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Pulitzer-winning Jared Diamond calls on young Japanese to take action on env. issues

Jared Diamond, professor of biology at the University of California, speaks with the Mainichi Shimbun during a Dec. 13, 2019 interview in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kota Yoshida)

TOKYO -- In a call-out to Japanese people, American geographer Jared Diamond said, "Tell them (older people and people in power) when they're doing stupid things, such as investing in coal-fired plants and having a national pension firm that is investing in coal-fired industries."

University of California professor of geography Diamond is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Guns, Germs, and Steel". In his books, he looks into the causes of environmental problems based on his theories of human civilization and organization, raising questions about the state of civilization which people should strive for.

The 82-year-old held a press conference in Japan last December as a recipient of the 28th Blue Planet Prize, which is given to people whose work has contributed significantly to the improvement of the global environment. There, he encouraged young people in Japan, which he described as a "country in the developed world most sensitive to the effects of climate change," to vote, discuss and voice their opinions.

Born in the United States, Diamond earned a doctoral degree in physiology at Britain's University of Cambridge. After graduating, he conducted research on the human gallbladder back in the U.S. while also carrying out field research on birds in New Guinea.

The birth of his twin sons in 1987 had a great impact on his carrier path. He recalled thinking, "I will be dead in 2050 because I was born in 1937, but my sons will be at the peak of their lives in the year 2050. And their lives are going to be determined by the state of their environment."

Diamond told a Mainichi Shimbun reporter that he was especially concerned about the risks of climate change, depletion of quality resources and the risks of a nuclear war. He added, "And so at the age of 50, I began a career shift to writing books about the effect of geography and history on the lives of people."

During the interview, Diamond sharply criticized Japan's dependence on overseas natural resources and coal-fired power plants, as well as Tokyo's measures against climate change.

When asked what Japan needs to do to solve environmental issues, he explained, "Political will throughout the world is necessary to reduce energy consumption and to shift more of our energy to renewable sources. For example, for Japanese banks to stop investing in coal-fired plants."

(Japanese original by Ai Oba, Science & Environment News Department)

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