TEDxKyotoUniversity 2016 2nd Speaker Interview – Dr. Misuzu Asari


Fujioka :Good evening everybody, I am Aki Fujioka, and welcome to the third installment of our TEDxKyotoUniversity invterviews. Today’s speaker is also one of our professors here at Kyoto University, an expert in the fields of Environmental Education and recycling, Professor Misuzu Asari! Thank you for your time professor.

Asari    : Not at all.

F          : So can you tell us what sparked your interest in the field of waste recycling and environmental studies?

A          : Actually, when I entered Kyoto University, it never occurred to me that I would end up specializing in waste disposal and recycling. After studying about the environment at Kyoto University, I was appalled by how people would leave the lights on, and over-stuff garbage bags. I wanted to stop such actions, and make a change in how things worked. And after discussing it with my friends I founded the “Waste management association for Kyoto University”, in hopes that the Kyoto University campus becomes a starting point for students’ environmental awareness. The work of Professor Takatsuki, who became my academic supervisor, were particularly inspiring; he used manga to spread awareness of proper waste managment.

F          : Manga is extremely popular and a great way to convey your message to the public. I am really interested in your current research, what can you tell us about it?

A          : On one hand, we are investigating how household waste in Kyoto degrades. Professor Takatsuki has collected hundreds kilograms of household waste in Kyoto, and sorted them out. We are investigating what would happen such rubbish if left to degrade for 35 years. We are also investigating the disposal of poisonous materials such as mercury with everyday rubbish. On the other hand, we are also researching waste produced due to the destruction caused by natural disasters, and how to deal with it. We are also analyzing rubbish from other countries, especially in developing areas.

F          :Did you learn something from Kyoto citizens which is of benefit to your research?

A          :Yes. People say that Kyoto citizens are very sparing (laugh). Although people spend billions of yen on beautiful decorations for festivals, they tend to be quite frugal with their daily expenses and use their belongings for a long time. This kind of non-consumerist attitude is actually great for the environment, and my students and I are trying to spread this spirit to solve environmental problems.

F          : Do you think there are any changes about people’s minds to the environment?

A          : When I was born, back in the 1970s, pollution was a serious problem, and people were really concerned about it. Any by the 1980s and 90s, most of these problems were solved through by technology, and the people, who were aware of how things were in the 70s, could appreciate the change, and were aware of the effects of pollution. When I entered university, the focus shifted to global environmental problems global warming. However, despite studying about them in school, the Japanese hardly relate to those environmental problems to daily lives, and their desire to solve the problems has probably decreased.

F          : I see, spreading awareness I essential for solving current environmental problems. What can you share with us about your TEDxKyotoUniversity talk to help spread such awareness?

A          : When people throw the rubbish, they probably do not think too much of it, I’ve dealt with rubbish for years now though, and I feel people don’t put much thought into how much garbage they’re producing. In the talk, I will talk about some surprising facts about the life of the garbage you create.

F          : Any closing comments or words of advice for current of prospective environment majors?

A          : Well, we may have environment problems here in Japan under control, but that is not the case in other, particularly developing, countries. The situation there is rather urgent. Sharing our techniques with them will be extremely valuable to global environmental issues.

F          : A great closing comment! Thank you so much for being here with us today professor Asari, and I am eager to listen to your talk on October 30th. To our readers, as always, thank you for tuning in to our blog, and we hope to see you at the event. This was Aki Fujioka on the third installment of our interviews series.