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Developing International Environment Leaders with a Deep Mutual Understanding of Asian and African Countries

Development Program for Dual-Response International Environment Leaders (Project chosen for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's 2008 Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science, "Establishment of a Program for Developing Strategic Environment Leaders")

In 2008, the "Establishment of a Program for Developing Strategic Environment Leaders" initiative to establish global environment leaders was started as a new project included in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science. The application conditions for the project were that it provide a place for foreign students from Asian and African countries to learn alongside Japanese students, with an appropriate balance of learning about natural science and social science, and also that students would participate in company internships and research development, in combination with their existing curricula at graduate schools for environmental studies.

This is a program that aims to not only provide students with knowledge of environmental issues and science technology, but to present students with the real-life situations of environmental issues that transcend national borders, requiring a balance of both capacity for mutual understanding of foreign cultures and practical ability, in order to develop leaders capable of carrying forward environmental issues and international contributions - involving not only Japanese students, but also students from our partner countries. The prospect of eventually establishing a collaborative system whereby several units of accreditation could be acquired at both universities is being praised.

Teachers and students from the "Development of Dual-Response International Environmental Leaders" (the photo shows some of the members. Second-left in the front is research representative Masafumi Katsuta, and on his right is Professor Tokuhisa Yoshida, the man in charge of the internship)

Among universities that met these requirements, five were chosen for this project in 2008, and three were chosen in 2009. Waseda University was the only private university chosen alongside famous national universities. What made Waseda University stand out among a few graduate schools offering environmental studies with an emphasis on engineering was the fact that our Graduate School of Environment and Energy Engineering (formed in 2007), which had been moving forward predominantly in the area of mechanical engineering, was central in our efforts towards this project, and also that we had already achieved excellent results in pursuing environmental studies with an integration of humanities and sciences, between the other wide-ranging initiatives at each of our graduate schools of humanities and social sciences such as our Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies and the initiatives at local Asian studies, making us extremely well-placed to offer an integrated and international curriculum for training environmental leaders.

I heard about the uniquely-named "Development of Dual-Response International Environmental Leaders" project that was started by Waseda from research representative Masafumi Katsuta, a professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Graduate School of Environment and Energy Engineering, as well as administrative director Yuji Nagai, Research Fellow at the Center for Integrated Environmental Research, and the main man behind the project Tokuhisa Yoshida, a professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Graduate School of Environment and Energy Engineering, and the man in charge of the China-Japan Joint Internship Program (*1).

*1. This was made possible by full-scale financial assistance provided by Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd.

Based on Hands-on Environmental Education

"That the word 'dual-response' is contained within the title reflects both the fact that this is a business project developed by Japan and our overseas partners, and the effort to achieve the 'dual' objectives of this project, namely to develop a curriculum that enables Japanese students and students from throughout Asia to learn with and from each other, and to pursue educational research within the field of environmental studies, with an integration of humanities and science" (Professor Katsuta)

At the Graduate School of Environment and Energy Engineering of Waseda University's graduate school, many kinds of projects have already been developed in collaboration with local governments, citizens and companies, with the campus in Honjo, Saitama serving as a base. Among these, a wide range of hydrogen energy projects have been carried out, incorporating each of the industrial, academic, government and private sectors, and ranging from research development to demonstration experiments involving locals (*2). Worthy of special mention is the fact that young students at the graduate schools have been performing very admirably as key persons in projects.

"In the area of environmental studies, it is highly beneficial to have students get on-site and first hand experience, and take charge of coordinating roles for joint research and demonstration experiments. Through doing things such as forming partnerships with local residents, students can serve as catalysts in smoothly advancing collaborations among the industrial, academic, government and private sectors." (Professor Katsuta)

For instance, at the Honjo campus's 2007 "Hydrogen Festival" that was opened to the public, high praise was given from all quarters to the students who vigorously performed demonstrations of hydrogen-fueled cars, presentations of research findings and experiment events for children to an audience consisting of people from wide-ranging backgrounds, from local residents to environmental administrators from the government. It could be said that the graduate school's Environment and Energy Research Facility's initiatives up until this point had been naturally implanted with a function for 'Developing Environmental Leaders'.

"Even when the Cabinet Office has commissioned think-tanks to carry out surveys on the development of environmental leaders, the initiatives of our graduate school received extremely high praise. When planning for this environmental leader development project, we decided to carry on further developing our hands-on research and education that has led to great achievements and praise.

With regard to environmental studies based on an integration of humanities and science, as well as development of international leaders, we have already been advancing many projects in these areas too (*2). With these incomparable achievements serving as a base, and further combined with Waseda's collaborative research with other Asian countries, one of its strengths, this "Development of Dual-Response International Environmental Leaders" could be described as the product of multiplying one strength with another.

*2. See "Special Research Zone," back no. issue May 27, 2008, "Hydrogen Energy Research Institute"

. For example, see "Special Research Zone," back issue October 28, 2008, "Foundations for Developing Global Human Resources for Unifying the Asian Region" and issue July 30, 2009 of the same journal, "Environmental Research Center - W-Bridge Project"

"The People and Areas of Activity Envisaged by this Program"

Model of a master's program for the "Development of Dual-Response International Environmental Leaders" program Details concerning Asian and African countries are currently being dealt with in partnership with China/Beijing University

Achieving a China-Japan Joint Internship

Beijing Gaobeidian Wastewater Treatment Plant (exhibition room)

Eco-Town, Kitakyushu

Nippon Steel Corporation's Kimitsu Works

Also experienced using draft nets in Toshima, Kagawa prefecture, where illegal dumping of industrial waste is a problem

Left: The debriefing sessions for the Japan-China Joint Internship (September 2009, Waseda University) / Right: Two Beijing University students who participated in the internship also took part while in China, through a remote seminar system (a teleconference system)

As a collaborative project with Asian and African countries, this project focuses on collaborations with China, Japan's closest partner. The long-held partnership between Beijing University and Waseda University was one of the things that led to the development of this project. In 2008, a basic agreement was reached with Beijing University to establish collaborative graduate schools in connection with 'sustainable development', and work has begun to develop several unit accreditation systems.

That walls have been struck since beginning to make concrete efforts is due to the different university systems between the two countries. For instance, while master's programs offered at Japanese universities are generally two years in length, they are three years long in China. In the case of doctor's courses as well, the stances of the two countries differ greatly, with China emphasizing unit accreditation based on lectures attended, and Japan emphasizing research activities. While it is true that a double-degree system will not be developed in a short space of time, both universities have at least begun to work actively towards a solution to the problem.

Along with this comprehensive initiative, in April 2009 the "Development of Dual-Response International Environmental Leaders" master's program was commenced, with eight students participating as first-term students at Waseda University (three of whom were international students from China), and six participating at Beijing University. The international internship conducted in summer by collaboration of Japan and China was the highlight of the program. This was made possible by full-scale financial assistance provided by Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd. Students from both universities visit each other's countries and take part in exchanges, visiting and inspecting actual sites, and gaining a deep understanding of the initiatives made and issues faced in Japan and China, with an aim towards providing them with the knowledge needed to become international environmental leaders.

"We are pressing forward with our program, with the knowledge that a sustainable society not be realized now without cooperation and mutual understanding between Japan and China. It is no exaggeration to say that the environmental policies, and the social conditions within which they are formulated, are on completely different dimensions. By being thrust into real situations, and hearing real voices, students can gain a first-hand feel of these differences. In addition, it is the aim of our internship that Japanese and Chinese students be able to deepen their knowledge by exchanging opinions with each other." (Professor Yoshida)

Destinations for visits and inspections included a solid balance of places in five fields: 1. government agencies; 2. infrastructures for environmental conservation; 3. key industries; 4. resource and environmental facilities; and 5. NGOs. In 2009, inspections and visits were made in China to: the Chinese government's Environmental Preservation Department; 'Friends of Nature,' China's largest-scale NGO; 'Liumingying Ecological Farm,' a model farm in the suburbs of Beijing; Beijing's largest sewage treatment plant; and the severely-polluted Lake Tai, while in Japan inspections and visits were made to: the Ministry of the Environment; the environmental department of a newspaper company, Eco-Town in Kitakyushu, Ariake's Water Reclamation Center; the Kimitsu Works of Nippon Steel Corporation, who emit 1% of Japan's total CO2 emissions; Tokyo Electric Power Company's Futtsu Thermal Power Station; and Lake Biwa.

"These were one-week whirlwind tours of Japan and China, but by setting a system and carrying out visits and inspections, as well as having advance-lectures prior to visits, and thorough review discussions after visits, we were able to provide students with high-quality learning" (Professor Yoshida)

Seeking a Definition of "Environmental Leaders"

Through this collaborative program between Japan and China, an emphasis is placed in students gaining not just a superficial understanding of real-life examples, but also a thorough understanding of the complex background factors, such as differences in the historical contexts of both countries, policy differences and differences in people's attitudes and lifestyles.

"The most important thing in understanding the differences in environmental policies between Japan and China is that in Japan, there was an age of pollution, and following that there came an age of concern for the environment, but in China both are now occurring simultaneously. Here, in consideration of the rapidly expanding gap between the rich and the poor, there is an emerging vision of a "harmonized society" to get rid of conflicts among classes, and of an "ecological civilization" building a sustainable lifestyle different to those found in advanced countries in Europe, the U.S. and Japan." (Professor Yoshida)

Although the idea of an 'environment' is described in just one word, the area that it refers to is wide-ranging, and the viewpoint from which it is considered can vary completely depending on the country or region. Furthermore, a definition of 'environmental leaders' must be established during future program initiatives. "What exactly is environmental management, and what is practical ability within the environmental field? I believe that finding such definitions, one by one, is also a vital issue for this program to address." (Professor Katsuta)

Though the "Development of Dual-Response International Environmental Leaders" project has only just arrived at its beginning, the young generation are taking on a central role in working within a practical, curriculum that emphasizes international and intercultural communication as well as hands-on learning, environmental leaders of an altogether new kind are steadily beginning to emerge.

Figure on left: Three Policies for a Sustainable Society, Japan/Figure on right: The Policy Target & 3 Visions of Society, China

Related Links

Waseda University's 'Development of Dual-Response International Environmental Leader' project

Waseda University's Graduate School of Environment and Energy Engineering

Waseda University's Environmental Research Institute

Waseda University's Faculty of Science and Engineering

Waseda University's Studies in Sustainability Research Advancement Headquarters

Honjo Waseda Research Park Foundation

Waseda Environmental Citizen Network (NPO)