Tokyo-Japanese environmentalist Shigeatsu Hatakeyama, who is up for a “Forest Hero” award from the United Nations, has an unusual inspiration for his long-standing idea that healthy forests depend upon healthy oceans and vice versa: the Bible’s Psalm 42.
As the psalm compares a deer’s thirst for water to the soul’s desire for God, Hatakeyama’s campaign of tree-planting, education and conservation is called “The Forest is Longing for the Sea, the Sea is Longing for the Forest.” The name “is rooted in the ‘longing for’ [in Psalm 42],” said Hatakeyama, who is 68, a professor of field studies and practical learning at Kyoto University and a member of the Japan Baptist Union.
He is a finalist for a Forest Hero Award from the U.N. under its 2011 International Year of Forests program. The awards will be announced on Feb.9.
Although Hatakeyama inhabits academia, he also manages his family’s oyster fishing business in the coastal city of Kesennuma, slammed on March 11 by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeastern coast. The tsunami killed his mother and destroyed much of their property. “I thought that the sea had died,” Hatakeyama said. “I had lost my words when I thought that everything was over.”
In a December speech to a congregation in Tokyo, Hatakeyama said that his 22-year-old campaign’s concepts are demonstrated by the sea’s recovery after the disaster.
His campaign organization and a group of scientists have recently studied the marine ecosystem of Kesennuma Bay and are surveying the forest-sea linkage. Hatakeyama explained that iron supplied from the forest through the river into the sea is playing a key role in the recovery of sealife. “As a deer longs for flowing streams, the oysters long for the water in the forest,” he noted.
“I am convinced that the ‘Forest is Longing for the Sea’ [campaign] has taken the right course,” he said.