(Note: Sotoshu seems not to have posted an essay on 10: Reduced Inequalities.)
Urban areas are the centers of economy and culture, and provide a variety of infrastructures that are essential for daily life. Currently, the world's population is about 7.7 billion, of which about half live in urban areas. It is expected that the number of people living in urban areas will continue to increase in the future, and by 2050, it is estimated that 70% of the world's population will be living in urban areas.
However, the comfortable life in urban areas causes many problems at the same time. For example, the formation of slums due to poverty in urban areas, the rise in temperature due to the heat island effect, the decrease in green areas due to urban development, the massive consumption of energy resources, and the depopulation of rural areas due to the movement of population are some of the problems. To solve these problems, we need to create a sustainable city.
So, what can each of us do? Why don't we start by finding out what specific problems our own cities are facing and what efforts are being made to solve them? You are sure to find something that you can participate in on an individual basis, such as volunteer work or community activities, to help create a community where you can continue to live. If you look at things from a different perspective, such as on your way to and from work or school, a good idea might come up.
Although it is less common nowadays, it used to be the case that cell phone signals became weak as soon as you entered a building, and calls were often cut off in Japan. Nowadays, with the improvement of base stations, such situations seem to be a rare case, at least when living in Tokyo.
This is not only about cell phones, but our lives in developed countries are made up of infrastructure such as water, electricity, gas, etc., which we take for granted and do not usually think about.
We should not forget that there are many countries and regions where infrastructure is not "normal". Since this is a post about social networking, the foundation is based on the development of the Internet network and the accompanying technology, but at present, it is reported that about 60% of the world's population does not have access to the Internet.
Is there anything we can do about this situation? It may be obvious to everyone that it is not so easy. However, learning about the current situation and making donations to international NGOs, for example, is one effective way to help. Dogen Zenji said in Shobogenzo, "When we study giving well, receiving a body and discarding a body are both giving; earning a living and working are fundamentally nothing other than giving."
This goal, which some people may not be familiar with, means "Let's do a rewarding and human-like job" and "Equal income, health, education and employment opportunities." Do you all work with peace of mind? Do you find it worthwhile to work? Do you feel that opportunities are given equally?
In fact, this goal was set by the current situation that the global unemployment rate is declining. Since the financial crisis that occurred in 2008, it has been serious due to the global financial crisis mainly in the United States and the accompanying economic collapse. It seems that while Japan's job vacancies fell to a record low in 2009, the global unemployment rate rose 5.1% in 2017, and the United States has reached a record high unemployment rate due to Covid-19.
It is difficult for us to separate "working" from our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that the more time you spend on work, the more it is your life itself. However, if you feel crisis in that important "place of work," it will be difficult to maintain not only job satisfaction but also a healthy body and mind.
Economic growth cannot be expected in an environment where human growth is not promoted. In addition, if the economy does not grow, employment will not increase, and people whose lives themselves are threatened will not be given the opportunity.
If you want to save the world, cherishing the person in front of you will save the world. It’s not that difficult, is it? Think about what you can do now.
Many of you are probably reading this post on your smart phones or tablet devices. These devices naturally require electricity as a form of energy, and we take for granted that we can secure electricity by plugging in a charger. However, according to the United Nations, about 789 million people in the world do not have access to electricity. The world's population is currently about 7,594,690,000, which is about 1 in 10 people. The stable availability of electricity around the world is essential not only for daily life, but especially for medical facilities under the current pandemic.
So, what does it mean to be "clean"? In areas where electricity is not available or cannot be used stably, fuels such as coal and charcoal are used, which are harmful to the environment and human health. In other words, "clean" power generation methods, such as solar, wind, and hydro power, are those that do not emit carbon dioxide and do not threaten to run out of resources.
In North America, where our office is located, there are a number of temples and Zen centers where many priests are active. Some of them have installed geothermal heating/cooling systems and solar panels to power all of their facilities, and each of them is practicing the SDGs.
So, what can we do to achieve this goal? It is important to reduce the use of electrical appliances and to invest in renewable energy sources, but perhaps we should also take an interest in the energy situation in our own country and in other countries, and think about the future. The SDGs is a pledge to "leave no one behind" on the planet and a goal to achieve a sustainable and better world by 2030. Through energy issues, which are indispensable in our daily lives, let's raise awareness of the other goals and take action together.
Generally, we can use the household tap water safely for both drinking and cooking. However, if you look around the world, there are so many people who are still living without an access to safe water.
It has been reported that about 2.2 billion people in the world do not have access to safe water, and about 4.2 billion people also do not, to safely managed toilets. There still are many countries in the world that do not have infrastructure facilities and systems. For example, many people use untreated waste water from home and factories as drinking water in developing countries. Such untreated water has a negative impact on the health for children. And there are many cases of ill-equipped toilets set in the outside without privacy and electricity. It causes the dangerous situation for women and children to be subjected to violence.
What can we do now for that? For example, to stop using the water while you are lathering up the soap would be the first important step we can take, to conserve water on a daily life. A small care of action for the people in addition to myself could be a power to save the world.
Gender distinction is created by differences in the social and cultural roles of men and women in the world. For example, have you ever thought about the unconscious division of roles or the image that "Men work outside home and women do the housework”? We sometimes see boys carrying a black school bags and girls with red ones. However, in this way, there are many people around the world who suffer from discrimination and prejudice because of this assumption such as "Men should be like this" or "Women should be like that".
Even if you can't find them around you, if you look around a little bit, many women or girls in the world who cannot get an education just because they are girls, who are forced to get married or get pregnant as minors, or who have no choice but to focus on housework and childcare as adults.
Some of you might think that Japan has less gender discrimination. However, according to the Gender Gap Index, which measures the social and cultural disparities between men and women around the world, Japan ranks 121st out of 153 countries. It has been reported that Japanese women's participation is low in the political and economic fields. Even if they want to have more working opportunities, some of women must give up because of their housework or childcare. For example, which are familiar to you, you may find a gender gap in your family as well. In your family, who does the housework? How do you spend your time? If only one person has a lot of housework to do, discussing and dividing the housework among all family members would be an important step toward achieving the goals of the SDGs.
(Note: Sotoshu seems not to have posted an essay on goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing.)
With the aim of improving mutual understanding and the welfare of children around the world, November 20th was established by the United Nations in 1954 as World Children's Day. Nine millions of children in the world, the future of the planet, are not able to attend elementary school, which is equivalent to one in 11 children of elementary school age. Many of these children can speak the language but cannot read. Not knowing books means that they do not have the opportunity to get an education. Without an education, they cannot get a stable job and get out of the poverty. In countries where there is a lack of schools and libraries, children will grow up without the opportunity to learn.
Bringing picture books to children who can't read is one way to help. Sotoshu is cooperating with the project of Shanti Volunteer Association, "Campaign to Deliver Picture Books" as one of the concrete measures to promote SGDs. We should try to broaden our perspective, starting from the small things around us, and think of them as our own. This might be the beginning of concrete action.
More than 800 million people on the earth are now suffering from hunger, and the impact on infants and children is particularly severe, so, many lives of them have been lost. It is said that starvation is caused by natural disasters and conflicts in many parts of the world, but it is not the only cause of the hunger.
"Food loss" refers to the food that is still edible but is thrown away. About 1.3 billion tons of food are discarded in the world each year. This is about one-third of the world's production. We are not unaffected by world hunger, when we think of the possibility of how this vast amount of wasted food could be reached to those who are suffering from hunger.
To reduce this "food loss", in France, the law is enacted in 2016 that bans the disposal of food in the country's supermarkets and requires that unsold food be donated. Violations will result in a fine.
What could each of us do, to make that happen? For example, have you ever been forced to discard food without checking the refrigerator because it inadvertently passed its expiration date? Checking the content of your fridge often and eliminating waste is another initiative we can implement right away. A little bit of care of our action could be the power to save the world.
SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are the international goals for a sustainable and better world by 2030. It is adopted at the United Nations Summit in September 2015, and the main goal is to "Leave no one behind" in society.
In January 2020, the Decade of Action to Achieve the SDGs has been begun. Also, Soto Zen Buddhism itself has started several kinds of project to try to achieve the goals.
One in 7 children in Japan is living in poverty. More than 800 million people in the world are still living on less than US$1.90 a day. Many problems are caused by living in a state of poverty. For example, we cannot buy a piece of bread or a rice ball at a convenience store in Japan for US$1.90. The prices of them might vary by region by region....
It means that for US$1.90 a day, not only do they not get enough food and water to drink, but they are not be able to get an education, or go to a hospital if they feel under the weather. The cases of the children growing up in such families have been currently reported that in many cases the poverty is passed down from parents to children as it is like a chain.
Please learn about each of the 17 goals, and the current situation. And then, it is important to accept the 17 goals as your own, and take an action, for example, donating clothes which you no longer wear or excess foods is a good way.
Please look around you, so, a better way to do might be found.
These are short monthly Sotoshu essays on each of the 17 UN sustainable development goals. They are not written for a Western audience and there's nothing groundbreaking here; they're very much aimed at suggesting simple things that people can do at home. Nonetheless, they may provide some food for thought about ways to engage in the community. New essays will be added as they are available. Comments are open; please post reflections if you wish.