Japan’s Tipping Point
by Mark Pendergrast
Video of Mark discussing Japan’s Tipping Point
Japan’s Tipping Point is a small book on a huge topic. In the post-Fukushima era, Japan is the “canary in the coal mine” for the rest of the world. Can Japan radically shift its energy policy, become greener, more self-sufficient, and avoid catastrophic impacts on the climate? Mark Pendergrast arrived in Japan exactly two months after the Fukushima meltdown. This book is his eye-opening account of his trip and his alarming conclusions.
Japan is at a crucial tipping point. A developed country that must import all of its fossil fuel, it can no longer rely on nuclear power, following the massive earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. Critically acclaimed nonfiction writer Mark Pendergrast went to Japan to investigate Japan’s renewable energy, Eco-Model Cities, food policy, recycling, and energy conservation, expecting to find innovative, cutting edge programs.
He discovered that he had been naive. The Japanese boast of their eco-services for eco-products in eco-cities. Yet they rely primarily on imported fossil fuel and nuclear power, live in energy-wasteful homes, and import 60% of their food. That may be changing in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Maybe. But as Pendergrast documents, Japan lags far behind Europe, the United States, and even (in some respects) China in terms of renewable energy efforts. And Japan is mired in bureaucracy, political in-fighting, indecision, puffery, public apathy, and cultural attitudes that make rapid change difficult.
Yet Japan is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with friendly, resilient people who can, when motivated, pull together to accomplish incredible things.
As an island nation, Japan offers a microcosmic look at the problems facing the rest of the globe. And as Japan tips, so may the world.
Mark Pendergrast entertains as he enlightens. As he wrote in Japan’s Tipping Point: “The rest of this account might seem a strange combination of critical analysis, travelogue, absurdist non-fiction, and call to action. It might be called ‘Mark’s Adventures in Japanland: Or, Apocalyptic Visions in a Noodle Shop.’”
What the Reviewers Say:
“This is not just a book review, but a wish and a prayer. The wish is that Japan’s Tipping Point might, even in some small way, contribute to the development of robust and open debate over Japan’s energy future, the options available, and the hard choices that must be made by Japanese citizens, politicians, bureaucrats and corporate executives. It is also a wish that the right choices will be made so that, decades from now, residents of Japan and the planet can look back and view March 11, 2011, as the tragic day that inspired Japan to change — and the world to follow suit. And it is a prayer for all those who died; who lost family, friends, homes and livelihoods; and those, too, who continue to be robbed of their health, safety and their peace of mind by the ongoing fiasco at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. … [This book is] a very readable and engaging tale of [Pendergrast's] visit to Japan. The story reveals the author’s keen journalistic eye and his resulting deep ambivalence about Japan’s future….. But what will surprise readers who are long-time residents of Japan is how much he gets right in such a short time. Pendergrast is incessantly on the move, tracking down unique projects and pointless government programs and interviewing an array of knowledgeable Japanese who seem quite willing to confirm what the author begins to suspect: Japan’s oft-vaunted claim to alternative-energy leadership is an emperor bereft of clothes.” — Stephen Hesse, Japan Times
“Japan’s Tipping Point is a small but amazingly comprehensive look at what the world’s third largest economy is doing to alleviate climate change…. [Americans] who have no particular interest in Japan would still do well to read Pendergrast’s sobering assessment of the energy scene there — and not just because his research is so consistently well regarded. The author argues, ‘As Japan tips, so may the world.’ The island country is facing the same issues of peak oil and aging nuclear reactors that everyone is, he notes, ‘only sooner and more urgently.’” –Amy Lilly, Seven Days
“Japan’s Tipping Point is an important book for everyone concerned with our crippling reliance on nuclear power and fossil fuels. But it’s also quite simply a great read: Pendergrast combines investigative journalism with candid, boots-on-the-ground travelogue, to great effect.”—-David Blittersdorf, CEO, AllEarth Renewables
“A revealing environmental snapshot of Japan, a country with no carbon.” — Robert B. Laughlin, author of Powering the Future