Juan Carlos Uribe studied Sustainability Sciences at the University of Tokyo and during his student years embarked on a life-changing adventure with Peace Boat. Juan eventually transformed this experience into a great career kick start as he now works for Peace Boat as International Coordinator. In this series of articles he will share with us more information about Peace Boat, their yearly trips around the world and how he landed the career of his dreams.
Having visited Jordan and Egypt, the ship headed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea for its European segment. During this segment of the voyage I was assigned as an interpreter for Yu Tanaka and the Global University’s second unit focusing on the environment and sustainable ways of living.
Mr Tanaka is an environmentalist and peace activist, and a strong supporter of Peace Boat activities. He is also one of many “social creators” who are leading the creation of a new society through their entrepreneurship and ideas. Mr Tanaka believes there are three ways to make a difference. The first is the ‘vertical approach’, to become a politician and change things from the top. The second ‘horizontal approach’ is grassroots activism, speaking to people and raising our voices. The third is the ‘diagonal approach’, to actually create an alternative in order to substitute current systems.
In keeping with his own advice, in 1994 Mr Tanaka and seven friends put together four million yen and created the ‘Mirai (Future) Bank’, in order to finance projects and companies that were good for the environment and society at a low interest rate. Any surpluses are used to decrease the interest rate. The bank currently has continuously grow and it has become a model for similar banks and funds in Japan.
Another diagonal invention of Mr Tanaka is his ‘Organic Housing’ project, an entirely self-sufficient, energy producing home, complete with compost, rainwater collection and waste water filtering units. The goals of the project are to make houses that don’t adversely affect people’s health, provide job opportunities for those working in the forestry industry in Japan and help to save Japan’s mountains through appropriate forest management.
Mr Tanaka’s lectures were full of important data, trivia, and covered a wide range of topics, from war to energy issues, but the most impressive thing was how he ended all of his lectures and conferences with positive examples of how people are creating change in the world from their own communities.
During the Global University seminars, Mr Tanaka invited Japanese and Korean students to think back about their own countries and their communities, and what they could do to create positive changes there. His time on-board was a great opportunity for Global University students and all of us on-board to reflect on the many things we were seeing and learning while traveling around the world, and the way we could make use of them once we finished our voyage.
Mr Tanaka’s lectures were further complemented by other Guest Educators’ such as Eckhardt Fuchs (Deputy Director of the Georg Eckert Institute in Germany), Kazuo Takahashi (Professor and Expert in Middle East Issues), Tomoko Kitamura Nielsen (Japanese Journalist resident in Denmark), Elaine Nevin (Ireland National Director of ECO-UNESCO), among others. Plus, our visit to different European and Scandinavian ports were also a great opportunity for us to learn about the local energy and social policies, while enjoying their wonderful landscapes and cities. From hiking tours, study visits to wind farms, exchange program with local designers, day trips to organic farms, there was a wide range of programs for participants to learn from and experience the countries we visited.