CPE :: Lesson 9



LECCION 9 - PAGINA 4   índice del curso   página anterior   página siguiente




Now read the article below. Then you will have to do two activities on the next page.


Japan, more than any other country in the modern world, provides a striking example of what technology can achieve and also of the problems such technological advance inevitably brings with it. In little more than fifty years it has been transformed from a largely agricultural country into one of the most densely populated, most highly industrialised nations in the world. Nevertheless, while most of us are conscious of this phenomenal development, we are probably not as aware of the handicaps inherent in Japan's physical environment, the natural hazards the country is subject to, and the relationship between these unavoidable hazards and the technological explosion.

Japan's situation has sometimes been compared to that of Great Britain but apart from them both being islands (in the case of Japan it would be more accurate to say a number of islands) they are not really alike. In terms of physical geography Britain's position is more stable than Japan's and its problems are not nearly so acute. For one thing, only about a third of Japan is habitable because 60 per cent of it is over 300 m. high, making up the volcanic mountain chain which runs from north to south. As a result, four-fifths of the Japanese population of 105 million people are crowded together in the low-lying, flat areas of the eastern seaboard in great cities like Tokyo and Osaka.
Even though many of the man-made pressures on society and the consequent problems of pollution are similar to those of Great Britain, Japan has far more serious natural hazards to cope with. It lies on a point where two continental plates meet so that there is a constant risk of volcanic eruption and earthquakes. Tokyo therefore shares with San Francisco the unenviable reputation of being a city certain to be affected in the future by an earthquake similar to the one which killed 140,000 people in 1923. To make matters worse, the land has subsided since then so that 60 sq. km. of the Tokyo city area are now below sea level, with the consequent additional dangers of widespread flooding, which is in any case a perennial hazard in Japan. At least five intense tropical storms, locally known as "typhoons", sweep in every summer from the Pacific, causing tidal waves, floods and landslides and as a side effect, fires which devastate cities built mainly of wood. For example, the Ise Bay Typhoon of 1959 killed over 5000 people, and destroyed or damaged 150,000 houses. The Japanese people have long been accustomed to disasters of this kind. Now their successful economic development is accentuating the problems in various ways and making them more difficult to solve. The need to expand cities up the mountain slopes which enclose them has increased the likelihood of landslides. As fast as the Government builds flood embankments to prevent flooding, further man-induced subsidence stemming from the pressure for land creates new problem areas.
In the cities themselves, the over-concentration of population and the growth of industrialisation have in turn produced a multitude of problems - inadequate housing, traffic congestion, shortage of water, excessive noise, air and water pollution and smog. The Japanese government itself admitted in 1972 that it had not done as much as it could have to regulate the activities of polluting businesses and that environment disruption at first proceeded without drawing much attention but is now as serious a problem as any of the natural hazards. Anyone looking at Japan's achievement in the light of this statement is bound to regard it with a mixture of admiration and sympathy. The more we think about it, the more it may seem not only a potential target for other societies to reach but also a warning.


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