Category Archives: Environment

“Peer-to-Peer Science: The Century-Long Challenge to Respond to Fukushima” (Foreign Policy in Focus September 3, 2013)

Foreign Policy in Focus

“Peer-to-Peer Science: The Century-Long Challenge to Respond to Fukushima”

September 3, 2013.

Emanuel Pastreich

(with Layne Hartsell)



More than two years after an earthquake and tsunami wreaked havoc on a Japanese power plant, the Fukushima nuclear disaster is one of the most serious threats to public health in the Asia-Pacific, and the worst case of nuclear contamination the world has ever seen. Radiation continues to leak from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi site into groundwater, threatening to contaminate the entire Pacific Ocean. The cleanup will require an unprecedented global effort.

Initially, the leaked radioactive materials consisted of cesium-137 and 134, and to a lesser degree iodine-131. Of these, the real long-term threat comes from cesium-137, which is easily absorbed into bodily tissue—and its half-life of 30 years means it will be a threat for decades to come. Recent measurements indicate that escaping water also has increasing levels of strontium-90, a far more dangerous radioactive material than cesium. Strontium-90 mimics calcium and is readily absorbed into the bones of humans and animals.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) recently announced that it lacks the expertise to effectively control the flow of radiation into groundwater and seawater and is seeking help from the Japanese government. TEPCO has proposed setting up a subterranean barrier around the plant by freezing the ground, thereby preventing radioactive water from eventually leaking into the ocean—an approach that has never before been attempted in a case of massive radiation leakage. TEPCO has also proposed erecting additional walls now that the existing wall has been overwhelmed by the approximately 400 tons per day of water flowing into the power plant.

But even if these proposals were to succeed, they would not constitute a long-term solution.

A New Space Race

Solving the Fukushima Daiichi crisis needs to be considered a challenge akin to putting a person on the moon in the 1960s. This complex technological feat will require focused attention and the concentration of tremendous resources over decades. But this time the effort must be international, as the situation potentially puts the health of hundreds of millions at risk. The long-term solution to this crisis deserves at least as much attention from government and industry as do nuclear proliferation, terrorism, the economy, and crime.

To solve the Fukushima Daiichi problem will require enlisting the best and the brightest to come up with a long-term plan to be implemented over the next century. Experts from around the world need to contribute their insights and ideas. They should come from diverse fields—engineering, biology, demographics, agriculture, philosophy, history, art, urban design, and more. They will need to work together at multiple levels to develop a comprehensive assessment of how to rebuild communities, resettle people, control the leakage of radiation, dispose safely of the contaminated water and soil, and contain the radiation. They will also need to find ways to completely dismantle the damaged reactor, although that challenge may require technologies not available until decades from now.

Such a plan will require the development of unprecedented technologies, such as robots that can function in highly radioactive environments. This project might capture the imagination of innovators in the robotics world and give a civilian application to existing military technology. Improved robot technology would prevent the tragic scenes of old people and others volunteering to enter into the reactors at the risk of their own wellbeing.

The Fukushima disaster is a crisis for all of humanity, but it is a crisis that can serve as an opportunity to construct global networks for unprecedented collaboration. Groups or teams aided by sophisticated computer technology can start to break down into workable pieces the immense problems resulting from the ongoing spillage. Then experts can come back with the best recommendations and a concrete plan for action. The effort can draw on the precedents of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but it must go far further.

In his book Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science, Michael Nielsen describes principles of networked science that can be applied on an unprecedented scale. The breakthroughs that come from this effort can also be used for other long-term programs such as the cleanup of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the global response to climate change. The collaborative research regarding Fukushima should take place on a very large scale, larger than the sequencing of the human genome or the maintenance of the Large Hadron Collider.

Finally, there is an opportunity to entirely reinvent the field of public diplomacy in response to this crisis. Public diplomacy can move from a somewhat ambiguous effort by national governments to repackage their messaging to a serious forum for debate and action on international issues. As public diplomacy matures through the experience of Fukushima, we can devise new strategies for bringing together hundreds of thousands of people around the world to respond to mutual threats. Taking a clue from networked science, public diplomacy could serve as a platform for serious, long-term international collaboration on critical topics such as poverty, renewable energy, and pollution control.

Similarly, this crisis could serve as the impetus to make social networking do what it was supposed to do: help people combine their expertise to solve common problems. Social media could be used not as a means of exchanging photographs of lattes and overfed cats, but rather as an effective means of assessing the accuracy of information, exchanging opinions between experts, forming a general consensus, and enabling civil society to participate directly in governance. With the introduction into the social media platform of adequate peer review—such as that advocated by the Peer-to-Peer Foundation (P2P)—social media can play a central role in addressing the Fukushima crisis and responding to it. As a leader in the P2P movement, Michel Bauwens, suggests in an email, “peers are already converging in their use of knowledge around the world, even in manufacturing at the level of computers, cars, and heavy equipment.”

Here we may find the answer to the Fukushima conundrum: open the problem up to the whole world.

Peer-to-Peer Science

Making Fukushima a global project that seriously engages both experts and common citizens in the millions, or tens of millions, could give some hope to the world after two and a half years of lies, half-truths, and concerted efforts to avoid responsibility on the part of the Japanese government and international institutions. If concerned citizens in all countries were to pore through the data and offer their suggestions online, there could be a new level of transparency in the decision-making process and a flourishing of invaluable insights.

There is no reason why detailed information on radiation emissions and the state of the reactors should not be publicly available in enough detail to satisfy the curiosity of a trained nuclear engineer. If the question of what to do next comes down to the consensus of millions of concerned citizens engaged in trying to solve the problem, we will have a strong alternative to the secrecy that has dominated so far. Could our cooperation on the solution to Fukushima be an imperative to move beyond the existing barriers to our collective intelligence posed by national borders, corporate ownership, and intellectual property concerns?

A project to classify stars throughout the university has demonstrated that if tasks are carefully broken up, it is possible for laypeople to play a critical role in solving technical problems. In the case of Galaxy Zoo, anyone who is interested can qualify to go online and classify different kinds of stars situated in distant galaxies and enter the information into a database. It’s all part of a massive effort to expand our knowledge of the universe, which has been immensely successful and demonstrated that there are aspects of scientific analysis that does not require a Ph.D. In the case of Fukushima, if an ordinary person examines satellite photographs online every day, he or she can become more adept than a professor in identifying unusual flows carrying radioactive materials. There is a massive amount of information that requires analysis related to Fukushima, and at present most of it goes virtually unanalyzed.

An effective response to Fukushima needs to accommodate both general and specific perspectives. It will initially require a careful and sophisticated setting of priorities. We can then set up convergence groups that, aided by advanced computation and careful efforts at multidisciplinary integration, could respond to crises and challenges with great effectiveness. Convergence groups can also serve as a bridge between the expert and the layperson, encouraging a critical continuing education about science and society.

Responding to Fukushima is as much about educating ordinary people about science as it is about gathering together highly paid experts. It is useless for experts to come up with novel solutions if they cannot implement them. But implementation can only come about if the population as a whole has a deeper understanding of the issues. Large-scale networked science efforts that are inclusive will make sure that no segments of society are left out.

If the familiar players (NGOs, central governments, corporations, and financial institutions) are unable to address the unprecedented crises facing humanity, we must find ways to build social networks, not only as a means to come up with innovative concepts, but also to promote and implement the resulting solutions. That process includes pressuring institutions to act. We need to use true innovation to pave the way to an effective application of science and technology to the needs of civil society. There is no better place to start than the I

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This proposal was made to the cities of Palo Alto, Tsukuba and Daejeon in 2009 and we added Shenzhen in 2010. Although we were able to arrange three meetings between representatives of Palo Alto, Tsukuba and Shenzhen in 2010, ultimately the proposal was not followed up on. I do see the discussion, however, as historically significant and I look forward to a day when we can begin the conversation again.







January, 2009



There is a tremendous demand today for an ecologically sustainable urban environment that reduces radically waste, minimizes energy usage, has a positive impact on the world’s climate, and improves the health of citizens and the livability of urban spaces. In order to achieve such a transformation in cities across the country, however, we must first establish several model ecocities quickly which are sensitive to the needs of the particular country and function efficiently with the support of citizens. Those model ecocities will be the inspiration for other efforts within the country to create next-generation ecocities that handle in the most modern and most environmentally nonintrusive manner garbage disposal, water management, parks, wild spaces, alternative energy, insulation, transportation etc.

The best place for a cutting edge ecocity is in a city of relatively small dimensions because it can be transformed more rapidly than larger urban communities. Moreover, that city should be home to a major technology cluster in which access to the most advanced research in all fields relevant to an ecocity are readily available. Finally, because the threat of climate change is global, the effort to develop a model ecocity at the local level using all available technologies from the research cluster should be part of a global effort. Comparing notes, exchanging strategies, even sharing the costs of developing a cutting-edge ecocity between several cities can have great benefits and the international component will draw greater attention to the effort itself domestically and globally.




The three cities that would be at the center of this Ecocity Alliance from the start will be Palo Alto, home to Stanford University and at the center of Silicon Valley, Daejeon, home of KAIST, Korea’s leading technical university and multiple research institutes and Tsukuba (Japan), home of Tsukuba University, RIKEN, AIST and other scientific research institutes. Each of these cities is close to a larger metro city (San Francisco, Tokyo and Seoul, respectively) and each has outstanding faculty and research facilities related to all fields required to establish a next-generation ecocity.


THE SIGNIFICANCE of the Ecocity Alliance



Not only can the three cities share their strategies, their technical expertise and their ideas, the international exchanges between experts, parents and school children engendered by this effort will be a source of excitement and stimulation. Moreover, these exchanges will allow citizens to fully grasp the global nature of the environmental crisis. High school students will have the opportunity travel to the other “sister ecocities” to conduct studies (or perhaps do joint studies with their peers in the other countries via the Internet). Costs for purchasing materials, or hiring consultants, can be split between the three cities.


As each city becomes a model ecocity for its own country, the benefits to the research institutes will only increase, and the livability of the cities will make them more attractive to faculty.


Concrete Steps:

Short term:
Establish closer working relations among Asian countries on environmental and energy issues. Participants will effectively identify possible areas for collaboration and learn from other cities.
Medium term:
Establish benchmarks for ecocities and initiate formal sister ecocity connections; establish a system for objectively evaluating achievements of ecocities using the Yale Index or the UNDP index at the local level.
Efforts will be made to strengthen ties to international organizations, to engage in dialogue on curricular change with educators and students from urban studies and architecture programs, and to encourage practical change in how city planning is viewed on the level of local government.


Demonstrate the impact of local changes on national policy; demonstrate a measurable effect on global environmental indicators; establish global standards for ecocities.
Determine criteria for recognition as 1) beginning ecocity 2) established ecocity 3) advanced ecocity.

Award recognition, opportunities for investment, etc. for cities that reach the advanced level.
Establish an EMN (Ecocity Mayor’s Network).
Publication, in multiple languages, of a manual for setting up an ecocity.

1) To publish materials in multiple languages outlining basic strategies for reducing energy use and improving the environment in coordination with other organizations. These materials are aimed at local government and citizens.
2) To build close working relationships between local governments to discuss common concerns and put forth proposals for cooperation.
3) To arrange for the joint purchases of materials (such as solar cells) in large quantity so as to reduce the cost.
4) To administer a system for the open exchange of information concerning strategies and technologies.
5) To organize ecocity conferences and symposiums.
6) To undertake joint applications by multiple ecocities to international organizations for funding.
7) To establish evaluation criteria for assessing the progress of Ecocities and creating incentives for ecocities in cooperation with central governments and international organizations.
8) To promulgate new standards for measuring growth that take into account environmental factors; also translating and popularizing these standards at the local level. To recommend and to advise in the implementation of careful evaluation programs for environmental issues at the local level using Yale Index, UNDP index or some other standard.

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“Bring back the five-year plan” (JoongAng Daily October 27, 2016)

JoongAng Daily

“Bring back the five-year plan”

October 27, 2016

Emanuel Pastreich

There was a time when Korea’s best and brightest drafted meticulous five-year plans for the development of technologies as part of a 30-year vision for Korea’s future needs. Starting in 1962 and continuing until 1981, these plans set out goals and mobilized resources to build expertise, construct infrastructure, obtain technology and assure a broad understanding among the population of the challenges that Korea faced.

Such five-year plans continued until 1996, although they lost their focus on infrastructure and technology. However, long-term government support for science and technology remains in place, such as the “basic plan for developing biotechnology” through 2026.

Such research and development, however, focused too much on creating products for global markets, rather than technology aimed at addressing directly the threats that Korea faces.

The time has come for the re-establishment of five-year plans for Korea, but with the adaptation to climate change, and the mitigation of energy consumption, as the primary goal.

But development should consist of forecasting the future and planning for it based on three points.

First, what will be the state of the environment in Korea in 10, 20 or 30 years? What will be the sea level and the frequency of droughts, super-storms and flash floods? What will be the state of the soil, of forests, of agricultural land and of fish populations?

Second, what technologies will be available by that future date granted the current rate of technological evolution? How can those technologies be implemented quickly to assure that Korea is carbon-free and can respond to threats?

Third, how long will it take to design and implement the new infrastructure based on that technology so as to respond in time to future climate threats?

We should start with a five-year plan that requires all buildings to employ solar panels and be properly insulated by 2021. The plan would involve industry, academia and government and cover technology, commercialization, citizens’ education and urban planning with a focus on empowering local groups to participate. Solar film to place on windows and cutting-edge insulation materials should be quickly adopted. Other plans should be implemented for the response to super-storms, to rising sea levels, and to protect forests and oceans and farmland.

These five-year plans should not be aimed only at producing products for export, but rather at meeting the challenges of protecting Korea against the threats of climate change. Preparations for responding to rising seas and a warmer climate must be carried out as a national security agenda without a fixation on markets.

Finance for these projects must be generated increasingly within Korea, and finance must be increasingly directed toward the concrete demands of the response to climate change at the national level, and not toward speculation or short-term investments unrelated to the national interest.

Ultimately, this crisis may force us to go back to the drawing board and ask whether industries like shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing, steel and petrochemicals will lead Korea’s future in light of the overwhelming threat of climate change. The government must show bravery, true leadership, by mapping out the equivalent of a war-time economy to integrate emerging technologies with infrastructure demands to respond over the long term to this profound threat. There can be no sacred cows.

The government must put in place a series of five-year plans for industrial development with a set of concrete goals for reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels, increasing insulation, efficiency, awareness and the broad adoption of new technologies, and more importantly, systems of technology, habits, policy and culture that will allow Korea to reach its goals very rapidly. Moreover, the manner in which Korea innovates to achieve these goals more rapidly than other industrialized nations will become in itself a valuable product that Korea can share with the world.

Two sets of five-year plans should be put in place. One for adaptation to climate change and one for mitigation of climate change. Both are equally important, and both must be closely linked to be successful. Moreover, the plans require a change in the culture, the habits, the assumptions of Koreans, and also massive reforms in finance, trade and investment policy that will set Korea free of oil money and petroleum imports and make it a global model.

Great Law of the Iroquois, the “seventh generation” and the crisis of climate change

Perhaps the greatest example of law in the United States is the “Great Law of the Iroquois,” a constitution in which the Iroquois asserted that in all planning we must consider what the impact will be for people in the next century. I would agrue that government in Joseon Korea also had something of this vision, but how profoundly different from what we see today. Is there a means to bring back that Seven generation stewardship in our lost age, facing climate disaster?

“Great Law of the Iroquois – which holds appropriate to think seven generations ahead (about 140 years into the future) and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit their children seven generations into the future. ”

The Real Problem with the enviroment

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

Gus Speth

Professor at Vermont Law School

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Earth Citizens Organization

I have taken up the cause of the Earth Citizens Organization and I ask that you join with me.
Thank you.
On September 11, 2013, EARTH CITIZENS ORGANIZATION (ECO) was formed to develop leaders committed to making a difference in their lives and communities for a healthier and sustainable world.
Since that date, ECO’s focus has been on providing training and education, developing training facilities, and organizing community events that help people live mindfully and get healthier naturally. Through these actions, ECO desires to catalyze a shift that will change the future of the world to one of peace and sustainability. We call this collaborative effort the Earth Citizen Movement. Our goal is reaching 1% of the world’s population and to help them incorporate Earth Citizenship into their lifestyle and daily choices.


ECO was named to reflect our belief that we are all citizens of the Earth and share the responsibility to care for the Earth’s well being in every way. Sharing this idea and creating changes in our daily lives is the essence of the Earth Citizen Movement.


The seed of the Earth Citizen Movement was planted by one person when he started teaching exercise at a public park in South Korea 30 years ago. This person was Ilchi Lee. He believed, and still believes, that hope for a better world lies in awakening the greatness in human nature, and has dedicated his life to helping people harness their brain potential. It was through his dedication and spirit that ECO was created.

Throughout his life, Ilchi Lee has strived to help millions of people worldwide enhance their physical, mental, and spiritual capabilities by learning to control and direct the energy of their brains. He has formed several non-profit and for-profit organizations, authored over 30 books, including New York Times Bestseller “The Call of Sedona,” and organized numerous events to help bring that vision to fruition.



ECO plans to expand its education to develop Earth Citizen Leaders by creating an online education system and building Earth Citizens Learning Centers in major cities, including its main campus in Northern Arizona.

Earth Citizen Learning Center in Arizona is an educational center where people can visit, experience and learn all aspects of sustainable living such as healthy eating, natural health, organic farming, sustainable housing, renewable energy and water-recycling. ECO Learning Center will provide training programs targeted towards young leaders of our community.

“No to coal!” button (February 29, 2016)

I recently asked a friend to design a button for me to protest the increased use of cheap coal with a high sulfur content in Korea. The air in Korea is growing worse rapidly in Korea the last few years, and the primary reason is the complete lack of regulation of emissions. What is most disturbing to me is the complete lack of concern on the part of Koreans who have to breath the air every day here.

I made a “No to Coal! Killing us slowly” pin recently and had a friend do the final design. I have worn it on almost all my jackets. But many Koreans do not seem to understand what it refers to.

I am happy to give one to anyone who is interested.

And please do start to make an effort to reduce the carbon in the air and the micro-particles as well.



“Time for the US to Start a RIMPAC for Climate Change” (The Diplomat, January 20, 2016)

The Diplomat

“Time for the US to Start a RIMPAC for Climate Change”

January 20, 2016



Rising tensions between China and Japan over territorial issues, combined with disputes over historical issues such as the Korean comfort women, have created a political environment that encourages military responses and confrontation. The recent nuclear test by North Korea has heightened the distrust to such a level that we can look forward to a massive arms race that will involve not only the nations of Northeast Asia, but possibly those of Southeast Asia as well.

Now is the moment for moral courage on the part of the United States. The United States, and specifically the Pacific Command, must step forward and engage in honest and practical dialog on security issues. It needs to suggest innovative, collaborative approaches to security problems, interacting with all the nations of the region in a transparent manner that encourages cooperation, not competition. We must make sure that security and defense policies are not rooted in an unimaginative and outdated Cold War conception of deterrence and containment, but rather are responses to emerging nontraditional threats.

The recent Paris Climate Conference (COP 21 Paris) has laid down concrete demands for a rapid shift to a low-carbon model for development that should serve as the basis for closer collaboration in military affairs between the United States, Japan, Korea and China, and ASEAN nations.

The Pacific Command should engage all members of the Asian community in a deep dialog about how the region’s militaries can transform military relations in the region. This transformation would take place through the military’s transitioning to play a leading role in mitigating and adapting to climate change, and it would create a new, regional, cooperative culture in the Pacific. Read more of this post

Public events at the Paris Climate Summit prohibited

Here is today’s notice from 350.ORG which is organizing a protest on the occasion of the COP Meeting in Paris.

In a sense the content is entirely predictable. We are being led down a rabbit hole and away from addressing the most serious security threat in history. Now I think the significance of recent developments should be apparent.



Yesterday, we got some disappointing news. Citing security concerns, the French government has prohibited many of the Paris mobilizations and events connected to the upcoming climate summit from going forward — including the massive march being planned for November 29th.

This is a heavy blow, especially for the many organizers who have been working around the clock for months to bring hundreds of thousands of people out into the streets of Paris. It’s a heavy blow, too, because it makes our job — of making sure this summit actually yields real, ambitious results — that much harder.

While activists in Paris are revising their plans, it’s up to the rest of us to kick it up a notch.

The Global Climate March — which already consists of thousands of events, small and large, all around the world — will continue. From London to Los Angeles, Quito to Quezon City, people are still taking to the streets.

Organizers in Paris are still reeling from Friday’s terrible attacks, and now they’re scrambling to figure out what they can still do to have an impact in the face of a potentially repressive security situation.

We need to speak up for activists in Paris, who are struggling to be heard. Those of us who can mobilize, must. The Paris Climate Summit is still a crucial opportunity for world governments to send a signal that the world is moving away from fossil fuels. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the world needs this sort of global cooperation urgently.

Even as climate change contributes to conflict around the world, this summit is an opportunity for us to come together and finally grapple with the scale of the problem we’re facing. Unfortunately, that’s not the sort of ambition that governments and politicians muster on their own. That’s the sort of thing only mass social movements have the power to make happen.





Buddhist Economics as seen by E. F. Schumacher

In preparation for my short remarks at tomorrow’s Seoul Climate-Energy Conference, I started rereading E. F. Schumacher’s classic book and stumbled on his chapter “Buddhist Economics” which builds on his ideas about a participatory economy based on his experiences learning about Buddhism while in Burma in 1955. Perhaps we can find something of the future in his words today. He speaks of a “middle way” between  “materialist heedlessness” and “traditionalist immobility.”


E. F. Schumacher

Small is Beautiful



Chapter 4: Buddhist Economics


Economists themselves, like most specialists, normally suffer from a kind of metaphysical blindness, assuming that theirs is a science of absolute and invariable truths, without any presuppositions. 

The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give a man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence.

It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. 

From a Buddhist point of view, this is standing the truth on its head by considering goods as more important than people and consumption as more important than creative activity.

The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist’s point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its pattern—amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results.

The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means.

From the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale.

Modern economics does not distinguish between renewable and non-renewable materials, as its very method is to equalize and quantify everything by means of a money price. 

Non-renewable goods must be used only if they are indispensable, and then only with the greatest care and the most meticulous concern for conservation. To use them heedlessly or extravagantly is an act of violence, and while complete non-violence may not be attainable on this earth, there is nonetheless an ineluctable duty on man to aim at the ideal of non-violence in all he does.

As the world’s resources of non-renewable fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—are exceedingly unevenly distributed over the globe and undoubtedly limited in quantity, it is clear that their exploitation at an ever-increasing rate is an act of violence against nature which must almost inevitably lead to violence between men.

Before they dismiss Buddhist economics as nothing better than a nostalgic dream, they might wish to consider whether the path of economic development outlined by modern economics is likely to lead them to places where they really want to be.

It is a question of finding the right path of development, the Middle Way between materialist heedlessness and traditionalist immobility, in short, of finding “Right Livelihood.”