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June 2000

Kids Hold Summit in Okinawa Before G8 Meeting

Elementary and middle school students from all over Japan got together in Okinawa in May to discuss how to preserve the global environment, ahead of the Group of Eight meeting of world leaders in Okinawa in July.

A panel discussion on the theme of the global environment in the twenty-first century was held by 84 delegates from all 47 prefectures in Japan. They shared their experiences with environmental issues and visited mangrove forests in subtropical Okinawa.

A sixth grader from the host prefecture reported that even in Okinawa, where the natural environment is in relatively good shape, development projects have caused clay to wash into the sea after heavy rainfall, damaging precious coral reefs.

Another Okinawa delegate said he makes an effort not to use paper tissues or disposable chopsticks. He was greeted with applause when he said: "We can solve the environmental problems of today if all of us do our own share."

A middle school representative from Mie Prefecture told the meeting that he and his friends were able to persuade their town's mayor to turn a dam clean-up campaign, initiated by kids, into a townwide project. "Children can move adults," he stressed.

A declaration was adopted at the meeting citing the things kids can do to help conserve the environment, such as not wasting limited resources and recycling as much as possible. The declaration was submitted to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who will chair the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit in July. He promised to convey their message to the G8 leaders.

At a mangrove forest near the mouth of Gesashi River, local middle school students explained their activities to preserve the habitats of fish and other living creatures. One visitor was shocked to find empty cans abandoned among the mangroves.

The visitors also went to a beach in the city of Nago to watch young hawksbill turtles, hatched by pupils at Kayo Elementary School, return to the sea. They were told many sea turtles die after eating plastic, mistaking it for jellyfish.

Photos (from top): An Okinawan student presents a report; summit participants check out a mangrove forest. (Asahi Shogakusei Shimbun)