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Welcome to Japarity; Kyodai & Our Energy Future.

This series will discuss the world’s precarious relationship with Energy. Why in 2011 energy use per person is directly proportional to GDP/capita. Why energy policy today will determine our personal quality of life in a decade. How international relations have become energy relations.

I believe we are entering a critical juncture in human history where we either discover a new way to fuel our species or radically surrender the lifestyle we take for granted.

And what better place to regularly frighten readers from than Japan, a nation currently undergoing a dramatic upheaval of its domestic energy system. The chain of events following the March tsunami resulted in a significant drop in energy available on this island, and the sacrifices the Japanese have to make are eerily prophetic for the rest of the world.

Japan's electricity grid is totally unique in the world

The question forming in your mind right now may be; ‘Why should I give a spicy steamed pork bun about a forthcoming energy crisis?’

Consider the ongoing financial crisis. In extremely basic terms, much of the ‘turmoil’ one hears about is due to a lack of investor confidence and a subsequently low risk appetite. Nevertheless, the underlying fundamentals (the infrastructure, the amount of oil available, the consumers consuming) have changed only marginally since the bullish years of 2006/7. Yet newspapers are emblazoned with ‘The Failure of Capitalism’ and calling people ‘comrade’ have become hip.

Now imagine this turmoil but with a material cause – countries battling over the last few resources – an energy war. Our global economic system has evolved into something so fragile, yet we are simply not equipped to deal with the inevitable increase in energy demand over the next decade.

To clarify; I am optimistic a new form of energy will be found. In fact, as a physicist, the only thing I reserve pessimism for is my love life. Can sustainability be achieved? What is inter-generational equity?  It sounds like a financial derivative for selling children and buying pensioners, instead it is the most crucial consideration of all – that we allow our descendents a quality of life at least as good as ours.

Nuclear Power - Yes, no or for a little while?

But this is where you come in. One of the biggest impediments to action against global warming is collective apathy – it doesn’t affect me so I don’t care, shut up now because X Factor is starting.

The harsh reality is that climate change is already affecting people, and an energy shortage will do so within the next two decades. Forward thinking debate and mass involvement is indispensable to successful energy policy – the pressure on the German government to diversify away from nuclear following the accident at Fukushima was wonderful for people power, whether it was the correct environmental decision is less obvious.

Thus institutions like the Urban Times are crucial in ensuring that the people have a say in their future, because they are informed about the developments that most affect it.

I will post every Monday afternoon, along with a less formal journal describing what life is like as a European postgraduate student in Kyodai (Kyoto University).