Chas Jones, Ph.D.

Hokkaido University

2011.11.03. Sustainability Course. Week 2.

2011.11.03. Sustainability Course. Week 2.

To save time and reduce repetitiveness, I will summarize the course at the end of each week. It is important to me to document the Sustainability Short Course that I am participating in, but one post per week will probably suffice regarding the class content. On Monday, we had two interesting lectures by Wilf Swartz (University of British Columbia – Vancouver), a PhD student in Fisheries. The first was a general overview of the history and current state of global fisheries. I really enjoyed that conversation and would love to talk with him more extensively about the topic. The 2nd lecture was about the attempts at the World Trade Organization to get rid of government subsidies related to the global fisheries market because subsidies allow fisheries from some countries to out-compete equivalent fisheries in other countries. Suppressed fish prices and costs of harvest lead to overfishing and excessive numbers of fishing vessels and increased investment in fisheries relative to the actual value. None of these things are good for sustainable fisheries. Bottom line: At present, our fisheries are very over-fished and are likely facing an impending collapse. North Atlantic cod fisheries had a huge collapse twenty years ago. Other fisheries have followed and those types of collapses are becoming more frequent globally.

Dr. Noriyuka Tanaka  on Nuclear contamination and radiation – An interesting lecture on the Fukushima disaster caused by primarily by human caused errors associated with designs for earthquakes and tsunamis.  Lots of background information on radiation and recorded levels of radiation exposure throughout areas of Japan.  The data appears to show that Sapporo has some of the lowest radiation exposure, but doesn’t offer any comparative values, so I have no idea if the values were high or not compared to what I am typically exposed to.

Mr. Majima- Sustainability and the ethics of war – A engaging and intriguing couple of lectures that incite and inspire many tangential thoughts on related subjects.

Mr. Majima – Ethics in Sustainability  – A very good set of lectures by Mr. (not yet has his doctorate) Majima on Ethics in Sustainability.  He has some wonderfully engaging exercises and his lecture style stands out (in a positive way) from may professors that I have had in all of my university experiences (and that is a lot!)  Anyhow, future students of Dr. Majima will find him a great professor, I am sure.…

Sustainability Course. Day 4.

Sustainability Course. Day 4.

Today, Tony led a few activities that encouraged the students to summarize the material in the course to date.  It was somewhat helpful and was interesting to see and hear how different people interpret the lectures.  The first exercise was for us to draw a mental map of the course materials to date.  The second exercise was for us to identify and briefly discuss an issue important to sustainability in our home regions/countries.  I discussed corporate vs. subsistence salmon harvests in the rivers of Alaska.  I also discussed how the U.S. economy is bolstered by the countries of China and Japan when they purchase large quantities of U.S. debt.  The result is that Americans have a false sense of economic security, a sense of entitlement to purchase materials derived from resources that have been extracted from seemingly poorer nations.  When in fact, our society would collapse almost instantaneously if either country called our debts.  The messed up thing is that the entire global economy would collapse, but both China or Japan have the power to instigate these types of global impacts due to the economics of the situation.  Anyhow, I believe that if this situation did not exist, resource extraction from developing nations would be much less severe than it is now.


The second lecture was by Dr. Arai.  This was the first time that we have met him and he discussed Japanese and global policies and history related to resilience and disasters, including the disaster caused by the Great East Earthquake in Japan in March 2011 (and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster).  It was an interesting lecture, but it would have been nice to have more time for discussion and questions.…

Sustainability Course – Day 3

Sustainability Course. Day 3.

Today Segah-san led a discussion about the state of the world’s forests and the threats that they face on a daily basis in different regions of the planet.  We also discussed the various values and benefits that forests provide to society and the world’s ecosystems.  In the second half of the morning, Dr. Fukushima lectured from Taiwan.  He really is a very good lecturer.  His primary subject was life cycle analyses and _________.  I enjoy his lecture style, but I think that it would probably be more effective if he was actually present with us.  He tends to prompt individuals in the class with random questions, but can’t really see us and doesn’t quite wait long enough for someone to speak up in response.  So most of the time, he responds to his own question before someone speaks up.  I’m not sure if he actually wants us to respond to his question, or if it is simply his personal style of communication.  Anyhow, his take on life cycle analyses is unique to all of my studies.  We never talked about anything like it in my economics course and I personally believe that it would have been an obvious choice for a subject.  Maybe I can get him to give a distance lecture to students in Alaska sometime.

I really do like the perspective that these professors are bringing to the program.  So far, each speaker is covering a general subject area and each is providing just a glimpse into their personal research.  I keep finding myself interested in hearing more about their research, but I am waiting to ask because I assume that we’ll have a lot more time to get to those details.

Anyhow, so far, so good in the class.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the course.

Dr. Tony Chittenden has been really personable and helpful to the students.  Everybody has been extremely generous especially Dr. Shingo Tanaka and Dr. Gaku Ishimura.  Tony has helped give a little more background about life in Japan, Japanese politics, and I’m hoping to learn a lot more about Japanese culture and customs.  I feel relatively comfortable asking him about these sorts of things (probably because he been a New Zealand citizen living in Japan for a long time) and greatly value his seemingly candid responses and insight to our interest.  He originally came here to ski, but ended up staying.  That’s all I know, but it seems like he loves to live life.  And if that is true, that’s one value that we share.…

2011.10.25. Sustainability Course. Day 2.

Class started at 8:45 AM this morning.  I almost forgot that it wasn’t at 10 AM.  At 8:35, I remembered.  I quickly got dressed and galloped down the sidewalk to the donut shop at Sapporo Station (main transportation hub for the city).  I grabbed myself a couple of donuts and continued on to class.  A funny aside.  Yesterday, Ben and I discovered the donut shop and were ripe for new cultural experiences.  So we each decided to grab one donut that we hadn’t had before and one that we thought we’d enjoy for sure.  Ben first ate into his “strange” donut, but it was relatively normal cake donut of some unknown flavor.  His “safe” choice actually had some sort of meat product in it, while he had expected some sort of fruit filling.  My safe choice was simply a glazed donut which was really quite tasty.  My strange donut was acceptable, but actually fish sauce on one side of it.  Pretty funny.

So I got to class 4 minutes late, but it ends up that everybody was running behind schedule.  So it was just fine.  We had a morning lecture on sustainable agriculture that was actually pre-recorded.  It was okay, but not great.  We were scheduled to have a different speaker, but he had actually gotten sick and couldn’t make it to class.  Our 2nd speaker was Dr. Fukushima whom is teaching in Taiwan.  So we had a distance lecture and his subject was “Systems thinking and Life cycle analyses”.  It was actually a very good lecture that brought up a good discussion among the 10 students.  That was all we had scheduled for the day.

I recommended that all of the students grab lunch together today, since we hadn’t really hung out at all as a group.  Some of the students are quite shy.  I don’t know if they are self-conscious of their English or if its just their personality or culture, but I’ll keep working on them…  🙂  Some of them certainly seemed to open up a bit.  We just ate at a campus cafeteria.  It ends up that there were 3 different lines (each quite long) and I didn’t know that ahead of time.  So I wanted a noodle dish, but was in the wrong line for it (which I discovered when I got to the front of the line).  So I just got some random Japanese dishes that looked like they might be good.  It was all fine and only cost 314 Yen ($4), but I was still hungry after eating.  Hmmm….  Not good.  I could have gotten 2nds, but  I just decided to get dessert.  So we found a convenience store, and I found some tasty frozen Japanese dessert.  It seemed to be some sort of frozen sweet dough with ice cream in the middle.  Yum.  I like.…

2011.10.24. Sustainability course. Day 1.

Interesting day.  We actually had a brief orientation event last night, but I was too tired to write an entry.  It was pretty basic and introduced ourselves to the group.  I don’t quite know everybody’s names yet, but it appears that there are about 12 people in our group of students.  All of them are international students. I think that we have 3 Americans, 1 Mexican, 3 Indonesians, 1 Chinese…  And I am missing the other nationalities.  I could be wrong on the group size too, but I’ll get it right sometime soon.
The dorm is interesting.  I’ve got a small room all to myself.  Its pretty basic and does not have wireless (not complaining, but want to provide useful info for future students).  It does have a refrigerator.  There’s a shared kitchen down on the 1st floor, but we need to have pots, pans, utensils, and personal place setting (plate, bowl, eating utensils) in order to be able to cook and eat.  I have none of these items.
Today’s course include lectures from Dr. N. Tanaka and Dr. Tony Chittendenon Sustainability and Energy.  Pretty basic, but I liked their lecture styles.  Tony is originally from New Zealand, but has been here for a long time.  

We went to a grocery store for some basic supplies before getting some dinner.  It was a small store though and had limited choices for me.  We also went to dinner.  I think that I’ve given up any hope of being at all vegetarian on this trip.  It seems pretty much impossible.  We (Ben, Andres, and I) went to a restaurant tonight and it had no pix of food and no English text (see photo below).  The owners knew no english either.  They either don’t know my custom sign language for fish, or they didn’t actually have any on their menu.  So we randomly ordered 3 items off of the menu after the guy didn’t want to choose 3 items for us.  We got deep fried squid (very yummy), a bunch of raw bacon and a hibachi grill that we could cook it on, and a veggie stir fry dish with bacon with a side of deep fried squid!  Hilarious.  Andres also ordered a bottle of Sapporo Soft (white liquor of some sort that was actually pretty tasty and very smooth…  Weird.  The whole experience was weird.   The place was about 3 blocks from the guy’s dormitory which is about 6 or 7 blocks from campus.  Anyhow, very interesting experience. Jet lag still has me under her grips and I am going down early and quickly these days.  We’ll see how long I last after sharing that bottle of alcohol…  Origato! (Thank you!)

2011.10.19. Before I leave…

In early September, I applied for and was selected by Hokkaido University’s CENSUS program to participate in their first graduate level Sustainability Short course for international students.  Its a program funded by the Japanese government (JASSA) to encourage international scientists to continue their interactions with Japan in the aftermath of the  earthquake, tsunami & nuclear disasters in other parts of the country.

Hokkaido University is located on Hokkaido (northern island of Japan), in the city of Sapporo (2 million people).  I will become more familiar with the place over the my 5 week stay here and will add information about the area as I become more familiar with it.

I’ve been running myself crazy trying to get everything ready in Fairbanks before I leave town for Japan.  Can’t believe that I’m going to be leaving for 5 weeks!  I’m certainly looking forward to it. I can’t wait until I get to sit myself down and absorb the idea of traveling again!

 
I drilled groundwater wells before the winter season hit us in Fairbanks and before I left for Japan for 5 weeks.