We’ll give you back Matsuzaka, if…

… we can import your conservation practices instead. Now, as a huge Red Sox fan, that’s a big sacrifice I’m willing to make. I mean, this guy throws a gyroball!

What am I talking about? Well, as this piece in the Globe points out,

Unlike the vast and swaggering United States, Japan has confronted the reality of limited oil, especially in its energy conservation efforts. According to the International Energy Agency, Japan’s energy consumption as a percentage of gross domestic product is the lowest in the world… Japan has managed to drive down energy use dramatically without sacrificing the comforts of an affluent society. The per capita consumption of energy in Japan is nearly half that in the United States, but the per capita incomes are roughly the same.

As the writer points out, this is one area where the Japanese culture of conformity has a distinct advantage. Neighbors frown at those who fail to recycle properly and there is now a big push for people to bring their own chopsticks with them to restaurants. Can you imagine an American family bringing their own silverware to McDonald’s?

But the government has heavily promoted energy efficiency and conservation:

Government campaigns to urge energy conservation are myriad. There are tax deductions for consumers who buy “green tech” appliances and cars; a “top runner” designation for environmentally friendly companies; a ” warm biz” and ” cool biz” campaign that sanctioned the removal of suit jackets by Japan’s decorous businessmen in order to keep air-conditioned offices no cooler than 68 degrees; and a ” minus 6 percent team” for citizens to join to help Japan meet its Kyoto goal of a 6 percent annual reduction in greenhouse gases, on the way toward 20 percent below 1990 levels. Wakabayashi says that 1.8 million Japanese citizens have pledged to take six steps to achieve the goal, such as turning off the lights.

Topography plays a big role, as well. It’s a lot easier for the Japanese to built a highly efficient public transportation system. And the lack of agricultural lands and domestic energy sources have forced the Japanese to realize the limits of their natural resources. This reality will hit us as well someday. The only question is when and how well will we be prepared?

The key comes back to popular will–the shift in cultural values. We can’t import the Japanese tradition of conformity and a priority of community and family above the individual, and perhaps we shouldn’t want to. But I wonder if or when we’ll see the day when throwing out something that can be recycled or driving a car that gets 15 miles per gallon will be looked on with the same disdain as smoking in front of your kids.


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