Bringing Peace to the World: Taking Action on Global Environmental Issues
“I believe that world peace is ultimately possible if more people take an interest in environmental and climate change issues,” said Okuno Kako, a university student from Hiroshima Prefecture who has been actively involved in environmental and peace efforts over the years. We spoke to her to learn more about the feelings of young people who shape our future as they take action to address the various issues around us.
Okuno had attended regular schools in Hiroshima City until she was in high school, where she went through peace education. Since then, she has been engaged in peace efforts at the Peace Cultural Village (PCV), an organization that conducts guided tours of Peace Memorial Park and programs for students on school excursions. In the course of her activities, she was shocked to learn that some people believed that nuclear weapons are a necessary evil for the purpose of nuclear deterrence.
Okuno then enrolled in a university in Tokyo and participated in activities aimed at tackling global environmental issues. She told us that she had felt some discomfort even when interacting with young people of her generation.
“When speaking to people around my age all over Japan with whom I was collaborating on global environmental issues, I was surprised to find that they did not know much about the atomic bombing. While they were knowledgeable about nuclear energy, they appeared to have little more than a vague awareness that some tragic events had taken place in the past when it comes to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima,” she explained.
Demonstrating before the National Diet Building (2021 )
Okuno is currently actively engaged in peace efforts spearheaded by PCV, including conducting guided tours in Peace Memorial Park. She has also launched the Hiroshima chapter of Fridays for Future, a climate change strike movement, and continues to work together with young people of her generation on various initiatives.
Fridays for Future is a movement that began in 2018 when the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who was only 15 years old then, staged a sit-in to protest the lack of climate action in the hope of drawing more attention to the crisis of climate change and prompting urgent action. Okuno and other young people in Japan who share Thunberg’s views have since come together to work for the future of the global environment.
“In September 2019, seven million people around the world participated simultaneously in the Global Climate March to call for action on the environmental crisis. We also sent questionnaires to political candidates during elections to ask them about their thoughts and proposed initiatives regarding the environment.”
Global Climate March in Hiroshima (2019 )
A shoe demonstration conducted in lieu of the Global Climate March in view of social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020)
Okuno is engaged in both peace activism and tackling global environmental issues. When we asked her about the connection between the two kinds of activities, her response was unambiguous and straightforward.
“Natural disasters such as typhoons, torrential rains, and famines threaten the lives and livelihoods of people, and we now know that these disasters are caused by global warming. I believe it is very possible that disasters that threaten the livelihoods of people will eventually spark a war. Conversely, bringing stability to our way of life allows us to create a peaceful world without war. For this reason, I continue to work together with many others because I am convinced that by addressing the global environmental issues around us, we can create a world without war.”
Okuno always remembers to share her knowledge and views on the atomic bombing, as well as the first-hand experiences of atomic bomb survivors, that she has obtained in the course of conducting guided tours with the people she works with as well.
“I believe that it is very important for me, who is usually in Tokyo, to convey the voices of Hiroshima. Our generation will certainly be the last to hear directly from the A-bomb survivors themselves. I hope to share their voices with as many people as possible so that more people can learn about Hiroshima.”
There is no doubt that Okuno’s efforts have had a major impact on transforming the attitudes of young people outside Hiroshima toward the atomic bombing.
A guided tour of Peace Memorial Park for students on a school excursion
“I’d love to experience how we can change society for the better by banding together and making a collective push. In fact, this is an experience that I wish to share with as many people as possible.”
Various demonstrations will be held simultaneously around the world on March 25th, 2022, under the banner of “Global Climate Action 0325” to call on leaders of various countries to take concrete action to mitigate the climate crisis. Let us continue to pay attention to the efforts of these young men and women and do our very best to support them.
Peace Culture Village (PCV)
Address: 26 Fukuda, Konu-cho, Miyoshi-shi, Hiroshima
Fridays for Future Hiroshima
HP：https://fridaysforfuture.jp/ （Fridays For Future Japan）
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