Category name:Environment

The Wolf of Vacancy

November 5, 2014 / Comments Off on The Wolf of Vacancy

Click for legend

From Wikipedia: “Wolves were once an integral part of the Irish countryside and culture…

…Wolves feature prominently in Irish mythology…

…The last reliable observation of a wolf in Ireland comes from County Carlow when a wolf was hunted down and killed near Mount Leinster for killing sheep in 1786.”

Excerpt from Wolf-Time:

“Why is it that Irish historians will not talk at this level about Irish history? Why will they not ask the big questions?

Here, for example, is a big question: the shot that rang out one night in Maam Valley in Connemara? What, compared to it, is the sailing away of the Irish chieftains from Ireland?

The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea and the destructive sword are portions of eternity to great for the eye of man.

There it is: one night in the Maam Valley we killed a portion of eternity.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

…Megalithic language, or languages we silenced; Bear language we silenced; Boar language we silenced; Wolf language we silenced.

Our history if the history of our success in making ourselves and our world unreal.

Mostly, it is from unreality that we suffer. From that and from the wrong kind of man-made reality.

…Sadly, we haven’t yet seen that prospering man-made unreality is, if anything, more dangerous to us than prospering, primal reality was.

Better Céol Cúaine(1) than the ever-hungering, ever unhappy, ever-unsatisfied, inaudibly howling vacancy we have replaced it with.

…Better any day our chances with a real wolf than with the Wolf of Vacancy.

In Nordic myth this Wolf of Vacancy is called Fenris Wolf or, as commonly, Fenrir. In order for our world to be at all possible, so the story goes, Tyr, a great and mighty god, had to bind him, had to lay him up in chains in an underworld. But everyone, including Tyr himself, knows full well that Fenrir will one day slip his chains, he will emerge and run free. Opening his mouth, he will advance his lower jaw under the earth and his upper jaw over the sun. Sun and earth and all in between he will swallow, and for Fenrir that is just a mouthful.

Ever since we first set foot in Ireland we have been creating our own Fenrir, our own Wolf of Vacancy, our own Apocalyptic Wolf of Apocalyptic Vacancy.

What we would see if we lifted our eyes from our ledgers is that at this stage there is no binding him, no laying him up in chains, out of sight, in an underworld.

So here it is, Foras Feasa ar Éirinn(2):

Lights gone out in Ireland’s last wolf are lights coming on
in a not inconsiderably larger wolf,
are lights coming on
The Wolf of Vacancy”

invokingFrom Invoking Ireland: Ailiu Iath n-hErend by John Moriarty, the best book I read last year. Indeed the best book I have read in many years. What is it? It’s a book about landscape, history and myth, but also a book about the hunger we all feel for something more than the shabby world we have created. It is a re-awakening of the world’s soul. Hungering still for more soul-sustenance, I recently ordered this book: Night Journey to Buddh GaiaAnd I am impatiently waiting its arrival.

1. Céol Cúaine = The music of wolves
2. Foras Feasa ar Éirinn = History of Ireland

Valentine’s Day 2012

February 14, 2012 / Comments Off on Valentine’s Day 2012

As all Japan-dwellers know, it is the custom in this country for girls to give boys chocolates on Valentine’s Day (regardless of whether they want them or not). This is what Mewby got me:

A water purifier for my tap! 嬉しい!Now I can enjoy great tasting water direct from “our mother” Lake Biwa! And believe me, it DOES taste better! Mewby knows me best!

Namba Parks

November 17, 2010 / 1 Comment on Namba Parks

Back in September, Mewby and I visited Namba Parks in Osaka. I was excited by what I’d read in this article on and inspired by pictures like this:

This image from

Here, I thought, is a fine example of truly green and truly forward thinking urban design. “Jerde designed Namba Parks as a huge green space and an oasis amidst Osaka’s dense urban streets,” read the article. “…the awesome development… …has an eight level rooftop garden that spans several city blocks and features tree groves, rock clusters, cliffs and canyons, lawns, streams, waterfalls, ponds and even space to grow veggies!”

To be honest, I was disappointed. I think they were exaggerating a little bit. Or perhaps the staff writer at Inhabit hadn’t actually been to Namba Parks personally but was merely rewriting the text from the architect’s site? I will admit that the buildng is impressive. Here’s one of them canyons:


A lawn.

Essentially though, the greenery is really just decoration. Underneath that lush green canopy you can see in the aerial shot, is concrete. The trees are basically over-sized potted plants. The “streams, waterfalls, ponds” is just a wee bit of trickly water (singular) in a small corner of garden, and the lawn (singular) is  a patch of well-manicured grass that really doesn’t look like the sort of grass you should ever walk or sit on. And I didn’t see any veggies.

Mewby in the garden ~ this area was actually quite small.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise really. Japanese people in general, don’t really like nature to be too free. What they do like is to control it and hem it in with nice, tidy concrete. A real park in the sky would be far too messy! Judging by the Namba Parks example I don’t think the green revolution is going to come out of Japan. “Green” and “Eco” are decorative buzzwords in Japan now, and used pretty loosely as a means to sell stuff. Similarly the greenery at Namba Parks looks nice on the surface but doesn’t represent any real change. This is still just a boring old shopping mall and Mammon is still very much in charge.

Mewby in a canyon of crowded shops and overpriced restaurants full of STUFF-YOU-DON'T-NEED.

Pink Blossoms. White Eyes.

February 26, 2009 / Comments Off on Pink Blossoms. White Eyes.

Every year in this season I admire the blossoms on the plum tree behind my apartment.


I particularly like how their natural beauty is complimented by the pylon and traffic cone beside them.


As I was admiring this scene two little Japanese White Eyes came along and began to hop about from blossom to blossom.


They were doing a lot of flitting and darting here and there, and here again – and so were very hard to snap.


I thought at first they might be drinking nectar from the blossoms, but perhaps they were after bugs.


Regardless, I was in a melancholy mood after saying goodbye to my students earlier in the day. These two little birds really cheered me up.


There’s only one thing better than plum blossom and that’s little green birds in the plum blossom.

Mizuki Shigeru and some other stuff

September 25, 2008 / Comments Off on Mizuki Shigeru and some other stuff

In an attempt to actually make some money from my unhealthy blogging obsesson, I’ve been tweaking this blog (and Deep Kyoto also) a lot recently; adding an extra column and a lot of amazon stuff, mp3 players etc… Let me know if it get’s annoying. Up on Deep Kyoto tonight there is a fresh post on cafe and cake shop Sugary. And on Japanese Reboot there are some foxy phrases here, here and also here.

Japan Focus has posted a nice piece of non-fiction manga (in English!) by Mizuki Shigeru the creator of the famous youkai series “GeGeGe no Kitarou“. Entitled War and Japan it starts off explaining how it was for Japanese people in general during the war and then tells of Shigeru’s own experiences serving overseas (he lost an arm and many many friends). I read it yesterday and found it very interesting indeed. There’s quite a long introduction to it by Matthew Penney, but you can skip that and just scroll down to the cartoon if you want to. Shigeru tells his own story better than anyone else can. LINK

This news today in the Independent and the commentary on Worldchanging that we are all effectively doomed, (I mean even more certainly doomed than we already thought we were) was quite depressing.

Finally, I found this video of bad-ass Taro Aso on boingboing this morning and it made me laugh despite being doomed, so here you are.

I’m in Club Fame (yes that is actually what it stands for).

September 4, 2008 / Comments Off on I’m in Club Fame (yes that is actually what it stands for).

The current issue of Kyoto’s CF magazine is themed around the joys of cycling and thus, as I have a rather spiffy mountain bike (thanks Helen!) and I’m friends with Taga-san at KTCP there’s a picture of me in there too, cheesing one of my cheesiest of cheesy grins. CF (not a bad little 雑誌 actually) is available from bookshops and convenience stores around Kyoto and features a lot of stuff on clubs, cafes, restaurants, bars etc. I tried to plug Deep Kyoto as much as possible when talking to the reporter: “Oh yes, I ride my bicycle a lot when discovering places for my blog Deep Kyoto! …And did I mention Deep Kyoto?… Please take my (deep kyoto) card …and do check out my blog which by the way is called Deep Kyoto…etc” But sadly he didn’t take the bait. Anyway, here’s the picture of me looking kind of gay on a bicycle. And you can see the full spread up here of myself and some other bicycling types.

Today my day of work consisted of catching the train to Osaka at 5:05 pm, sleeping, getting to work at 6:00 pm, being told the class was cancelled at 6:05, getting the train back at 6:15, reading (a jolly good book!) and getting home at 7:15. I will actually get paid for that too.

Here’s the latest article on the oft-mentioned Deep Kyoto of the delightful tea emporium Iyemon Cafe.

The remaining South African pictures which I foolishly promised for this post will be posted in the next one. Honest.

Here’s an important message from avaaz:

For the first time in human history, the North Pole can be circumnavigated — the Arctic ice is melting quicker than many anticipated. The devastating effects of climate change are also accelerating sea level rise and small island nations are preparing evacuation plans to guarantee the survival of their populations.

In a week, these small islands are tabling a resolution calling on the UN Security Council to address climate change as a pressing threat to international peace and security.

But the island states’ campaign for survival is meeting fierce opposition, so they need our help. Sign the petition now — it will be presented by the islands’ ambassadors at the UN next week. The more signatures we raise, the more urgently this call will ring out to protect our common future. LINK

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Zero Waste

July 11, 2008 / Comments Off on Zero Waste

Here’s a news video from the BBC on the super-enviromently friendly “zero waste” policy of Kamikatsu town in Shikoku, Japan. If only the whole country world would follow suit… LINK

And here’s an amusing video from The Onion: Bush Tours America to Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency.

And here’s my friend Thomas Schwegler’s website Tropical Mountains.

Tropical Mountains was formed in 2005 in Bolivia. We saw and experienced the need of small scale coffee farmers to have support in quality control, access to pre-financing and international markets. Many producer groups and cooperatives have now moved to direct export and away from selling their coffee to the local market or local traders. We are happy to support them on their shift towards direct export…

I met this guy in Italy in 2002, a nice chap, charming, multi-lingual and a hit with the ladies. I got the impression he was looking for his place in life. He went to South America and found his place selling coffee on behalf of coffee farming co-operatives over there. As a result of his work (he has the gift of the gab see), the guys who are growing the coffee aren’t selling to the big corporate masters anymore, but direct to consumers, and that way they get to see more profit for their work. And why am I posting a link to his company’s website? Because he’s a pal, that’s why. LINK

Avaaz on Climate Change

June 16, 2008 / Comments Off on Avaaz on Climate Change

Here’s the latest campaign from
Two weeks of global climate negotiations have just wrapped up — with no real progress. The rich nations are the culprits, refusing to take the lead and commit to emissions cuts that will bring the rest of the world onboard. Our best hope: within weeks, those rich country leaders will gather at the G8 summit chaired by Japan. If Japan’s Prime Minister offers bold leadership, the G8 summit could be a breakthrough. But, so far, he is pushing in the wrong direction. So it’s up to us. Next Wednesday, June 18, we will hand-deliver our new climate petition to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. If we can muster 250,000 voices in a few short days, we can sound a global alarm on climate that Fukuda and the other G8 leaders cannot ignore. Sign the petition and forward this message to friends:

Gorillas’ Last Chance

February 20, 2008 / Comments Off on Gorillas’ Last Chance

Today I found this encouraging news about co-operation between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to save Gorillas. Very encouraging. Now, if they could get together to protect people in the same region, that would be really marvellous.

Update: Some happy news here: An estimated 125,000 Western lowland gorillas are living in a swamp in equatorial Africa, researchers reported Tuesday, double the number of the endangered primates thought to survive worldwide. LINK

Positive Action Works

February 1, 2008 / Comments Off on Positive Action Works

This news from Avaaz:

Huge news out of Japan: a top newspaper is reporting a major shift in climate policy, and citing Avaaz members as one of the reasons why!

The paper reports that at a critical, high-level meeting on global warming, the Environment Minister held up Avaaz’s “Titanic” newspaper ad from the Bali summit–showing Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda, with Bush, steering towards climate disaster… along with a call for tough 2020 emissions targets, signed by 90,000 Avaaz members.

“The world sees Japan as a force resisting change! Are we okay with this?” the minister asked. The Chief Cabinet Minister suggested setting a target. Days later, Prime Minister Fukuda announced his decision: at last, Japan would set a 2020 emissions target!

This is a genuine victory. Japan is a huge polluter, a key Bush ally, and host of this summer’s crucial G8 summit. Congratulations to everyone for the positive role we all played!

LINK to a scan of the Asahi Shimbun article.
LINK to Avaaz crisis fundraiser.

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