Japanese insights at WRF 2011


Finally I have enough time to sit down and give you the insights from Prof. Masafumi Maeda’s  speech, as promised in my  last post on him. He mentioned at the start of his presentation facts and numbers.

An interesting plot presented by him showed a strong correlation between life expectancy and GDP per capita until a GDP per capita of approximately 8000 USD / person. Life expectancy reaches about 72 years at this point. Further growth of GDP per capita is contributing only very little  to superior life expectancy. The increase up to 30 000 USD / person lengthens life expectancy up to approximately 77 years. Prof. Maeda’s interpretation of this: Wealth is primarily used for health and basic needs, surplus is invested into leisure activities and consumption. He did not draw any conclusions out of this interesting figure. In my opinion it demonstrates how good our life quality in Switzerland (about 62’000 USD / person) actually is. We have reached sufficient wealth and should now focus on how to maintain our wealth and reduce impact on resources consumption at the same time.

Prof. Masafumi Maeda speaking at WRF 2011

Prof. Masafumi Maeda speaking at WRF 2011

Prof. Maeda talked  abut the nature of resources as well. He pointed out that in absolute terms, we have only consumed a small share of available resources so far, but the share with highest grades. Therefore mining will not be impossible in the future but it will be a lot more expensive.

What is the Japanese strategy for resources management? First of all “reasonable” recycling is promoted and secondly the country tries to substitute base and rare metals by developing new materials. One of the biggest problems of the country are energy resources. The current share of nuclear energy is about 30 % and the cabinet planned to rise it to 50 % until 2030. The catastrophy of Fukushima 1 of course calls into question this strategy. According to Prof. Maeda nuclear energy is likely to be compensated by fossile energy if the country decides to back out of the nuclear sector.

My conclusion out of this presentation on Japan is that the country is currently in a very unclear situation. The aftermaths of Fukushima 1 are still torturing the nation and its decision-makers. The foreseen strategy turned out to be dangerous and so far no other dominating trends emerged out of the big pool of Japanese scientists, engineers and industrials. We should keep an eye on Far East because major decisions are imminent. To one side or the other.

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