Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

19 Sep, 2005

Aichi Expo 2005 Flags Environmental Changes to Come

NAGOYA: Already facing higher costs of providing security, the travel & tourism industry can expect to face even more costs in switching to energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly technologies as the sun sets on the era of cheap oil.

A tour of the Expo 2005 here last week indicated strongly that Japan expects to be at the forefront of these technologies. Having invested heavily in years of research and development, Japan is clearly planning to dominate this emerging market and replicate its global lead in transport vehicles and audio/visual equipment.

Positioned as the first World Exposition of the 21st century, it bore the theme “Nature’s Wisdom”.

According to the organisers, rapid technological development of the 20th century facilitated mass-production and mass-consumption which led to material improvements in daily lives but also triggered various global problems like desertification, global warming, and a shortage of natural resources.

“As these issues cannot be resolved by any one nation, the international community needs to unite …. and share our experience and wisdom, in order to create a new direction for humanity which is both sustainable and harmonious with nature.

“Human beings’ seemingly insatiable desire for expansion, the source of this transformation, continues unabated. This has placed a tremendous burden on the natural environment, exceeding its capacity for self-recovery.”

While companies like Sony created the world’s largest movie screen to produce and show a film highlighting ‘the problem’ (the critical importance of the natural environment), other Japanese conglomerates came in with ‘the solution’ (man-made technologies for a clean, post-oil era).

These technologies cut across a vast range of areas: construction, building materials, solar power, natural gas, biomass, etc., but especially their major area of expertise, surface transport.

Running around the Expo was an Intelligent Multimode Transportation System (IMTS), created by Toyota, which allowed unmanned, automatic, and platoon operation of CNG-powered buses on a dedicated road.

Its corporate pavilion offered performances featuring the i-unit (a future concept vehicle) and robots to demonstrate “a new kind of relationship between people and cars.”

The pavilion was powered by a wind-power generator located outside the venue in Aichi Prefecture’s Tahara City, reducing aggregate carbon-dioxide emissions to zero.

The primary means of public transport to and from the Expo Site was by a ‘linimo,’ Japan’s first maglev (magnetic levitation) train service.

Japan Railways exhibited a real carriage from a superconducting linear rail car that reached a speed of 581 kph during a test run, a world speed record for a manned rail car.

Fifteen companies were involved in developing a “bio-lung”, a huge greening wall 150 meters long and 12 meters high designed to help cool down the environment in cities jammed with skyscrapers.

The Japan Gas Association pavilion featured performances highlighting the possibilities of natural gas energy, including ice that burns (methane hydrate) and the household fuel cell expected to become commercially viable in 2006.

All the exhibition pavilions were of a modular type that could be assembled, dismantled and reused. The garbage generated by visitors (more than 20 million as of last week) was disposed off based on the 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) principle.

The overall message was that Japan has become a major economic power inspite of having limited land-mass and natural resources.

Now, as highlighted in the Japan government pavilion, it sees its development experience during the latter half of the 20 th century as being useful to address the problems of the 21 st century, via the use of cutting-edge science and technology, along with new lifestyles and social systems.

All the exhibited technologies have clear relevance to the travel & tourism industry, ranging from design of hotels and airports to tour coaches, energy systems and waste management.

However, the costs involved will be astronomical, both in making the switch and then getting locked into a future of endless upgrades, maintenance and training, similar to that which faces the security business.

Ways to avoid these costs were highlighted in the space given for the first time at an Expo to 30 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) where the focus was on trying to trying to curb, rather than manage, “human beings’ seemingly insatiable desire for expansion.”

The overall theme of the NGO Global Village was for humanity to change its lifestyle and consumption habits towards greater simplicity, away from the costly complexity of man-made ‘solutions’.

Unfortunately, the NGO Global Village was located in a distant corner of the Expo and had a noticeably low attendance level.

Although the many other exhibiting nations were asked to show how their own individual environment and culture can help create a sustainable future, pavilions of many of the Asia-Pacific, Africa and Middle East countries were little more than large market-places for their home-grown products.

The Thai pavilion, which crossed the three-million visitor mark last month, had a large display of OTOP products. But the ones that really stood out were the pavilions of small countries like Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, Laos and Bhutan.

Comments are closed.