Telegram from Tokyo
Ba no kuuki wo Yomu*
In a week where air quality is all over the news - and not even about the ULEZ - we’ve seen articles about air pollution’s link to antibiotic resistance and reminders to holiday makers driving to France to display the right stickers for air pollution zones. But this week we are far away in Japan, giving us the opportunity to look at a country that seems to be doing pretty well on air quality. This week might be quite a short post as we decided not to take too much tech on holiday!
Arriving in Tokyo we could immediately sense the cleaner air and the statistics seem to back this up. Japan is listed as having the cleanest air in Asia. This article states that Japan ranks 97th out of 131 globally for bad air quality - performing better than Germany, Korea and Mexico (it also includes a reminder that having ‘good’ air quality doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve met the WHO limits).
We noticed from the table above that being coastal and richer appears to increase your chances of having cleaner air - not things countries can do much about, at least over the short term. But there are some specific factors that seem to have improved things for 125 million Japanese and all the visitors to this amazing country.
The same article cites emission controls for factories, investing in public transport, strict vehicle emission standards and promoting renewable energy as key policies over many years. We have certainly been impressed by transport in the mega-city of Tokyo: the underground system is extensive (if a little confusing for foreigners buying tickets!), we haven’t seen a single traffic jam and bikes are abundant (and rarely locked, reminding us of Amsterdam). And of course, the famous bullet train for inter-city travel.
As noted, having relatively good air quality doesn’t imply you’re meeting WHO guidelines and this article sets out the ways Japan needs to improve. Engendering a bit of competition - we see that Tokyo wants to outpace Japan as a whole in steps to improve air quality over this decade. It’s also true that air quality, while a pretty local phenomenon, can be affected by countries near to you and the prevailing wind patterns. So international cooperation is important too.
We’re not planning too many long haul flights but hope our international perspectives on air pollution are of interest!
*A Japanese phrase meaning literally ‘reading the air’ but with a wider meaning about having a good sense of social situations and collective understanding.
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