Mottainai – Wasteful ( a Japanese word)

This single word clearly conveys the feeling of veneration that the Japanese people have towards the environment, and their firm resolve to protect it. Indeed, the spirit of “mottainai” is embedded in the DNA of the Japanese people.

“Mattainai Grandpa” written by Mariko Shinju

The renowned Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel laureate Wangari Muta Maathai, who adopted “mottainai” as a shining motto for making the world a more environmentally friendly place.

In Japan, children are taught to eat every last grain of rice in their bowl, because even a single grain is too precious to be wasted, given the energy and resources invested in producing it. This attitude is deeply rooted into the ancient Japanese belief of Shintoism, which says that God is everywhere in nature, including the trees, mountains, and rice fields. As such, Japanese people perceive nature to be sacred.

Cherishing the “mottainai” spirit, Japan has cultivated a culture that follows the 3Rs: reduce (garbage), reuse, and recycle. One practical example of the 3Rs is the segregation of garbage. In Japan, it is obligatory to sort garbage before throwing it away. All garbage must be segregated into combustible and non-combustible piles; recyclable items must also be separated. This has become a habit, and it is done naturally and autonomously by each family as a regular activity. Also of note, the highly technologically-advanced and clean waste incineration facilities in Japan are a striking sight: They can be found standing proudly in the middle of immaculately clean cities as they themselves contribute, albeit indirectly, to protecting the clear blue skies.

As a strong supporter of Swachh Bharat, I would like to convey three messages:

First and most importantly, to raise awareness and mobilise the public, no tool works more efficiently and effectively than the education system and the network it wields. To reinforce our commitment towards the environment as a precious entity on which our survival depends, the youth must be encouraged to imbibe the “mottainai” spirit.

Japan proposed Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the Earth Summit 2002.

“Blue Sky Initiatives”, which aim to mitigate air pollution by ensuring that the best and latest technologies will be made available to India. For instance, exhaust from coal thermal power plants is one of the primary causes of air pollution in India. Japanese companies have developed equipment that can filter out particulate matter.


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