In this harvest season, a short poem titled “Kudamono” (Fruit) by Jukichi Yagi (1898-1927) comes to mind. It goes: “When autumn arrives/ Fruit seems to forget everything/ And ripens happily as if in a trance.”
A short while back, the vernacular Asahi Shimbun reported that global warming is a factor behind apples getting sweeter and less tart, specifically those of the popular Fuji variety grown in Nagano Prefecture. Their acidity decreased 15 percent while their sugar content increased 5 percent in the last 30 years. During the same period, the average temperature in the prefecture’s apple growing region rose 1 degree Celsius. The story concluded that these sweeter apples had to be the consequence of global warming.
A ripe, sweet apple makes us smile. But we can’t be all smiles when experts remind us of what global warming is causing and what we should expect in the future.
A report released on Sept. 27 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body of experts, is certainly enough to blow away any unfounded optimism. The IPCC’s previous report was published in 2007.
The latest report predicts the world’s average temperature to rise by up to 4.8 degrees by the end of this century. Should this actually come to pass, no fruit will be able to fatten and “ripen happily as if in a trance.” The rising sea level will flood lowlands, and extreme weather will likely wreak havoc on humanity. Without a doubt, farmers will suffer significant crop damage as a result of high temperatures.
If our planet may be likened to an apple, the skin is the atmosphere. And while carbon dioxide is the culprit of the greenhouse effect, without this gas the Earth’s average temperature would plunge to around a frigid minus 18 degrees. A very delicate atmospheric balance is what our planet’s diverse ecosystem and human civilization depend on for survival.
The IPCC report effectively blames human activity for global warming. A fruit spoils when the skin is bruised, and the same must apply to our Earth.
More than ever, we need to use our imagination to be fully aware of the fragility of our irreplaceable planet.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 29
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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