Human economic and social activity is contingent on environmental stability. If humans are to live on the earth, the following basic principles must be adhered to: (1) Isolate human beings from nature (protect the natural environment), i.e. maximize the volume of nature and minimize contact with it be human beings, the cause of pollution, and (2) reuse items contaminated by human beings (recycling-based society), i.e. if humans, the source of contamination, cause contamination for unavoidable reasons, minimize the destruction of the natural world through reuse and recycling.
1. Isolate human beings from nature to the greatest extent possible
The first principle is to “isolate human beings from nature.” People and industries should be concentrated in cities, and by actively depopulating regions that have become sparsely populated, it will be important to protect nature from human beings, the source of pollution (Action 61). At present, numerous systems are being implemented to protect natural environments through zoning. These include both international initiatives such as Natural World Heritage and the Ramsar Convention and domestic ones such as protected natural areas, national parks, and quasi-national parks. Such systems need to be utilized to clearly zone areas where the natural environment should be preserved, step up the protection of natural environments, and limit human use as a tourism resource, for eco-tourism, and so on.
2. Reuse items contaminated by human beings. Ensure that efforts are made to “recycle, reduce, and reuse” nationwide.
The second principle is to “reuse items contaminated by human beings.” Japan has world-class environmental regulations of various types. In particular, numerous initiatives have been made to achieve the transition to a recycling-based society, i.e. to recycle, reduce, and reuse. The promotion of recycling has reduced the volume of waste, and this trend looks set to continue, but efforts to establish a recycling-based society remain patchy. The know-how of local governments that have made progress in this area needs to be rolled out nationwide.
In addition, regarding the reuse of industrial waste, three things are important: assuming from the design phase that the product will be recycled, designing manufacturing processes and distribution systems that minimize environmental impact, and establishing a business model that incorporates, right from the start, a route back at the collection phase. If private-sector companies invest money and technology to make the “reuse of industrial waste” an integral part of their business flow, this flow can be accelerated. We therefore want the government to give private-sector companies the incentive to do that.
3. Raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity, expand nature education, and strengthen restrictions on invasive non-native species
In 2010, at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10), the Nagoya Protocol, which defined global objectives for biodiversity towards 2020, was adopted. Each country, including Japan, is obliged to determine national objectives that will serve to help the global objectives be achieved. Japan’s national objectives include making biodiversity mainstream in society and curbing the spread of invasive non-native species. However, awareness of the importance of biodiversity has been extremely low in Japan. Restrictions on non-native species, for example, have been very lax. To maintain and increase biodiversity, it will be necessary to expand education and awareness-raising, such as by providing more environmental education for children, and beefing up regulations, such as by providing more protection for species at risk of extinction and increasing restrictions on non-native species.
4. Spread the Japan standard for the environment worldwide and roll out entire systems overseas
As an advanced environmental country, Japan should be able to make a big contribution to protecting natural environments and establishing recycling-based societies around the world, particularly in Asia. We hope that by spreading the Japan standard and Japanese rules concerning the environment worldwide, and rolling out overseas entire systems for the reuse of industrial waste, including manufacturing processes, distribution, and collection, recycling companies and other environmental companies will expand into overseas markets and that this will elevate the Japan brand. We then want a virtuous cycle to be established whereby environmental companies that have acquired a competitive edge overseas further contribute to the protection of natural environments and the establishment of recycling-based societies through technological innovation.