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Activism & Environment

2006
ISSUE
9
Activism & Environment
By Sorcha Clifford 

Busy BEE’s
Bicycle for Everyone’s Earth

A friend recently breezily informed me Japan is one of the most mountainous countries in the world. This was not news to me. Mt. Iwaki, omnipresent in my Aomori skyline, is a constant reminder of this fact. However, to a cycling novice about to embark on the 4,000-kilometer journey across Japan, these were not words of encouragement. My fighting spirit turned into a crumbling stomach and bricks-on-my-feet kind of feeling.

Call me shallow, but it comes as a relief that the Bicycle for Everyone’s Earth (BEE) ride starts at the top of Japan, in Wakkanai, Hokkaido, and then works “down” Japan, ending in Okinawa. It comforts my pre-ride nerves knowing wee aren’t working our way “up" north.

And working we shall be. BEE’s goal is to spread a message of environmental sustainability through actively living it. For three months, 12 riders will promote green living as we make our way down the country.

Japan is easily recognizable as a country of convenience; you’re never much more than a kilometer from the nearest combini and sprawling malls keep springing up, emulating the global trend. On BEE, we’ll be opting for the farmer’s markets and local shops instead, giving the beef a break and eating vegetarian on the ride, optimizing our body’s energy to pedal us up those daunting hills, pushing home the message of clean green transport.

Inaugurated in 1997, the BEE ride generates more interest each year. This time, the record number of participants will allow us to reach more people with our message, and that is our main goal—to get out there and meet people throughout Japan’s beautiful islands and encourage steps towards green changes.

This year, we will also be using our stage to raise awareness of the issue at Henoko, Okinawa, where a proposed military base threatens the habitat of Japan’s last remaining dugong, an endangered marine mammal closely related to the Florida manatee. The Henoko air base would destroy the coral reef, habitat essential to the survival of the dugong.

The knowledge-sharing process will of course be a two-way endeavor. BEE will be visiting green business leaders throughout Japan and learning from them—the Akita Vegetable Style group will be teaching us about their organic rice farming, Outdoor Japan columnist Jake Reiner will be hosting the team and providing some insight on eco-tourism at his Earth Embassy.

The team plans to visit Shikoku’s Chiiori Project for a look at rural preservation in action. We will also be visiting Sado Island’s Earth Celebration to test out a route for an environmental cycling event the EC organizers hope to initiate.

I’m told nothing beats a good cycling trip to get to know a country. With about 80 days planned in the saddle, I have a feeling we are all going to become good buddies with Japan. I hope for a not-too-tumultuous relationship with the ubiquitous mountains, but look forward to the beginnings of a life-long love of “green” for our team and those we meet.

BEE Japan leaves Wakkanai, Hokkaido, on July 29 with plans to finish by mid-October in Henoko, Okinawa. You can follow their journey online at
www.beejapan.org