All posts by gpesstudentsutokyo

Science of Impurity & Electric Power Industry in Japan Presentations

Hello everyone,

Today I want to draw your attention towards the amazing presentations that fellow GPES member Andi presented in the cause of the “Foundations of Environmental Sciences I” class in October as well as November 2014. His presentations are summaries of book chapters, each time complemented with own additions and information.

He kindly agreed to make them available (therefore please do not reproduce or distribute without his permission) so that everyone can get and impression on both the evolution of water purity analysis in this “COUNTING THE COUNTLESS : THE TEMPTATIONS OF QUANTITATIVE BACTERIOLOGY, 1880-1890″ presentation as well being able to find a brief outline on the basic structure of the Japanese electricity in post-WWII Japan under American occupation in his “THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ELECTRIC POWER INDUSTRY: ROAD TO SELF-RELIANCE” presentation.

Without further ado, please have a look at his great work that makes those difficult topics more accessible and comprehensible:

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I. COUNTING THE COUNTLESS : THE TEMPTATIONS OF QUANTITATIVE BACTERIOLOGY, 1880-1890

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II. THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE ELECTRIC POWER INDUSTRY: ROAD TO SELF-RELIANCE

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

©2014 Andi & GPES Student Group

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GO Global Study Abroad Event – IARU Global Summer Program (Komaba, Thursday, December 11, 2014)

Hello GPES and fellow PEAK/GPEAK/Todai students,

Please have a look at the following event that will take place on Komaba campus (Bldg. 13, Room 1313) on Thursday, December 11, 2014 in the evening from 18:15 to 19:40.

If you are interested in spending a summer at some of the best universities in the world, then you should definitely consider applying to the IARU Global Summer Program.

For details on IARU and and the event please see:

http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ja/administration/go-global/event/info_session2014_2.html

http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ja/administration/go-global/event/pdf/poster_E_000.pdf

http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ja/administration/go-global/program/iaru_gsp-en.html

http://www.iaruni.org/

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

(picture/poster courtesy of Todai Go Global administration)

Odaiba Trip November 2014 – Karaoke, Food and Kim’s Birthday

Hello everyone,

At the beginning of November 2014, the GPES members went to together on an exciting trip to discover the mysteries of one Tokyo’s most renowned entertainment districts. Odaiba is an artificial island that is divided between the Koto, Shinagawa and Minato wards.

We stopped at Tokyo Teleport station to visit many of the most famous sights in Odaiba such as a huge Gundam robot figure, a small replication of the Statue of Liberty, whose original can be found in New York City. We visited the Fuji Television headquarters, which was filled with memorabilia for Japanese TV drama aficionados.

Then we went on to the main event, an extensive of one of Japanese favourite pastimes, Karaoke, which is  a form of entertainment that originated in Japan in the 1960’s and since has found success in many countries all over the world. It is basically a form of musical rendition of famous songs, in which the original voices and singing are muted and amateur singers then attempt to recreate the original singing parts as true to the original as possible.

As the we met on a national holiday, the place was already entirely occupied upon our arrival so we had to wait for approximately one hour. In the meantime, we explored another of Japan’s many peculiar attractions: UFO catchers. Although these are not limited to Japan anymore, the variations and sophistication of the machines in Japan is certainly unique, there was even a Haagen-Dazs ice cream (!!!) catcher. We tried our luck and some of us actually succeeded in catching one of these sought after stuffed creatures.

Soon thereafter we got the sign that our personal Karaoke booth was ready, so set a song playlist among a wide array of Japanese and English-language songs and just sang our hearts out.

After that, we went to Andi’s home to enjoy some the DELICIOUS Indonesian food that he did prepare. The taste was awesome and the whole dish underlined once again Andi’s star chef-like cooking skills:)

And to top off this great day, my fellow GPES friends surprised Kim with some very creative gifts (a Ted-dy bear and a lush wig to let Kim dwell in past and better times..;-);  and  an original cake in the form of a cup of Ramen noodles.

All in all it was an amazing day with great times shared among good friends. I hope you will enjoy the pictures, have a look.

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

(Pictures ©2014 Lewis & Amelia)

The Illusion of Self-Determination – November 2014 U.S. Midterm Election Results Commentary

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 Picture retrieved from politico.com and courtesy of AP Photo

Hello everyone,

The most recent “midterm” elections in the United States turned pretty disastrous for United States President Obama and his Democratic Party).

For more background information please see:

http://www.nytimes.com/pages/politics/2014-midterm-elections/index.html

Apart from Republicans even widening their already comfortable gap in the lower chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, they scored a much a larger victory in the upper chamber, the Senate.

With Republicans regaining a majority in the Senate, starting January 2014, it will be almost impossible for President Obama or the Democratic to influence American policies through the ordinary legislative procedure in Congress (he can still further some of his agenda through executive orders albeit this tool is limited in scope for many policy areas).

Republicans will most likely continue their general strategy of absolute obstruction and avoid compromises on any controversial topics e.g. immigration, health care extension, student loans, financial regulation or electoral reform.

The most crucial point is that this major political shift in the United States basically eradicates the hopes of creating a comprehensive climate change agreement at the end of next year in Paris. Republicans have generally a far more conservative stance to issues relating to energy or global warming. They actively support energy generation from fossil fuel combustion and want to limit the development of renewables (although there a regional variances between individual States’ politicians).

The most pressing question however that the results of these midterm elections bring to mind is why Americans would choose politics that are either largely dominated by radical Tea Party wing, that defends views on the far right of the political spectrum; or by large corporations that have been transforming these midterm elections in the costliest midterm elections in U.S. history by pouring billions of largely undocumented money into advertisement or campaigns that were set up in most cases to discredit Democratic candidates (it also affected Republicans, but in significantly fewer cases). The recent Supreme Court of the U.S. landmark decision Citizens United of 2010 created the foundation for this theoretically unlimited spending destined to influence election races in one way or another.

Republicans forced a government shutdown in 2013 and basically held the whole country hostage over some short-term political game. People now seem to hold the President accountable for every blunder and legislative stagnation in Congress despite the fact that Republicans practised a strategy of almost complete obstruction, far away from the former members of the GOP that were always willing to make compromises instead of just ruling out categorically every compromise out of an overreliance on a very questionable ideology. In almost every political matter, even the ones that they did support at earlier stages like trade agreements, they started to block every Democratic initiative, either in the House, where the held the majority, or in the Senate, by using the “Filibuster” tool in record numbers, unprecedented in history.

This basically made a comprehensive strategy regarding climate change, carbon emissions, energy efficiency or renewable energy development on a national level almost impossible and forced Obama to use executive orders to achieve at least some progress. I am not saying President Obama did everything right, but with regards to the uncompromising stance he faced from across the aisle at Congress made any constructive law-and policymaking nearly impossible.

The topic that dominated these midterm elections most was the general dissatisfaction of how Obama was handling this country. People want to pay fewer taxes and have less government intrusion, yet they feel unsafe because of ISIS or the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, since they criticize that the government is not doing enough to protect them. They completely eclipse that efficient government services need funds to run and those come from taxes. People hate the political and legislative stalemate in Congress, yet they seem to have forgotten that the Republicans categorically opposed most legislative initiatives not because they felt they were ill conceived, but their only agenda was complete and utter obstruction.

The United States under President Obama recovered from one the worst economic recessions in history, most large companies are more profitable than ever before, more that 9 million jobs have been added since Obama took office the deficit was reduced by half, and more than 7 million formerly uninsured people now have more affordable coverage. Yet people say the “fed up” with Obama’s way of handling things.

People say they want to decide themselves what is best for them, without government interference, without having to contribute in any way to the advancement of the nation as a whole, only viewing their lives from a narrow individualistic and opportunistic point of view in which sharing any of your wealth is denounced as “Socialism” or “Communism”. Solidarity, empathy and tolerance took a hard hit on November 4, 2014.

What is even more frustrating is that people do not realize that they are from free since large companies already dictate most of their lives. Banks dictate who gets a loan or not, food companies make their products greasier and add more sugar to basically create a notion of addicts that find it hard to quit. Large oil & gas companies exploit public land with little to no accountability (see http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924). Insurance companies deny claims on daily bases and pharmaceutical companies charge horrendous amounts for essential drugs.

The government bailouts of the largest financial institutions in 2008 and 2009 basically rendered the concept of “privatizing profits and socializing losses” into a mantra for large companies, regardless of the sector. Unlimited private enrichment and greed, without interference, accountability or social responsibility has become the philosophy for most businesses, and recently as well for a large part of the American population (white, old or without any college education) who voted mostly for the Republicans. Notwithstanding this egoistic view, many of them ignore that they get social security, Medicare or Medicaid and do not realize that the government needs adequate resources in order to continue funding these programs without which they would find themselves in extreme poverty rather sooner than later.

Therefore there needs to be a strong government to oversee, regulate and fine these companies in case of non-compliance, since although people can go to court in theory, the cost of legal action often dissuades many victims. Protection of consumers is one of the only ways to guarantee competition, the backbone of free markets. This also applies for things that do not necessarily have any monetary value at first sight such as clean air or a mitigated global warming. There needs to be oversight over and protection of natural resources that belong to the public and thus should not be exploited by private entities for personal gain, such as air, water or a functioning eco system.

Hence, from an environmental point of view, these elections were a major setback. It will be much harder now for any nationally significant environmental or renewable energy policies to pass Congress or for Obama to obtain approval for a comprehensive, legally binding climate change agreement next year in Paris that contains substantial greenhouse gas emission cuts. People need to realize that they cannot ask for change and more efficient government if they vote for a political blockade out of short-term emotional frustration.

In conclusion the American people made a short-term decision with long-term consequences far beyond their own national borders.

This commentary reflects solely the opinion of Kim and is not representative of the GPES Student Group’s opinions or views.

©2014 Kim

Human Population Dynamics Lectures & Workshops by Guest Lecturer Prof. Joel E. Cohen from Rockefeller University (October 2014)

Hello everyone,

In October 2014, we had the immense pleasure of welcoming Prof. Joel E. Cohen as a guest lecturer at the College/Graduate School of Arts Sciences of the University of Tokyo, Komaba where he gave a series of lectures and workshops.

Prof. Cohen is currently a researcher and professor at the Rockefeller University located in New York in which he heads the Laboratory of Populations. He holds a simultaneous professorship at Columbia University in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.  Please have a look at his personal websites:

http://www.rockefeller.edu/research/faculty/labheads/JoelCohen/

http://eesc.columbia.edu/faculty/joel-e-cohen

During his series of lectures, he introduced the GPES/GPEAK/PEAK students to Human Population Dynamics, a research field that tries to “to understand how demographic, economic and cultural changes will interact with Earth’s physical, chemical and biological environments” (quote from official Rockefeller website). He outlined the general history and principles of human population growth and how recent developments affect the world’s natural resources.

Several mathematical models on how to predict human population were highlighted and the how certain factors can influence the outcome of predictions.

Problems of access to food and water for the majority of world population were discussed and whether or not the world will reach a certain population limit at which it is not possible anymore to sustain additional human life on this planet.

Finally the workshop assignments confronted students with the correlation between human population growth and worldwide energy consumption, as energy demand tends to increase when societies’ development level increases. Development is usually accompanied with rising industrialization and urbanization, which again puts even additional pressure on natural resources. Therefore the social impact of unmanaged population growth can have large impact on a country’s capacity to raise its general development level.

 Solutions include active natural resource management as human population growth naturally stabilizes as societies reach a critical tipping point of human development.

This was a overall a great set of lectures and workshops, and benefited from motivated students who showed a very high degree of interest and curiosity in the subject matter.

We as GPES Student Group want to extend our thanks to Prof. Cohen for his great introduction into a very complex research field as well as GPES for organizing these lectures and workshops.

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

 

(Pitcures ©2014 GPES Student Group & GPES)

65th Komaba Festival on the University of Tokyo Komaba Campus (Nov. 22-24, 2014)

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Picture courtesy of the Komaba Festival Comittee

Hello everyone,

I would like to direct your attention on the upcoming 65th edition of the Komaba Festival at the Komaba campus of the University of Tokyo. The festival is organized by the students who are based on Komaba campus and will offer a variety of activities and events that will span for three days from Saturday, November 22 to Monday, November 24, 2014, each day from 9:00(am) to 18:00(pm).

Please check the official website (soon available in English as well):

http://www.komabasai.net/65/visitor/

Directions: Please use the Keio Inokashira Line (Local train) from Shibuya station the Komabatodaimae station.

BERC Energy Summit 2014 Expo Poster Presentation ( Berkeley, CA, U.S.A – October 16, 2014)

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Picture source: berc.berkeley.edu

Hello everyone,

On October 16, 2014 I presented a poster at the UC Berkeley BERC Energy Summit 2014 Expo (http://www.bercenergysummit.com/#index). I was able to showcase some of my research and interact with some of the most proficient people in the energy business. They were able to provide me with valuable information on renewable energy policies in California and the United States.

My poster was titled” Legal Barriers to Environmental Regulatory Framework Optimization and Renewable Energy (RE) Development in Post-Fukushima Japan: A Comparative Analysis of Environmental Impact Assessment Laws for Large-scale RE Power Station Projects in Japan, New Zealand and California”. It provided a comparative chart outlining the Environmental Impact Assessment processes in these three territories in order to identify the strength and flaws of each system with regards to acquiring permits for the development and construction of large-scale renewable energy power projects such as wind farms.

The poster was met with genuine interest, reactions were very positive and the feedback was both thought provoking and engaging.

So please have a look at the poster (please only reproduce, copy or distribute with prior approval/authorization):

BERC Summit 2014 Poster [©2014 Kim D.G. Schumacher]

And finally here are some impressions from the conference:

(Pictures and poster ©2014 Kim)

UC Berkeley and Stanford University Visits (October 16-22, 2014)

Hello everyone,

I recently I had the pleasure of being able to go California, or more precisely the San Francisco Bay Area for a conference at the University of California, Berkeley BERC Energy Summit (for more info please see the post “BERC Energy Summit 2014 Expo Poster Presentation (October 16, 2014)”, http://wp.me/p4zqTn-aU).

Since UC Berkeley is my alma mater (I studied there as a Masters student before joining the University of Tokyo), this was a particularly nice trip as I was not only able to meet some of old friends and faculty members but I also visited Stanford University in order to meet up with Mark Z. Jacobson (https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/), famous professor in environmental engineering and directing of the Atmosphere and Energy program.

Below is a selection of pictures giving you some impressions of what the Berkeley and Stanford campuses look like.

Best regards,

Kim

 

(Pictures ©2014 Kim)

GPES/PEAK – Fukushima Investigation Committee Chairman Meeting with Kiyoshi Kurokawa (Oct. 10, 2014)

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Hello everyone,

On October 10, 2014, GPES and PEAK students of the University of Tokyo had the pleasure to welcome and meet Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa (see picture above, 4th from the left in white shirt), who is Professor of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and is Science Advisor to the Cabinet of Japan. (Please see: http://www.who.int/social_determinants/thecommission/kurokawa/en/ & http://en.ir3s.u-tokyo.ac.jp/faculty/kurokawa/)

He chaired the “Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Company” that was set up by the National Diet of Japan in the aftermath of said nuclear disaster in order to assess whether or not this incident could have been prevented and evaluate the level of human error. This committee produced the final report in July 2012 (http://naiic.go.jp/en/).

We had great talks with him on energy policies in general and nuclear power in Japan, and how the current government is dealing with the current almost absolute dependence on energy imports due to the complete temporary shutdown of all of the country’s nuclear power reactors.

I hope we can have interesting discussions in the future again as he is one of the very public figures and national researchers that is openly criticizing the various Japanese governments (past and present) that enabled a relatively smooth operation of nuclear power stations without any significant stifling regulation such as strict safety standards or frequent security assessments.

So please check his work and his personal profile.

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

(Pictures ©2014 GPES Student Group)

GPES Soup Curry Meeting (October 2014)

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Hello everyone,

At the start of last October, the GPES Student Group members all gathered to go and enjoy some delicious “Soup Curry” in the Shimokitazawa in the western part of Tokyo (in the Setagaya-ward to be more precise). Soup curry is a dish that reputedly originates from Sapporo, Hokkaido, although that fact is hard to verify.

A restaurant called “Magic Spice” had built up quite a reputation for itself over time and we wanted to find out what all the talk was about. We went on a weekday, but to our surprise the place a packed and I doubt that we would’ve be able to get a seats for a 6-people party without prior reservation.

Please have a look: http://www.magicspice.net/

The decor and atmosphere are definitely unique and intriguing to say the least. This place seems to be literally “out of this world”. This theme does not halt at the menu either which surprises the irritated guest with strange spice combinations and denominations that only remotely relate to the actual ingredients contained in those spice mixes.

Anyway, thanks to the inspiring atmosphere and the fun conversations between the GPES students, this turned out to be truly great evening that was crowned with the birthday celebrations for Yue Chin and Amelia.

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

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(Pictures ©2014 GPES Student Group)