Category Archives: Kim

Amelia and Yue Chin are now alumni + Andi is PhD + Kim and Kylie are graduating

Already 3 students graduated from the GPES master’s and 2 are on the edge of graduation.

Amelia, Yue Chin and Andi all obtained their master’s degree in september 2015, respectively writing about flows of radioactive contaminants in Japanese rivers, corals’ nutrients intake, and transcription factors involved in chloroplast differentiation. Andi however extended for a PhD program.

Only last month, both Kim (PhD) and Kylie (master) submitted their thesis, and both greatly performed during their oral defence.

Kim first resumed and interlinked the contents of his three published articles, namely “Comparative analysis of environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures of Japan and New Zealand”, “Large scale renewable energy project barriers: EIA streamlining efforts in Japan and the EU”, and finally “the determinants of wind energy shares in the United States: Drivers and Barriers”. Kim’s work provided us an in-depth understanding of legal, political and administrative burdens that might hamper renewable energy adoption in various countries, as well as how to overcome these obstacles.

Finally, Kylie elaborated an analysis of biodiversity range shifts, based on an exhaustive data set detailing the species registered at all hydraulic dams around Japan in the past 20 years. She concluded that the shifting patterns are highly variable depending on each taxon, and that the hypothesis of northwards migration due to climate change may not quite be warranted.

Congratulations guys! We thank all of you for your great contributions to GPES and hope you all the best for your professional careers!kylie-thesis

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

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)

Experiences in Northern Japan (Tohoku & Hokkaido Trips Summer 2014)

Hello everyone,

I want to show you some of the impressions I got this summer while I travelled through the North of Japan. I had the privilege of being able to take some time of from my intense research and visit some of the less touristic parts of Japan. I hiked through tiny villages and enjoyed Onsen (Japanese hot spring) in giant, almost surreal hotels in the middle of nowhere.

I travelled with two great friends that I got know while being enrolled at the Todai language school.

So please have a look at these picture that were taken during two separate trips, the first in the Tohoku region of northern Honhsu (Japan’s main island). I used the a special Japan Rail discount ticket called “Seishin 18 Kippu” (http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/seishun18.html), that allows to travel an unlimited distance during 5 days (consecutive or non-consecutive) on local or rapid JR trains. This a truly awesome way to experience some more remote areas of Japan and be able to get know places far off the beaten paths. Our Tohoku itinerary was Tokyo -> Mototate (Yamagata) -> Akita -> Morioka (Iwate) -> Sendai (Miyagi) -> Tokyo.

For the second trip in Hokkaido (Japan northernmost island), we rented a car and travelled the rural east of the least densely populated island in Japan, which allowed a unique immersion into the island’s culture and the unique natural beauty of its landscapes. Our Hokkaido itinerary was Sapporo -> Obihiro -> Ashoro -> Lake Akan -> Kitami -> Asahikawa -> Asahidake -> Furano -> Sapporo.

Best regards,

Kim

Please enjoy the pictures from northern Japan:

 

Tohoku

Hokkaido

(Pictures ©2014 Kim)

Toilet Exposition at the Miraikan Museum in Odaiba, Tokyo (August 2014)

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Hello everyone,

Two GPES students (Yue Chin and Kim) recently joined a group of international students from Todai to visit the Miraikan a.k.a The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, located in Odaiba, an artificial island with the Koto-ward of Tokyo.

Please check out their website for further information: http://www.miraikan.jst.go.jp/en/

The main purpose of our visit was the ominous “Toilet Exposition”, which is supposed to be an informative and fun way to educate people on toilets and the roles the latter play in the lives of people in industrialized countries such as Japan. Since people nowadays, at least in the more developed parts of our world, seem to take toilets and human waste disposal for granted, this exposition wants to teach people that toilets are more than just a piece of equipment to rid ourselves of our excrements. They are a device to keep our living environments clean and sanitary and thus prevent the spreading of diseases. Given these obvious advantages, people should have more respect for toilets as well as for the purpose they serve in our societies.

The exposition was structured in a way that people could experience first hand what it means to be a toilet or human waste. On their path through the exposition, visitors were guided by the toilets or pieces of human waste who highlighted their personal views and feelings on what feels to be a toilet or a piece of poo. That being said, the most fun parts were undoubtedly the “Toilet Slide”, in which people, dressed as poos, could slide through a large-sized toilet and walk their way through the sewers until they’ve reached the ocean, their final destination. At the end of the exposition, a singing “Toilet Choir” concluded the tour outlining one last time the virtues of toilets and how they benefit mankind.

This was a unique exposition and definitely something that makes Japan kind of unique in the way they present knowledge regarding delicate themes.

The exposition is usually held from July until October each year, but even outside these dates, the Miraikan is definitely a museum that one should visit while in Tokyo, and if only to see the giant LCD globe in the main hall.

Best regards,

The GPES Student Group

(Pictures ©2014 Kim)

CWAJ Foreign Student’s Circle Activities 2014

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Hello everyone,

Throughout this year I participated in activities initiated by an organization called the College Woman’s Association of Japan (CWAJ).

Despite their name, they also offer certain programs that are addressed to both genders and aim at introducing traditional Japanese culture and costums to foreign university students. The Foreign Student’s Circle (FSC) organizes several activities each year like attending cultural events or taking students to walks during which students are exposed to traditional Japanese landscapes and can truly immerse themesleves in Japanese culture, or even put their Japanese language skills into use. The nice FSC mentors are always happy to tell students intersting anecdotes about Japan and its people or history.

Earlier this year attended for example a cultural walk in the historic Tokyo neighborhood of Asakusa where the famous Sensoji shrine and pagoda are located. We were introduced into the history of the shrine and could even observe a traditional Japanese shinto wedding (no pictures allowed, sorry…).

In November, I attended a traditional martial arts festival in Yoyogi park where many ancient practices were showcased and thus one could get a very clear idea of how these were applied during past periods in Japan.

If in the future you would like to participate in one of these events, please have a look at their website, and after a quick sign-up you will be able to attend every FSC gathering.

Website link: http://www.cwaj.org/Education/foreignstudentscircle.html

Best regards,

Kim

(Pictures ©2014 Kim)