Japanese senior citizens and environmental problems(1)

Japanese senior citizens have experienced not only poverty after the war but also mass-production, mass-consumption, and environmental pollution. Through these experiences, they are very concerned about the waste and environmental destruction we see today. A number of senior citizens are involved in environmental protection activities, such as waste management and conserving energy in daily living as well as tree-planting activities.

Japan NGO Council on Ageing (JANCA) is a network organization consisting of over 60 member organizations which work on aging-related issues. In 2006, JANCA conducted a survey with JANCA opinion members on environmental problems, resulting in 1,241 responses (response rate: 70.3%). The results show that over 80% of senior citizens are involved in energy-saving activities in their daily living. In addition, the majority of them are interested in environmental protection activities such as tree-planting and energy conservation. Based on these results, JANCA made “Seniors’ Action Plans to Tackle Environmental Problems” and announced it on June 30th, 2006, at Nippon Press Center.

Since the announcement mentioned above, the interests in environmental protection, such as prevention of global warming, has grown. We now see various efforts by senior citizens in environmental protection. Considering these recent trends, JANCA organized a symposium to further enhance senior citizens’ activities in issues related to aged society and environmental problems. The international symposium “Senior’s Go Green” was held in March, 2008, at Yurakucho Asahi Hall, located at the central part of Tokyo.

The symposium was very fruitful thank to our international panelists: Mr. and Mrs. Cars from Sweden; Dr. Ann Pil-Joon from South Korea; and Dr. Ma Li-Zhang and Dr. Sun Minglei from Shanghai, China; as well as the leaders of Japanese senior citizens: Ms. Keiko Higuchi and Mr. Tsutomu Hotta (JANCA co-chairs).

Environmental problems and aged society are considered the global issues in this century. As citizens of the most aged society, what are Japanese senior citizens doing and about to do regarding population aging and environmental protection as their own issues? We hope the following symposium summary will have some answers.

This symposium summary was made by JARC editorial staff.

Japanese senior citizens and environmental problems(2)

JANCA International Symposium

“Senior’s Go Green”

Activities for the Aged Society and Environmental Protection

 On March 7th, 2008, Japan NGO Council on Ageing (JANCA) held an international symposium “Senior’s go green: Activities for the aged society and environmental protection” at Yurakucho Asahi Hall in Tokyo. A number of senior citizens, who were active in environmental protection, were introduced before the symposium. At the symposium, Japanese and international experts on environmental problems and aging-related issues had meaningful speeches and lively discussions. The following is a summary of the symposium.

JANCA Demonstration: Senior Citizens Who Are Active in Environmental Protection

Introduced by Mr. Akihiko Yoshida (JANCA)


 In addition to the introduction of six groups of senior citizens who were active in environmental protection, there was a “Mottainai” fashion show (reformed clothes) by “Iyoyo Hanayagu Club.” 


<Case 1: Cultivating trees and forests that go back to the soil: Mr. Takashi Sekita>

 Since my retirement, I have been involved in planting trees, providing pot-making classes out of deserted trees, and activities for everyone to cultivate forests. Our goals are environmental protection that can prevent global warming and tree-planting movement. More specifically, our organization tries to (1) develop a system so that anyone can enjoy cultivating forests, (2) utilize deserted trees (e.g., opening classes on nature and environment), (3) create jobs and places for senior citizens’ “Ikigai (meaning of life),” and (4) develop a community while utilizing local resources.


<Case 2: Green Recycle Center (GRC)>

 GRC turns 10 tons of food waste into fertilizer everyday and return it to fields. It takes a number of processes, including pressing and filtering. With this fertilizer, we grow vegetables like potatoes and spinach. Currently, though it is not a lot, we also grow soy beans. My goal is to make 100% soy milk out of these soy beans so that people can stay healthy.


<Case 3: Akiruno Nature School>

 Minato-ku, located in the middle of Tokyo, has leased a forest in Akiruno City and made it a civic forest. Activities of Akiruno Nature School include thinning the forest in order for trees to get enough sunlight, planting trees, and nest-making classes for children. At the class, children as well as older adults work together and go to a mountain to leave their nests.


<Case 4: NPO2050>

 NPO 2050 is working on population problems, poverty, and women’s issues so that we can pass the peaceful and safe planet to the future generations. It is run by Mr. Kitatani, a retiree from the U.N. One of its activities is “Silkworm Project” in Philippines.

 A number of mountains have been burned because of poverty. In response to this problem, this project helps people raise silkworm, make thread out of cocoons, and make clothes with the thread. These clothes can become income sources for them. If their income level becomes stable, they would not have to burn the mountains. Women’s status would also be improved.


<Case 5: Kome-tsutsuji Kai>

 Activities of Kome-tsutsuji Kai are in the fields of environment, welfare, and education. Regarding environmental problems, we plant trees in a town near Tone River. Moreover, we have started growing loaches and Shijimi clams in abandoned farm lands due to aging of farmers. This project not only brings income by selling the products but also cleans water. We pay rent for the elderly farm owners, so the project also serves as an income security for them. This is one example of our activities to unite care and environment so that we can develop better communities. 


<Case 6: Materializing the “Green Oil Field” concept: Mr. Takayoshi Tomita>

 I belong to Workers’ Co-operative (Workers’ Co-op). We are the co-operative which creates jobs and develops communities through cooperative work. Ten years ago, this organization started founding Seniors’ Co-ops (Koureikyou) nationwide. Koureikyou focuses on work, Ikigai, and welfare; and its activities include running senior centers and health promotion programs for older persons.

 In terms of environmental issues, we have started “Rape (Nanohana) Project” last year. We lease unused farmlands and grow rapes. If we press the seeds once, we can make cooking oil. We would like to make bio-fuel through the second press and fertilizers through the third press. At the same time, we are also planning to raise honey-bees at the farms and make high-quality honey.

  Through this activity, we would like to protect environment, create jobs, utilize unused farmlands, and create Ikigai.


<Fashion show: Iyoyo Hanayagu Club>

 Iyoyo Hanayagu Club was founded 10 years ago. Currently there are approximately 50 members aged 60 and over. The members not only design and make clothes but also become models to show them to people.

  The theme of the show at this event was “Mottainai (No Waste).” The 30 members aged 56 to 85 introduced beautiful dresses and coats which were made from old Kimono and old clothes.




Japanese senior citizens and environmental problems(3)

International Symposium


<Greeting and key note speech: Ms. Keiko Higuchi (Co-chair, JANCA)>

 I would like to thank all of you who have made this symposium possible. Let me give you a brief overview on how we have come to hold this symposium. JANCA, founded in 1999 or International Year of Older Persons, is a loose network of organizations which work on aging-related issues. Currently, JANCA has more than 60 member organizations, and it is chaired by Mr. Tsutomu Hotta and me. Facing unprecedented population aging, our common goal is to develop new culture and social system which are suitable for the “centenarian society.” We would like to propose ideas that bring happiness to younger and future generations, act on these ideas, and make better changes in the society.

 One of the biggest challenges facing us is environment. We conducted a survey with senior citizens on environmental problems 2 years ago. The results show that almost all the respondents are interested in environmental issues and that over 20% of them are involved in environmental protection activities in their own communities. Based on this survey and other case studies, we made and publicized “Seniors’ Action Plans to Tackle Environmental Problems: 4 Resolutions and 3 Collaborations” in June, 2006.

 Older adults have several advantages when working on environmental problems. First, we know what it means to be poor. Yet, it seems like we are caught in the tremendous waves of mass-production, mass-consumption, and over-consumption while “Mottainai” spirit is stuck in our minds. Now is the time for this spirit to come back. Secondly, environmental problems have made us rediscover the intergenerational connections. Senior citizens’ activities on environmental protection are always linked to intergenerational communication. The planet is being destroyed by humans, and I think it can only be rebuilt by humans. Realizing our responsibilities, we would like to work hard to leave clean water, clean air, and safe foods for our future generations.

  Let’s work on it together!


<Congratulatory speech: Mr. Yasuo Fukuda, Prime Minister (Message read by Mr. Hideki MinamikawaDirector-General of the Global Environment Bureau, Ministry of Environment>

 It is a great pleasure to have the timely and important symposium “Seniors’ Go Green.” I am also thankful for JANCA’s efforts in creating senior citizens’ Ikigai and in contributing to the society.

 The key issue for the 21st century is environment. We are also facing a big challenge in revitalizing communities. Senior citizens have a lot of knowledge and experiences, and they are very enthusiastic for social activities. In other words, they are the societal treasure. We can utilize their knowledge and experiences to create better environment and communities. Senior citizens’ involvement in environmental protection activities in each community will improve both environmental awareness and vitality of the community.

The government would also like to make several efforts, such as selecting “environmental model cities” and developing training and activities for senior citizens to serve as specialists and/or volunteers.  Toyako Summit will be held this July.  As a chair, I would like to show the Japanese leadership, with support from senior citizens, so that the worldwide efforts will be further made to protect environment.

  I hope this symposium will bring fruitful results.



<Guest speech: Mr. Masao Kimiwada (President, TV Asahi)>

 It is such a great honor to support this timely and important symposium hosted by JANCA. I have heard that JANCA supports various activities for senior citizens (e.g., “Mottainai” campaign, long-term care, energy-saving activities, recycling and environmental protection) and develops its network. In this symposium, I hope to see a lot of useful opinions and ideas on how to deal with the aging society and environmental problems. I will be most grateful if each of you can find some hints you can use in daily living and the network is strengthened.

 I would like to end with my wishes for the success of this symposium and the further prosperity of JANCA.


<Message: Ms. Irene Hoskins (President, International Federation on Ageing) (Message read by Yoshiko Yamada, JANCA staff)>


Both the young and the old are particularly at risk when it comes to climate change and environmental deterioration. Older persons are, however, much more than simply the victims of environmental change and climate change, such as global warming. Based on their knowledge, their wisdom and their experience, they can become agents for change for a better environmental future. There is an old African proverb “When an old person dies, a library disappears.”  It is not difficult to understand that this includes a library on the environment. Let us make sure their knowledge and wisdom – their “libraries” of knowledge — are appreciated and utilized.

IFA salutes and congratulates JANCA for their initiative “Senior’s Go Green.”