Now Reports

Whippersnappers Are Saving The World!

If you can’t fix the environment, please stop breaking it!” Severn said to the world leaders at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. She was only twelve years old.

Page 65 of the Sunshine English Textbook for second-year, public JHS Students paraphrases one Ms. Severn Cullis-Suzuki, known better, perhaps as “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes.” How did she earn such an eminent moniker? She dared to browbeat every adult on Earth for six minutes, and forty seconds! Google her. Have a listen. I dare, YOU!

The people who put together the textbooks, here in Japan, are on the right educational track. Ms. Cullis-Suzuki is a choice, modern heroine to include in our children’s reading for plenty of great reasons.

She formed the Environmental Children’s Organization, ECO, at the age of nine. She hit the world stage with this speech gone viral-video, at twelve. She was an intelligent, confident, plain spoken, and perhaps most importantly tuned-in, and turned-on to science, girl. She is a “go getter” and as such, she is exactly the role-model I want my kid to emulate. Don’t you? The Board of Education does. That’s why she’s in the book!

However, there are two bits of irony here which raise my proverbial dodesho eyebrow. First is that this role-model is Canadian. Yes, she is ethnically half Japanese, and this is an English textbook, but I must ask; where are the Japanese teenage role-models? I know they exist. Why not include some in the textbooks? I want my kid to be proud that he is Japanese. Kids are smart. They know what we are saying. Can we expect our children to develop the confidence to boldly lecture the big, scary world of adults, if we have given them no role models with which they identify?

The second bit of irony is that Severn’s poignant 1992 message directly addresses adults. So I have pulled it out of our children’s textbooks, to EChO it here, now, again.

You see, JHS students walk to school, rain or shine. They don’t use a drop of gas, not even oil for a bicycle chain. They wear no make-up. Their hairstyles are simple. They possess a basic uniform wardrobe. They rely on paper, and pencils, not fancy electronic gizmos. They have a simple chair, and desk. They recycle all their garbage.

They even reuse functional, but aging structures propped up with earthquake proofing, which have minimal landscaping, fluorescent lights, and mostly manila paint. They clean with brooms, water, newspaper, cloth, and very few detergents. They play on sand playgrounds which require no sprinklers, or fertilizers. Message-boards have no cork. Solar panels are on the roofs. Getting the idea?

Students tolerate summer’s heat, and humidity sans air conditioning with few lucky exceptions, and only recently, enjoy ceiling fans. Likewise, the winter cold is endured relying only upon warm clothes, and the heat of each other to warm their classrooms. There is no central heating. No hot water, or paper-towels are used.

They eat a diet largely of rice, and vegetables. Liver is on the lunch menu, fairly regularly. You don’t eat liver. Do you? I didn’t think so. They drink tea, or water from a thermos. Nope, not supporting any fast food businesses, or plastic bottle vendors here. Lunch is catered in reusable containers, and served on trays with metal utensils; no napkins; no paper plates.

I am NOT complaining about, or criticizing the school system. Honorably, our children are taught to lead a highly responsible lifestyle. In fact, Fukuoka’s Junior High School students are environmental messiahs, saving the world from impending disaster, one day at a time. These kids deserve every adult’s deepest respect, fervent gratitude, and cooperative support in their daily efforts to save our dear Earth.

So the next time we are idling a huge, fuel-burning SUV’s engine, or enjoying air conditioning, or a heater, or burning up gasoline waiting in line at the McDonald’s drive-through within walking distance of our house, or trotting around a balmy shopping mall in the dead of winter, or sitting on a toasty bus, train, taxi, or toilet seat, or reclining in a comfy, leather office chair, let us take a moment to think of our precious, little angels. Let us ask ourselves, are we adults doing all we can to save our progeny from their plight? After all, it is us who are supposed to be our children’s heroes, and heroines, isn’t it? Dodesho?

Text and illustrations by Matt Simpson, USA, Nice Guy/Teacher

Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn169, Jan. 2013)

Speak out!
Opinions expressed here are our writer’s and not the publisher’s.
Only in Japan, you say? Share YOUR opinion here in print and online.
Pitch your idea:

Fukuoka Prefecture
Fukuoka City
Published: Dec 20, 2012 / Last Updated: Jun 13, 2017

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.