Theme Forum April

Culture and Biological Diversity and Internationally Common Recognition

| Overview  | Introduction  | Keynote Speech  | Panel discussion  |

Shin-ichi Takemura

******* Overview *******

Shin-ichi Takemura

The modern era in which expositions played a role as engines of progress was an age of seeking for universality rather than diversity.

Surpassing differences of race and culture, people sought for universality of the human family and human rights, and to get away from constraints of individual place of origin, they looked for a new world of freedom, equality and humanity. Scientific technologies (=human wisdom) by which we can produce food any time and any place, overcoming the restrictions of a variety of climates, —more specifically, we can grow rice even in severe cold or desert environments— it was hoped would make mankind free.

In short, diversity was considered only a constraint in this modern era and overcoming such a constraint was progress and security in human society. The modern industrial society has excessively promoted “mass production of standardized people" for the purpose of mass production of standardized goods.

The concept of values, however, is drastically changing. A new concept that cultural and biological diversity is an asset of the Earth and criterion of true abundance is now in the limelight. Advance sciences such as genomics and complex systems have shown that diversity guarantees the robustness and sustainability of the system, and ensures security in ecosystems and human society.

For example, this concept is illustrated by the vulnerability of mono-cultural life industry symbolized by BSE, or O157 strain of the E. coli bacteria which spread because excessive sanitary supervision broke the symbiotic system of various bacteria. Mr. Tetsuya Yomo states in the forum that biotic systems tend to maintain diversity autonomously and maintain strength and adaptability as a system by not homogenizing and optimizing them too excessively.

That is to say that ensuring diversity is nature's wisdom and human wisdom mature enough to internalize it is sought for.

In this EXPO 2005 International Forum, the theme "Diversity" encompasses three meanings.

Firstly, it expresses the values of 21 st century and the world image that is embodied in the Exposition's theme “Nature's Wisdom." Secondly, it leads to redefining the modern era and the meaning of the exposition as its symbol from scratch. Thirdly, we should be aware that diversity, which ensures sustainability, is on the verge of a crisis. Taking measures to cope with such a crisis (more serious problems than those of global warming and the water crisis from a long-term perspective) is the most important problem that people should tackle.

In his keynote speech, Mr. Giacomo Mojoli warned that homogeneous food represented the most radical crisis of modern cultural and biological diversity, and reported in detail the Slow Food movement as a specific measure to stop such a trend. (See the Summary for the valuable panel discussion held from this perspective). In order to understand the significance of the discussion, complicated conditions and difficulties concerning modern cultural and biological diversity require clarification.

While the value of diversity is seen today from a new perspective, it is becoming more and more difficult to preserve diversity as a proper and public asset under rapid globalization and standardization or under a condition where biological resources and speculative economy are linked. In other words, we are in a quite ambivalent situation relating to diversity.

For example, increase in conflicts by economic globalization (or economization of the whole world) such as dispute on the privatization of water touched upon in the discussion, increase in influence by multinational companies on world agriculture, which Ms. Vandana Shiva from India and others pointed out, and standardization of varieties (seeds) and genetic contamination accompanied by it is much more difficult to see than the problem of protecting rare species, which is easy to understand and easy to appeal to people's emotions. As such conflicts stem from structural problem related to our total consumption line on a global basis, it is very difficult for us to solve the problem consciously.

On the other hand, it is essential to reveal the structure of the unconscious consumption line, which has become something like a black box, and design a social attitude of traceability which makes current producer-consumer relationships more interactive (By whom is our food made and how is it made?, From where does our drinking water come? etc.) while promoting a movement to recover diversity of breeds and food culture such as the Slow Food movement.

Enhancement in global environment awareness today is considered to be a tailwind for preserving biological diversity such as the protection of rare species and wetland; it may rather result in spoiling the ecological and cultural diversity of the region while pressure to standardize environment preservation is heightened. For example, as this was also pointed out in the discussion, the enforcement of the Kyoto Protocol provided a particular way of thinking on emission trading and movement in planting has been actively pursued as its means, apart from the original intention. This situation may heighten the absorption efficiency of CO 2 in the short term but, as a result, you can see some cases of promoting standardization of the whole ecosystem.

However, a naive "eco-boom" will never lead directly to preserving the ecosystem but rather may be a new threat to cultural and biological diversity of the Earth, bringing dangers of its own such as "eco-fascism."

We pay respect to efforts made in various areas to solve the problems of global warming and water, but we are increasingly requested to have patience and generosity to treat complicated problems as they are and to have intelligence that ensures diversity of thinking that the answer will never be one.

Difficult questions related to this diversity of thinking go to the heart of our civilized society.

For example, as you can see in the conflict between Brazil and the United States on the biodiversity treaty, the complex questions arise if rare species come to be recognized as resources to produce economic value such as for the development of new medicines: Who is the owner of the resource? Whom does the profit go to? Which is truly useful, the plant or the whole ecosystem in which the plant grows? Who is a fair body to preserve and use it, the company or the local community?

This does not sit at a political and economic level of profit distribution but reaches to the modern view of humans and nature, and eventually involves the ideological problem regarding the fundamental concept of ownership.

For example, if we add something to nature by human wisdom and produce a new economic value, the genealogy since the days of J. Locke is that the ownership and beneficial interest of the natural resource entirely belong to its developer. In this context, the countries and regional communities that have forests or plants in their territories as natural resources are excluded from being beneficiaries (actually, the global codes of present patents and intellectual properties are managed based on such way of thinking).

What underlies this thinking is a modern western ideology that puts more emphasis on the human wisdom that creates added values by processing nature than natures wisdom (such a thing does not exist after all). In this sense, it is natural that this Exposition, which has “Nature's Wisdom" as a theme, should help us to rethink this type of modern ideological framework.

Discovery of values in diversity helps us to rethink the era of the modern age which sought for universality by denying diversity and, the present time also urges us to rethink our view of nature and view of humans which form the base of our economy and legal systems.

This complicated theme, which has diverse factors in itself, does not merely imply protection of rare species and emphasis on diverse personalities. I hope this forum will serve as the starting point of understanding this theme as the most important issue in designing the world with a century and a millennium from now in perspective.

Shin-ichi Takemura (Coordinator)