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Hiro's Forest, an Increasingly Rare ‘Satoyama’ School Connecting Rural Japanese Kids to Nature

生まれて初めてのこぎりで竹を切り、手作りした装置や食器を使って流しそうめん体験。外で食べるそうめんの味は最高! 撮影は2014年8月2日、SanoRieによる。使用許可済み。

Children are being taught how to make use of an abundent satoyama resource, bamboo. Bamboo can be used for tools, food, or in this case, a sluice for slurping noodles in the summertime (eating noodles outside in summer is always fun). Photo taken in August 2014. Image credit: SanoRie.

A satoyama school in rural Toyama Prefecture Japan's Hokuriku “north lands” that was closed down earlier this spring has been given new life.

Satoyama is a term rich with meaning in Japan, and broadly refers to an intensively cultivated land that blends in with the surrounding environment. Much of rural Japan was once such satoyama, where wet rice cultivation not only depended on clean water flowing from the surrounding hills, but the rice fields played a keystone role in supporting a rich, vibrant ecosystem.

A satoyama school, then, resided at the heart of a community, serving as a method for transferring important lessons about land stewardship to future generations who would continue to live in and help sustain the satoyama. As Japan's rural population declines, over the past two decades these schools have continued to shut down.

In the case of the Toyama school, a group of local parents, caregivers and other volunteers have resurrected the school and have called it Hirotan No Mori, which roughly translates as Hiro's Forest. The school posts photos and information about classes and events on their Facebook page.

The purpose of Hiro's Forest is to provide local children of all ages the opportunity to experience nature. The school is located about 30 minutes by car from the small rural city of Takaoka in Toyama, quite close to the Japan Sea coast.

Hiro's Forest gives kids a chance to experience the traditional pursuits of rural kids: digging up bamboo shoots, gathering to watch fireflies in June, and making traditional crafts out of bamboo. In November there are plans to give children the opportunity to build a treehouse in the forest.

The idea is to teach children about rural traditions while allowing them to experience a deeper connection with the natural world. The hope is to pass on methods of living within and protect their satoyama and at the same time learn how to enjoy both working and passing time in the surrounding forest.

Ultimately, the satoyama school and Hiro's forest are also all about preserving a way of life that is vanishing in the rest of Japan as the population ages.

Peruvian Amazon Faces Cold Temperatures: Consequences of Climate Change

Imagen en flickr del usuario @Christianhold (CC BY 2.0).

Image on flickr by usuario @Christianhold (CC BY 2.0).

Peruvian journalist and writer Paco Bardales, comments with other colleagues the waves of cold weather, or friajes, that recently affected usually hot Iquitos. These weather phenomena have gone from sporadic, as the group remembers from their childhood, to more frequent and longer lasting, so much that the state agency Meteorology and Hydrology Service (Senahmi, according to its name in Spanish) has decided to issue cold weather alerts for the cities located in Peruvian Amazonic regions. On the conversation, the group reflects that these frsots are due to climate change. Is this so? No doubt about it. Man has influenced in this change, and even Andean and Amazon communities are not to blame, they suffer from floodings, diseases, and all other consequence affecting their health and environment.

El impacto de la contaminación y los daños al ambiente sin duda han ido afectando las temperaturas. El Perú es considerado como uno de los países más vulnerables ante los impactos del cambio climático. Según estimaciones del MEF, los posibles daños económicos causados por este aspecto podrían llegar hasta los diez mil millones de dólares de aquí al año 2025.

The impact on contamination and damages to environment have undoubtedly been affecting temperatures. Peru is considered one of the most vulnerables countries to the impact of climate change. According to tne Ministry of Economy estimates, potential economic damages caused due to these changes could reach ten thousand million US dollars from now to year 2025.

National and international entites aim to create awareness and inform. One of the main actions are workshops about Conference of the Parties about about Climate Change (COP-20). And as Paco says:

La preocupación resulta importante, pues, al fin y al cabo, la Amazonía será fundamental en la mitigación del cambio climático. Ojalá no sea tarde para nosotros mismos.

Concern becomes important, as, after all, the Amazon region will be fundamental on mitigating climate change. Hopefully, it's not too late for ourselves.

Film Shows How a Malaysian Tribe is Stopping Loggers from Destroying their Land

selungoSunset Over Selungo is a 30-minute film documenting how the indigenous Penan tribe is defending the remaining rainforest of Borneo island in Malaysia. Borneo is the largest island in Asia. The film was made by independent British filmmaker Ross Harrison

Rooftop Farming in Hong Kong

"Go Green Hong Kong" discussed the benefit of rooftop farming in Hong Kong.

“Go Green Hong Kong” discussed the benefit of rooftop farming in Hong Kong – Green roofs can help reduce three of the four top problems facing the society in the next 50 years: energy, water, and environment.

New Spider Species in Borneo Named After Missing Activist

Aposphragisma brunomanseri goblin spider. Photo from the Natural History Museum of Berne

Aposphragisma brunomanseri goblin spider. Photo from the Natural History Museum of Berne

A new spider species in Borneo discovered by Swiss scientists was named after Bruno Manser, an environmentalist who went missing in the state of Sarawak in Malaysia in 2000. Bruno Manser has been campaigning for the protection of the nomadic Penan people and against the destruction of Sarawak rainforest when he was declared missing.

Video Animation Explains How Principle of “Free Prior and Informed Consent” Can Empower Indigenous Peoples

The Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact has uploaded a video animation explaining the principle of “Free prior and informed consent” or how communities should have the right to decide for the development of their lands.

Will Trinidad & Tobago's Government “Listen, Learn & Lead”?

Blogger and public relations professional Dennise Demming is disillusioned with Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who claims to “listen, learn and lead”, but then takes action to the contrary. Demming first cited the example of the country's recent Constitutional Amendment Bill, with which, “despite popular objection, the Government manoeuvred their way and got the Independent bench to support this unpopular change to the constitution.”

Now, she wonders why the government has not listened, learned and led when it comes to the Highway Re-Route Movement. Environmentalist Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh has undertaken a second hunger strike in protest over a portion of proposed highway that will displace a community and could also have a negative environmental impact. Amidst ongoing construction work on the highway, the Prime Minister has, thus far, refused to meet with Kublalsingh to discuss alternative routes. Demming says:

Re-routing the highway is a reasonable request by a credible group of activists which has come together under the leadership of the PM’s one time friend Dr. Wayne Khublalsingh. I salute this man who is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in defence of the environment. No matter how this hunger strike ends, his blood is staining the hands of each member of the PP [People's Partnership] Government.

Industrial Pollution Kills Hundreds of Wild Birds in Inner Mongolia

More than 500 dead wild water birds appeared in the lake areas of Inner Mongolia since this summer as a result of water pollution. The poisonous water, as reported by local herdsmen, came from factories from a nearby eco-industrial area. Annie Lee from China Hush wrote a photo feature on the situation.

An NGO in Peru Feeds Pelicans to Prevent Them From Starving

Pelícanos blancos. Foto en Flickr del usuario  jacinta lluch valero (CC BY-SA 2.0).

White pelicans. Photo on Flickr by user jacinta lluch valero (CC BY-SA 2.0).

At the estuary of Moche river in the northern Peruvian province of Trujillo, members of the NGO Corazones Bondadosos (Generous Hearts) fed more than 400 pelicans with fresh fish to prevent their starvation.

Collective ‘Corazones Bondadosos’ (Generous Hearts) feeds pelicans in Trujillo. Noble gesture. They ask authorities to support them.

Dead pelicans are a health hazard.

In late August, about 120 dead pelicans were buried at the beach Las Delicias, located in the same area. They were buried six feet under the sand and then covered with lime to prevent potential illnesses.

Locusts Invade Madagascar's Capital City

Twitter and Facebook users from Madagascar's capital city, Antananarivo, have posted several photos of locusts invading the city. Locust invasions are not unusual in Madagascar, especially after tropical storms, but they are very uncommon in larger cities. Locusts can have a devastating effect on crops, especially in a country that has struggled with bouts of famine in past years.

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