ODA), exported nuclear wastes from Europe to Asia, slums in large cities, dumping grounds in depopulated areas, reclaimed ground by industrial wastes, etc. Women as well, living in discriminative societies today, are influenced by these problems and their physical bodies (internal environment) are directly placed at the receiving end of all these hazards daily. What this ultimately means is that our global ecosystem is being affected by it all. Every environmental hazard that is placed upon women affects our future, the next generation, other animals, plants and all living creatures on earth.
Secondly, we need to look at environmental problems in the 21st century, regardless of gender differences. Women have reacted sensitively and responded actively to this. However, most policy decision makers are men.
Grassroots NGO group members working on issues such as toxic chemical substances, polluted water, air pollution, food problems due to environmental pollution and modern technology, group organic food purchase systems, garbage, and finally endocrine disrupting chemicals, including dioxins, from external causes, are mostly women. However, in local governments, the authorities concerned (the Environment Agency, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Construction, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry etc.), seldom have women in positions to make decisions.
Women's great role for management of natural resources is declared in chapter 24 of "Agenda 21" which was adopted at the Rio earth summit in 1992. Also, in chapter IV, Section K, "Women and the Environment", in the Platform for Action at the Beijing Conference in 1995, it is clearly written that "as consumers and producers,...,women play an important role in promoting sustainable development through their concern for the quality and sustainability of life for present and future generations".
Under scrutiny, the Japanese governmental report does not clarify any of these points. In the present state of affairs, the voice of women has not been built up and it is progressing too slowly. To empower women, the government must take affirmative action in political fields. It is a matter of great urgency and we would like the Japanese government to positively appoint women and NGO group members as staff members who will take charge in office and various related fields.
Thirdly, environmental issues are deeply connected with economy, therefore, it is difficult to solve environmental problems without changing the attitudes of business enterprises.
Companies who produce and sell most products in the market also manufacture harmful products and wastes which affect the environment and the human body everyday. The government should strengthen its direction and its regulations regarding the business sector and consistently keep that attitude internationally.
Also, to make these policies effective, the government should make a serious effort to create economic incentives and practical measures e.g. subsidies, penalties, revisions of the tax system, etc.
The following are our suggestions based on opinions from various women's groups in Japan.
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(1)Chemical Substances and Bioethics
For a convenient and comfortable life, the number of "reported" human made chemicals has reached twelve million. These chemical substances affect the human body to a great degree, especially women's bodies, not to mention our whole ecosystem.
a. The regulation of dioxins has been announced by the government and it is said that a tolerable daily intake (TDI) was 4pg. That is barely inside the limitations of international standards. Further efforts should be made to reduce the level to 1pg. Also the government said that they would take measures against endocrine disrupting chemicals from external causes by cooperating with each related ministry and agency, but we have not seen any progress yet. We urge them to investigate, open their information and regulate the processes of production in this field.
b. A list of genetically recombined food that raises apprehensions for the human bodies must be exhibited and examined.
c. Along with opening the contraceptive pill into the market, the information about its side-effects should be collected and announced.
d. The law named the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) which is about the regulation of harmful chemical substances has been legislated. It only targets on 200 kinds of toxic chemicals as objects of control. The government should follow it up with additional substances that are primarily from endocrine disrupting chemicals by external causes as well as an examination of other chemical substances which have not already been added.
The government must also:
e. Stop chemical dispersion onto farmland and strictly regulate the use of chemicals, especially persistent organic pollutants (POP's).
f. Regulate falling particles of soot from factory emissions.
g. Regulate production and use of synthetic detergents and injurious artificial chemical products such as plastic.
h. These days, human organs have become marketable objects. Life from gene level to the human body to the environment is ruled by laws of economy first. As women who care about life, we call on everyone to learn about bioethics.
(2)Conservation of National Land and the Environment
a. The government must up the self-sufficiency rate, sustainable use of the resources of forests, rivers and surrounding fisheries, and alter government policies toward conservation of domestic land by promoting organic farming, turning garbage into resources, etc.
b. The role of women living in the countryside must be considered. These women play an important part in maintaining the natural environment.
We require a system that reflects their knowledge and experience within each level of the environmental and community development decision making process. Mentor programs to nurture talented women are needed for this policy to succeed.
c. Concerning city planning with polices of disposal of industrial wastes and household garbage, the government must promote involvement of women and NGO groups at all policy-making meetings for reflection on the women's point of view toward policies from every stage of its design and assessment.
d. On practicing environmental policies like reused and recycled resources, the government must create new systems which do not depend only upon women's unpaid work.
e. For the treatment of industrial wastes, the government must disclose the responsibility of the concerned parties who discharge these wastes and demand payment from them.
(3)Continuous Accumulation of a Database along with Disclosure of Information
a. It is necessary to examine and study chemicals which could affect mother's bodies and the next generation for a long time. Establishment of a database should be initiated very soon.
b. Accidents in nuclear power stations and chemical factories happen occasionally today. The information about contaminated surroundings which affect reproductive health such as radioactive matter should be released to the public immediately. Preventive measures must be included as a means to confront each situation.
(4)Training and Cultivating Women, Supporting Environmental Movements and Environmental Education
a. For putting gender viewpoints into various environmental issues, first the Environment Agency and then local governments should increase their numbers of female staff members. They should also train women to be specialists in management of resources, in ethics of life and the environment, as well as in the technology of environmental preservation.
The government must also:
b. Nourish women's talent as experts in a program, such as Demand Side Management. Each local government should create its own model program and implement it within the system.
c. Subsidize local NGOs especially women who have steadily continued environmental research on air pollution, the water quality, garbage, etc.
d. Publish "environmental education promotional handbooks" for schools, local communities, and corporations. Women should be involved in the process of creation and its use in education.
e. Support women's networks thereby empowering those who have been working in their respective fields at each various level within the environmental movement.
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(1) To implement "international cooperation" today, the ODA, for example, has a strong tendency to support mass consumption of products such as paper, marine resources, aluminum, etc., to sustain the Japanese economy. However this causes massive environmental destruction in other countries and does not help those local economies at all. Women must share their experiences and participate in seeking the solution to developmental and environmental problems. Both sides, giving and receiving support, should set up a table to discuss suggestions and proposals specifically reflecting women's point of view.
(2) The government must send women and NGO members to international decision-making institutions for the environment and for development such as the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as other such organizations which are directly involved with environmental and developmental issues.
(3) The government should support equal and fair trade as well as economic and technological interaction at the grass roots level, especially among women. It should also contribute support to related countries for environmental preservation.
(4) Multinational corporations frequently steal "intellectual property" that local women have built through history. They also damage the local environment. The Japanese government should seriously consider investigating related companies to trace and regulate this issue.
(5) Regarding escalating environmental issues across borders, such as transference of garbage and wastes, oil spills, and chemical warfare, i.e. the scattering of hazardous chemicals in the air and contamination by chemical substances from bombing in armed conflicts, we need to have an international watch network which includes women. As well, regulation of carbon dioxide as a countermeasure against global warming has just started, but it is not enough.
In the past, much of the pollution produced by Japan came from rapid growth and industrialization, where the prime motivation was economic growth for the nation as a whole. Unlike the past however, today's pollution problems stem from "ignorant activities = The government and the corporations don't have deep views of things at all.", and daily wastes generated by corporations and individuals. To find solutions to these problems, it is necessary to review our entire economic society and ways of living. We must construct an international circulating system of society. The responsibility of developed countries is very high in regards to the environmental destruction which is now progressing on a global scale. Many developing countries are obliged to deal with both local pollution and global environmental problems.
There are still many challenges we need to face despite women's energetic activities in all parts of Japan. As women of the world endeavoring to share in each other's knowledge, we hereby request a school specifically designed to promote awareness for "Women and the Environment". We are convinced that only through the realization of such research methods can women and men truly meet each other as equal working partners to safeguard our future global environment against further harm and destruction.
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