Human Responsibilities to Future Generations:

Our Responsibilities on the Environment and Natural Resources

I.  General

(1) Prevention of Crisis 

The InterAction Council, in its 25 years history, played a large role in various areas including, among others, finishing the Cold War, serving as a bridge between religions leaders and politicians, and giving appropriate warnings of dangers, such as greenhouse effects and deregulating and globalizing financial market[1].

In particular, a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities (“the Universal Declaration”) proposed by the InterAction Council on 1 September 1997[2] is comprised of five sections, Fundamental Principles for Humanity, Non-Violence and Respect for Life (from Article 5 to 7), Justice and Solidarity (from Article 8 to 11),  Truthfulness and Tolerance (from Article 12 to 15), and Mutual Respect and Partnership (from Article 16 to 18), stipulated very deep human responsibilities and has influenced societies and politics around the world. 

We, however, after the Universal Declaration, have learned the lesson that crisis cannot be completely prevented merely by a general warning.  Such crises include, for example, the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001 in the United States, the War in the Afghanistan, the Iraq War and the Sub-prime Loan Problem which has had adverse effect on the world markets.

Therefore, when discussing about modification, addition, or deletion of the Universal Declaration, we need a viewpoint of “preventing” crisis more seriously.  For such purpose, I would like to propose to stipulating concrete responsibilities to prevent issues in the Universal Declaration.

(2) Human Responsibilities to the Future

Human responsibilities have two aspects.  The first one is the human responsibilities for the mankind of “our time”.  The current Universal Declaration mainly sets forth that aspect.

However, the present people, in particular younger generations, worry about the future rather than now, and feel responsibilities to it.  The “future” includes not only our own future, but also future generations.  As a young leader, I believe we should stress human responsibilities to “future” generations more concretely.  In particular, we should surely refer to issues which would endanger the viability of future human beings. 

There are two issues, I believe, we need to add.  One is the issue of the environment, and the other is the issue of natural resources.  We must deal with these two issues as our responsibilities to the future because both the environment and natural resources are limited and once destroyed or used up, they never recover. 

The InterAction Council, about 20 years, gave a warning of danger of “greenhouse effects” urging that an international conference be convened on global ecological issues to set target values for the emission of CO2.  This led to the Rio Summit in 1992 and eventually to the Kyoto Protocol of 1998[3].  In other words, the Council itself served an important role on the environmental issue at its early stage far before the Universal Declaration.

In addition, the Council, as a result of dialogue between political leaders and religious leaders at the high-level expert group meeting in 2007, recommends “(r)ecognising the threat to the viability of human species and harnessing the power of religious movements to meet the environmental challenges of respecting life and protecting the Earth for the benefit of future generations”[4].  The InterAction Council itself recognizes that our responsibility to the future with regard to environments and nature is tied up with our viability.  

This responsibility is related with ethics and activities of each one of us, corporations, mass media and politicians.   Accordingly, I would like to propose the addition of articles in the Universal Declaration which specifically stipulate human responsibility to protect the environment and natural resources.


(1) Nobel Peace Prize

In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize, which has been generally recognized as the greatest authority in the peace making area, was awarded to one individual, former Vice President of the United States Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr., and one international association, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The reason of their awards is “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”[5]

Former Vice President Al Gore played a great role in letting people all over the world know the risk of climate change through his own movie “Inconvenient Truth”.  I am one of the people who was shocked to see how serious climate change is.  No film had ever taught us about the adverse effects already seen in the world and risk of further climate change.

In the press release of the Nobel Prize, it is pointed out that “He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted”[6]. 

IPCC, in its Fourth Assessment Report, gives more detailed scientific analysis, effect and measures to be taken on climate change.  The Assessment report consists of reports from three Working Groups.  The First working group is on physical science basis impacts.  The Second working group is on adaptation and vulnerability.  The Third working group is on mitigation of climate change. 

In the Nobel Prize press release, it is pointed out that “the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming.

Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming.  Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support.  In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.[7]”

Through these activities and other various activities and research afterwards, it has become clear that climate change is the “real risk” to the Earth and, without effective preventive measures, mankind and all other livings on the Earth would not be able to survive in the future.

(2) The Effect of Climate Change

(I)            Effects in the world

The IPCC, in its report, pointed out several observed changes in climate and their effects.  Such changes and effects include rising sea level, observed decreases in snow and ice extent, a significant increase of precipitation in eastern parts of North and South America, northern Europe and northern and central Asia, increase of area affected by drought, and increase in intense tropical cyclone activity[8].

IPCC gives a warning that “(c)ontinued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century”.  

Examples of such larger changes are:

1) snow cover is projected to contract;

2) widespread increases in thaw depth are projected over most permafrost regions;

3) sea ice is projected to shrink in both the Arctic and Antarctic;

4) arctic late-summer sea ice is projected to disappear almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century[9];

5) hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent; and

6) future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increase of tropical sea surface temperature[10]. 

Altered frequencies and intensity of extreme weather, together with sea level rise, are expected to have mostly adverse effects on natural and human systems[11].

(II)          Warming effects seen in Japan

In Japan, the average temperature increases 1 degree centigrade during the 20the century.  In particular, increase of average temperature in Tokyo during the same period was 2.9 degrees centigrade[12]. 

In 2007, the observed highest temperature record from 1933 was broken after 74 years at two points (40.8 degrees centigrade).  In recent years, we suffered huge damage from very intensive precipitation in certain areas.  The number of Nettaiya, a night in which the lowest temperature is over 25, has been increasing for these years. 

Changes of ecological systems of animals and plants have been reported.  Such changes include decreases of alpine plants, upward shifts in insects, animals and plants, earlier timing of the bloom of cherry blossoms, and later leaf changes of ginkgo trees and maple trees[13].  We rarely see the frost in winter which we usually saw 20 years ago in metropolitan area. 

You will be surprise at how hot summer is in the big cities of Japan.

(III) Causes of Change

As told in the above, warming of climate system is unequivocal, and if we do nothing, further climate change will have adverse effects all over the Earth. 

In addition, it becomes clear that such climate change is caused by humans.     

Since pre-industrial times, the global greenhouse gases due to human activity have increased 70% between 1970 and 2004[14].  Among greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important anthropogenic gas.  Its annual emissions grew by about 80% between 1970 and 2004[15]. 

The report of Working Group I concludes that “the global average net effect of human activities since 1975 has been one of warming, with a radiative forcing of as +1.6 (+0.6 to +2.4) W m-2[16]”.  In other words, the human activity net effect since the Industrial Revolution has been the warming of climate. 

(IV) Our responsibilities

As seen above, each one of us contributes to the climate change.  Therefore, each one of us must assume responsibility to adapt and mitigate further climate change.  Working Group II points out as follows, “(t)he array of potential adaptive responses available to human societies is very large, ranging from purely technological (e.g., sea defences), through behavioural (e.g., altered food and recreational choices), to managerial (e.g., altered farm practices) and to policy (e.g., planning regulations[17])”. 

Accordingly, responsibilities to adapt and mitigate climate change are not only those of each individual, but also of corporations, mass media and politicians.  This is why I would like to propose addition of concrete responsibilities in the Universal Declaration to prevent further climate change. 

As the Nobel Prize Committee stressed, “(i)ndications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds.  Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind.  They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources.  Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries.  There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states”[18].  Therefore, climate change issue is very important to the goals of the InterAction Council. 

(V) Measures taken and to be taken

i Kyoto Protocol

Kyoto Protocol which was executed in 1997 goes into enforcement period this year.  However, there is a serious problem related to this Protocol.

One problem is that many countries, in particular the United States and China, the two largest emission nations, have no commitment to reduce emission of greenhouse gases.  Some countries including the United States have not executed or not approved the Protocol through its necessary internal process.  Other countries owe no concrete obligation to reduce the greenhouse gases mainly because they are developing countries.  As shown in the Attachment 1, in 2005, the United States in portion of total emission of the carbon dioxide is 22% and China portion same year is 19%.  Accordingly, it is clear that the Kyoto Protocol is not enough to solve the climate change issue.

(ii) Japan’s position

Japan has executed the Kyoto Protocol and is making best efforts to keep its obligations as the host country of the Protocol.

In addition, at the Heiligendamm G8 Summit, the former Prime Minister Abe announced the “Cool Earth 50” vision in which he proposed to reduce 50% of total emission of the greenhouse gases in the world by 2050.  Japan is going to host this year’s G8 Summit at the lake Toya in Hokkaido.  Japan would like to take initiative to create a consensus on reducing greenhouse gases this Summit.  

On June 9, 2008, Prime Minister Fukuda announced his “Fukuda’s Vision”.  In this Vision, he showed his determination to transform our society into the “Low-carbon Society[19]”.  In order to achieve this, it is necessary to make “each citizen the protagonist in this endeavour.  The creation of a low-carbon society requires each citizen to act with an understanding of the meaning and importance of this goal as well as of the methods and burden involved.  The Japanese people are not to be spectators who merely sit back and observe the move towards a low-carbon society. Each citizen is an actor and protagonist. To achieve a low-carbon society it is essential for people to have knowledge, to envision a new society, to act and to propagate.[20]”  This should apply to the world citizens.

And as he pointed out, (t)he spirit of mottainai will certainly serve as a keyword in low-carbon societies to come”.  “Mottainai” is the Japanese term meaning "a sense of regret concerning waste when the intrinsic value of an object or resource is not properly utilized."  The expression "mottainai!" can be uttered alone as an exclamation when something useful, such as food or time, is wasted[21].  This term is now widely known since Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, has promoted the concept of “mottainai” as a term that is roughly equivalent to the English phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (3R Campaign) through her activities.  The biggest difference between “mottainai” and 3R or wasteful is that “mottainai” is a feeling, sense or ethics which directly is from our heart. 

To prevent further climate change, setting rules is not enough.  We need to change our spirit or sense.  The issue is very fundamental to human beings.

I believe the spirit of “Mottainai” can be useful to increase worldwide understandings on the necessity to reduce the greenhouse gases and to change our sense not to waste anything.

(VI) Proposal

Article 7 of the Universal Declaration provides that “(e)very person is infinitely precious and must be protected unconditionally.  The animals and the natural environment also demand protection.  All people have a responsibility to protect the air, water and soil of the earth for the sake of present inhabitants and future generations”. I would like to propose to change the third sentence as follows; “All people, corporations, entities, mass media, and politicians have a responsibility to adapt and mitigate climate change through any means including to protect the air, water and soil of the earth for the sake of present inhabitants and future generations.  All persons should stop any waste of an object or resource based on the spirit of “mottainai”. 

II. Natural Resources

(1) Natural Resources Problem

The1997 Universal Declaration refers to the natural resources issue.  In its Introductory Comment, as follows, “(t)he following draft of human responsibilities seeks to bring freedom and responsibility into balance and to promote a move from the freedom of indifference to the freedom of involvement.  If one person or government seeks to maximise freedom but does it at the expense of others, a larger number of people will suffer.  If human beings maximise their freedom by plundering the natural resources of the earth, then future generations will suffer”.  However, the main articles themselves do not clearly refer to natural resources.  There is Article 7 referred in the above and Article 11 which states, “(a)ll property and wealth must be used responsibly in accordance with justice and for the advancement of the human race. Economic and political power must not be handled as an instrument of domination, but in the service of economic justice and of the social order.”  But, I believe we should refer to this issue more clearly due to its seriousness. 

The current market situation as of the end of June 2008 is unprecedented due to the steep rise in price of almost all natural resources.  Such natural resources include, but are not limited to, crude oil, natural gas, iron ore, copper, aluminum, uranium. 

Japan is dependent upon imported natural resources and therefore, affected directly by increase in prices.  The price of gasoline per litter has increase from 100 Yen (approximately $1) to 170 Yen (approximately $1.7) in the year.  Such a steep rise has caused bankruptcies of truck companies, fishing companies, and with the side effect of rising electricity and other energy prices, small shops and companies.

It has been widely discussed and pointed out that the price rise of these natural resources has a different nature from rises in the past.  The prospect of future demand growth has dramatically changed because of booming economic growth of large populated countries such as China, India, Russia and Brazil (so-called BRICs). 

The market situation has also changed with increased power of speculative investments.  In addition to the above, the BBC News points out, in relation to oil prices, (i) the weak US dollar, (ii) supply concerns, and (iii) political instability[22] are also added in the increase in prices.  Therefore, the high price of natural resources is a very complicated and difficult issue.

At the end of the Energy Ministers’ meeting held at Aomori, Japan on June 7-8, the Ministers (G8 countries plus China, India and Korea) issued a joint statement saying that they share serious concerns over the current level of oil prices.   “Producing and consuming countries share a common interest in encouraging greater global energy market security and sustainability.[23]. 

At an emergency meeting between oil producing countries and consuming countries held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on June 23, Saudi Arabia, the biggest producing country, agreed to up oil production while Western countries agreed to improve the transparency and regulation of financial markets.  Both sides blamed each other, but they confirmed the necessity to work together on the high price problem by increasing oil production and increasing transparency of financial markets[24]. 

The energy issue reminds us that all humans live on one planet.  Jumping prices of natural resources affect people’s life all over the world.  If we exhaust a natural resource, it will affect lives of not only today’s people, but also our children and future generations.  Recently, due to high oil prices, exploitation of new oil fields in undeveloped areas, in particular the ocean, is increasing.  Japan and China have recently reached an agreement to jointly exploit submarine natural gas field of the East Shina Sea in area where both countries claim territory.    

There was a TV program on NHK (Japan’s national broadcasting company) which shows how booming the economy is in the area near from the Arctic.  It is partly because of high oil prices, but another reason is diminishing arctic ice makes exploiting the area easier.  We are facing a very ironic situation where high prices of natural resources is creating a bad cycle, further warming the climate all over the world.

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aiz al-Saud, in comments after the energy meeting, blamed increased oil consumption and taxes on fuel.  However, he also stressed “among other factors behind this unjust increase in oil prices is the abhorrent act of speculators acting for their own selfish interests”[25]. 

Selfish interests, should be blamed such as exploitation or speculation, but also any other related persons, companies and nations.  This is the issue of human responsibilities to people all over the world and future generations.  Therefore, I believe the Universal Declaration should refer to this issue by a more concrete sentence. 

(2) Food

Similar arguments are going on in relation to the worldwide food issue. 

At the annual meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization (“FAO”), the high price of some food was taken up as the main issue.  Some countries pointed out that the bio energy produced from, among other things, corns, is the reason of driving up the food prices.  Although there has been no conclusion about what and who should be blamed, we should treat the food issue as one of the most important agenda items[26].    

(3) Water

Water, as natural resources, is also a big issue.  In the report of Second Working Group of the IPCC, as the warming of climate advance, the areas of drought will expand while intense rain will be stronger in other areas[27].  Such a situation may cause more conflicts over water.  Accordingly, in advance, we should give an appropriate warning and set a rule on this issue.

(5) Proposal

I would like to propose to add ethics in the Universal Declaration relating to natural resources, exploitation, speculation, food, and water which will cover activities of individuals, corporations and nations.

Attached 1 – Volume of Emissions of CO2 in 2005

Red (22.0%) United States

Orange (19.0%) China

Light yellow (5.8%) Russia

Right green (4.7%) Japan

Blue (4.5%) India

Pink (3.0%) Germany

Deep green (2.2%) U.K.

Followings are Canada (2.0%), Italy (1.7%), Korea (1.7%), Mexico (1.6%), France (1.5%), Australia (1.4%) and all the other countries (29.0%).

Volume of Emmissions graph












Attached 2  Satellite Pictures of Arctic

Arctic 1979               Arctic 2005

[1] See, The InterAction Council and its First 25 years

[2] A Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities available at

[3] See, InterAction Council and its First 25 years.

[4] See, Chairman’s Report on the High-level Expert Group Meeting, “World Religions as a Factor in World Politics”, at page 4.

[5] Press Release in the Nobel Prize website, available at

[6] See, Id.

[7] See, Id.

[8] Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s report, at page 2.

[9] Ref, attached 2, cited from NASA website, available at

[10] Summary for Policymakers of a report of Working Group 1, at page 13 to 15.

[11] Summary for Policymaker, at page 12.

[12] Report of the Ministry of Environments of Japan, available at

[13] Ref., report of the Ministry of Environments, available at its website.

[14] Summary for Policymakers, at page 5.

[15] Id.

[16] Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Working Group I, at page 3.

[17] Summary for Policymakers of the report of the Working Group II, at page 49.

[18] Nobel Peace Prize Press Release.

[19] Prime Minister’s speech, available at

[20] Id.

[23] Joint Statement of Energy Ministers of G8 countries, China, India and Korea.

[24] Joint Statement of Saudi Arabia and Secretariats of IEA, IEF and OPEC

[25] Ref. Japan Times.

[26] Report on the FAO annual meeting, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

[27] Report of Working Group 2