Paying Dividends to the Earth


Tetsundo Iwakuni

Director-General, International Department

The Democratic Party of Japan

Member of the House of Representatives


Presented at the 117th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

Geneva, Switzerland

October 9, 2007



The Environment – the Central Theme of the 2008 G8 Summit


The Kyoto Protocol was adopted ten years ago in 1997, in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto. Designed to reinforce the existing UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol established three mechanisms that continue to the present: clean development mechanism, emissions trading, and joint implementation.

In July 2008, Japan will be host once again to what we hope will be another historic dialogue on the environment. The G8 Summit, scheduled to take place at Lake Toya in Hokkaido, Japan, will have the environment as its central theme for the first time in summit history.

While there are many matters that must be resolved and adjusted between the developing and developed countries, there is a pressing need to establish a concrete and workable framework, based on the understanding that environmental problems pose a common challenge to the whole of humanity.


Transforming Our Views of the Environment


* Paying °»dividends°… to the Earth


    Capitalist systems that prospered throughout the past century have been driven by the following three principles:

(i) to provide clients with desirable products and services;

(ii)    to maintain a stable work environment for employees; and

(iii)   to deliver the highest dividends possible for shareholders.

In the 21st century, I propose that we revise this formula of capitalism to include the Earth as the largest shareholder. Economic and all other forms of human activity depend on, and are sustained by, the existence and use of the resources of our Earth. In other words, while people may invest money, the Earth invests all its natural resources. Clearly, the Earth is the biggest stakeholder.

Consequently, we need to consider how to deliver the highest dividends to the Earth. Transforming our view in this way would lead to more accountable and responsible decisions in all realms.


* Learning from traditional views of coexistence with nature


°»Even the mountains, rivers, trees, and shrubs can attain Buddhahood.°…

°»Buddha nature is present in all things.°…       

-   Mahayana Buddhism


Since ancient times, the Japanese people have embraced this philosophy. The former means that Buddhahood can be attained not only by humans but also by all beings and even the mountains, rivers, trees, and shrubs. Similarly, the latter means that the Buddha nature exists not only in humans but also in natural elements as well as in all animals. These are essential teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, which expound respect for all entities, both animate and inanimate.

Similar philosophies stressing the importance of cherishing nature certainly exist in all countries. We have a tendency to only consider the present or future circumstances when exploring solutions, when in fact we have at our disposal a wealth of wisdom in our past. I feel we should build on these traditions and rise above our differences in order to spread the °»philosophy of coexistence with nature.°… Furthermore, I believe that this °»philosophy of coexistence°… should be given special emphasis in the education systems of all countries.


Three Forms of Health


    When considering environmental problems, it is necessary to keep the following three forms of health in mind.

The first is °»human health.°… Environmental problems affect the health of people. There are so many issues to be considered in this regard, such as the pollution created by economic development.

The second is the °»health of all living things.°… Our natural environment is seriously impacted by deforestation and the destruction of ecosystems. Environmental destruction is frequently accelerated by the loss of balance in the ecosystems of plants and animals. This is a phenomenon that has been witnessed in various parts of the world.

Finally, the third form of health is the °»health of the Earth.°… We must preserve the health of our Earth for our own posterity, as well as for the descendents of all forms of life that inhabit the planet.


°»Five E°«s°… for the Earth


    There are a number of key words that we use in the promotion and implementation of environmental measures:

(1) Environment: First and foremost, it is necessary to appreciate the importance and urgency of environmental problems.

(2) Economy: Adjustments must be made between economic activities and environmental measures.

(3) Ecology: People are also part of the ecology. With this perspective in mind, we must pursue harmony and coexistence between our own lives and nature.

(4) Energy: We must make the transition from fossil fuels to other cleaner sources of energy.

(5) Education: From an early age, children must be taught about the importance of environmental problems and the need to take action. For this purpose, we must be prepared to invest in education.

    This last °»E°… is by far the most essential. Without awareness and knowledge, there can be no dialogue, no desire to seek solutions, no action.

I have made this commitment myself, having had the opportunity to talk with local students at Yokohama University, as well as students around the world such as at Nankai University in China, and the University of Virginia in the United States.

    We must make sure that the environment is not merely a topic addressed by activists and politicians, but by everyone in our homes and in our communities. In fact, let us make sure that our citizens will have such high awareness and concern for the environment that they will only elect those of us who will work hard to pay °»dividends°… to the Earth.