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Posted on on November 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Salaryman-turned-activist keeps island nation Tuvalu in the picture.

Staff writer, Japan Times online, November 22, 2008

Tanned and relaxed, 42-year-old Shuichi Endo has set himself a monumental task: Photograph 10,000 residents of the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu, nearly the entire population.

Island girl: Fatogea Matagale eats fresh fish just caught in the sea of Funafuti Island in April 2007. She told photographer Shuichi Endo, “I am happy whenever I play a kick-the-can game with my friends. I wish to make more friends.” COURTESY OF SHUICHI ENDO

He started the project last year to draw attention to the impact global warming is having on the islanders. So far, he has taken pictures of 1,001 people on Nukulaelae and Niutao islands.

“Tuvaluans are happy every day. I don’t know if we are happy every day. It would be horrible if Tuvalu sinks into the sea because of carbon dioxide emitted from our unhappy economic life,” said Endo, who runs the nonprofit organization Tuvalu Overview, which offers lectures and exhibitions on Tuvalu and organizes eco-tours there.

His photographs capture people in their ordinary activities, surrounded by nature. He believes Japanese people could change their lifestyle if only they could take a lesson from the simple, happy life led by the islanders.

His photographs are being displayed until Dec. 11 at Shinozaki Bunka Plaza in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, near the west exit of Shinozaki Station on the Toei Shinjuku Line.

Tuvalu, consisting of four low-lying reef islands and five atolls that lie about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, could disappear if the ocean continues to rise due to global warming.

According to a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, the average sea level could go up as much as 59 cm in 2100 compared with 2000.

Endo said people in Tuvalu began to feel the environmental impact of rising sea levels about 10 years ago. There is more flooding at high tide, for example, which leaves groundwater and crops damaged by salt, he said.

Environment groups such as Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature warn global warming could have serious consequences, including frequent floods and storm surges, for low-lying Pacific islands, and the extreme weather could devastate the fishing and agriculture that dominates their economies.

Before starting the NPO, Endo was a typical salaryman, working long hours in a competitive environment.

After graduating from the architecture department of Osaka University of Arts, he landed a job at Taisei Corp., one of Japan’s most prominent general contractors.

He said he wanted to make environment-friendly buildings, as he had also studied environmental issues in school, but his colleagues told him there was no money in this.

He learned about Tuvalu a few years after joining Taisei.

In 1992, he read a newspaper article about the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, which described global warming and its influence on Tuvalu.

“I always loved nature, so I was sad to know such a beautiful country may disappear because of global warming,” he said.

Since then, he became deeply concerned about Tuvalu. In 1997, he quit his job because it conflicted with what he really wanted to do, which was to address environmental problems.

Hoping to help Tuvalu, which does not have a strong industry, raise revenues to protect its environment, Endo made a business proposal to the Tuvalu government in 1996, and he made his first trip there in 1998 to enter his bid.

Under the proposal, the Tuvalu government would charge companies, such as television stations, to use the country’s Internet domain name “.tv.”

During that first trip, he visited an uninhabited island with a Tuvaluan friend. While he had brought along two water bottles and a sandwich, his friend had only a hatchet.

“After my friend landed, he climbed up a palm tree and got us a coconut. Then he caught a fish from the sea, steamed it with palm leaves, washed the burned part off in the sea, and gave it to me. It was all simple and delicious.”

The quiet life: Shuichi Endo (left), photographer and representative of NPO Tuvalu Overview, hangs out with a local resident on Niutau Island in September. COURTESY OF SHUICHI ENDO

It was at that moment Endo realized he did not need a lot to enjoy life.

“I was working in a high-rise building in Shinjuku, wearing expensive suits. It was like a TV drama featuring trendy young people, and after the visit to Tuvalu I wondered what meaning there was to such a life.”

Though the Tuvalu government did not adopt his business proposal, Endo continued to care about the island nation.

He has traveled between Tuvalu and Japan numerous times, organizing events and activities to tell people in Japan about global warming and its impact on Tuvalu.

Although the situation for Tuvalu is grave, the people in Endo’s photographs are happy, with big smiles and shining eyes.

“They know how to enjoy life without depending on money,” he said.

Even time does not seem to matter for them.

From August to last month, Endo visited Niutao Island, 20 hours by boat from the main Funafuti Island. He said there is no set timetable for the vessels operating between the two islands, so he just had to wait until one showed up.

“I was lucky I could come back as scheduled,” he laughed. “When Tuvaluans on Niutao Island visit Funafuti, what matters to them is to arrive there, but not what time they arrive.”

It will take him a long time to photograph 10,000 islanders because he spends time with each one to get to know them first.

However, he said he will continue taking their pictures so he can show the Japanese people their simple and happy life coexisting with nature.

“I want more Japanese to realize that just living a life is already a beautiful thing,” he said.


Posted on on August 16th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

WIP on our website means WORK (WRITING) IN PROGRESS – or simply unfinished article. When finished the WIP will be taken off but the article will stay in place without the UPDATED designation. Nevertheless, theses introductory lines will remain as a reminder that the article had a long birth.


The meeting, August 15, 2008 was chaired by the Ambassador For Palau. Present were also the Ambassadors from Nauru and from Fiji. Many other Missions were represented – some of these missions have representatives on the working committee. Involved are also some of the active NGOs.

At present the sponsors of a resolution to be brought before the UN General Assembly are 11 from among the 14 Pacific Small Island Developing States – Fiji, Marshall Islands, The Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu; the Maldives and Seychelles from non-Pacific SIDS; Canada, the Philippines from among larger States. But these 15 States will pick up many more co-sponsors. Mentioned were Turkey, the EU, Austria and Iceland that have expressed their eagerness to join. There is no opposition we were told – but only some hesitation because it is seen as a new approach to the problem of the humanitarian impact of climate change that goes on already – this while in major UN institutions the debate has not led yet to action. The inhabitants of the small islands of the Pacific are the first to lose their habitat – and what we see is the eradication of UN Member States by this predictable catastrophe.

On our website we announced this encounter between the proponents of the resolution and the NGOs:

Posted on on August 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz ( also pointed out the topically relevant event at the Lincoln Center’s “Mostly Mozart Festival” when Lemi Ponifasio’s REQUIEM had its two evenings before a New York audience.The history of this special effort by the Pacific SIDS started on February 15, 2008, in a speech by Ambassador Stuart Beck of Palau, before the UN General Calls for Security Council Action to Protect Island Nations From Sea-Level Rise.

NEW YORK, NY, February 15, 2008 — Addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations at the High Level Debate on Climate Change, H.E. Stuart Beck, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Palau, citing the “life or death” nature of sea-level rise for the world’s island nations, urged the Security Council to utilize its powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to address this threat to member states by imposing mandatory greenhouse gas emission standards on all member states, and utilizing the power to sanction, if necessary, to encourage compliance with such standards.

He said:
“The waters continue to rise in Palau, and everywhere else…Though this litany of disasters has become well known in these halls, no action with remedial consequences has been taken…We take this opportunity to respectfully call upon the Security Council to react to the threat which we describe. Would any nation facing an invading army not do the same?”

States reacted swiftly to the statement. This week, Ambassadors are meeting in New York to draft a General Assembly Resolution requesting Security Council intervention to prevent an aggravation of the climate change situation caused by greenhouse gas emissions by states. Pacific Island states will be in the forefront of the effort, since they are both the most vulnerable states, and amongst the least responsible for the problem.

Last year, the Security Council debated the security implications of climate change. Its then President, Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett of the United Kingdom, affirmed that climate change is a threat to “our collective security in a fragile and increasingly interdependent world”. Chapter VII of the UN Charter conveys to the Security Council the necessary tools to address the problem, as it has done so in recent years in connection with terrorism and HIV/AIDS. No other international body has the power to mandate change in an effort to save the threatened island cultures of the world.

The full text of Ambassador Beck’s remarks at the UN Climate Change debate is as follows:

“Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, friends:

The waters continue to rise in Palau, and everywhere else. Salinization of fresh water and formerly productive lands continues apace. The reefs, the foundation of our food chain, experience periodic bleaching and death. Throughout the Pacific, sea level rise has not only generated plans for the relocation of populations, but such relocations are actually in progress. Though this litany of disasters has become well known in these halls, no action with remedial consequences has been taken. Larger countries can build dikes, and move to higher ground. This is not feasible for the small island states who must simply stand by and watch their cultures vanish.

Is the United Nations simply powerless to act in the face of this threat to the very existence of many of its member states? We suggest that it is not.

Last April, under the Presidency of the United Kingdom, the Security Council took up the issue of climate change. At that time, while there were some expressions of discomfort with the venue of the debate, a discomfort which we decidedly did not share, there was general agreement with the notion expressed by the President of the Security Council, UK Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett that climate change is a threat to “our collective security in a fragile and increasingly interdependent world”.

Islands are not the only countries whose existence is threatened. Ambassador Kaire Mbuende of Namibia characterized climate change as a ” a matter of life or death” for his country, observing that ” the developing countries in particular, have been subjected to what could be described as low-intensity biological or chemical warfare. Greenhouse gases are slowly destroying plants, animals and human beings.”

Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum at last years Security Council debate Ambassador Robert Aisi, of Papua New Guinea observed that climate change is no less a threat to small island states than the dangers of guns and bombs to larger countries. Pacific Island countries are likely to face massive dislocations of people, similar to flows sparked by conflict, and such circumstances will generate as much resentment, hatred and alienation as any refugee crisis.

Ambassador Aisi observed then, and we reiterate now, that it is the Security Council which is charged with protecting human rights and the integrity and security of States. The Security Council is empowered to make decisions on behalf of all States to take action on threats to international peace and security. While we applaud the efforts of the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary General to shine a light on this awful problem, we take this opportunity to respectfully call upon the Security Council to react to the threat which we describe. Would any nation facing an invading army not do the same?

Under Article 39 of the Charter, the Security Council “shall determine the existence of any threat to peace…and shall make recommendations…to maintain or restore international peace or security”. We call upon the Security Council to do this in the context of climate change.

Under Articles 40 and 41 of the Charter, it is the obligation of the Security Council to “prevent an aggravation of the situation” and to devise appropriate measures to be carried out by all States to do this. While we Small Island states do not have all the answers, we are not unmindful of the scientific certainty that excessive greenhouse gas emissions by states are the cause of this threat to international security and the existence of our countries. We therefore suggest that the Security Council should consider the imposition of mandatory emission caps on all states and use its power to sanction in order to encourage compliance.

We further propose that under Article 11 of the Charter, the General Assembly is empowered to call to the attention of the Security Council “situations which are likely to endanger international peace and security” and, at the appropriate time, we will call upon this body to do so. In the event that the General Assembly chooses not to avail itself of this right, then we will call upon the countries whose very existence is threatened to utilize Article 34 of the Charter, which empowers each Member State to bring to the attention of the Security Council any issue which “might lead to international friction”.
I think we can all agree that international friction is a mild term to describe the terrible plight in which the island nations now find themselves.

Our Charter provides a way forward. Our Security Council has the wisdom and the tools to address this situation. And while we debate, the waters are rising.

Thank you.”


Posted on on June 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (



Posted on on April 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


BANGKOK, Thailand (AP), April 3, 2008, reproted by USA Today — The U.S. government insists it is deeply engaged in talks started this week on the world’s next climate pact, but other negotiators are already looking ahead to the next administration — and wondering what to expect.

Nations have less than two years to piece together a deal that scientists say is needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and stop temperatures from rising so high they trigger disaster.

The high-stakes negotiations that began Monday in Thailand, however, are complicated by the coming U.S. presidential election.

Crucial details — such as how much Washington is willing to cut U.S. emissions — cannot be fully discussed until a new president takes office next year, slowing action on a final deal, some negotiators say. And it is far from certain what a new administration’s negotiating stance will be.

“The nature of the U.S. commitment … is unclear, and I suspect we’re not going to get a clear signal from the U.S. until after the next election,” said Ian Fry, a representative for the island nation of Tuvalu, which faces danger from rising sea-levels caused by global warming.

The world’s nations agreed last year at a conference in Bali to conclude a pact by December 2009. The agreement would succeed the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol warming agreement, which expires in 2012.

U.S. President George W. Bush has rejected the 1997 Kyoto pact, arguing it would hurt the American economy and was unfair because developing countries were not required to cut emissions. The agreement committed 37 wealthy nations to cut emissions to an average of 5% below 1990 levels by 2012.
Harlan Watson, the head of the U.S. delegation in Bangkok, insisted the administration was fully involved in the negotiations for the new pact.

Congress and leading U.S. presidential candidates have shown willingness to cap emissions. But Watson said the U.S. still wants commitments from major developing nations, no matter who is in the White House.

So far at Bangkok, however, he has limited his public statements to procedural issues.

“At this point in the process, there’s no enthusiasm for talking” about specific targets, Watson said.

“We don’t want to do anything that’s going to cut off the next administration’s options,” he said later.

U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer acknowledged that one of the toughest parts of the haggling ahead — on how much industrialized countries will cut emissions — would best be discussed with a new U.S. administration.
The goal of the talks will be a complex document including emissions reduction commitments by industrialized countries; measures by developing countries; and financing and technology transfer to help them control emissions and adapt to the effects of rising temperatures.