Youth Speaker entry #20: Peter Abraham Fukuda Loewi (Japan)

Many of us will have come to the congress thinking that the only way to care for the forests is to plant more trees! I, however, come with a warning, that planting too many trees, and then not caring for them, leads to environmental problems, and that is why I cut trees down.

With over 10 million hectares, roughly 30% of Japan’s total area is unmaintained, man-made forests. These are increasingly causing environmental and social problems, and a project to preserve traditional architectures through responsible forestry would be multi-level disaster risk management. Together with students from law, biology, and economics, as well as others in architecture, I built an example structure on Kanagawa University’s main Yokohama campus. We all came together to care for these forests and harvest the wood for the construction.

My Master’s thesis is a proposal to re-teach traditional building techniques as a part of disaster risk management, and through it, sustainable development. As a member of the United Nations Major Group of Children and Youth, I participated in the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March of 2015. I presented my research and was approached by members from a dozen countries saying that a similar program would be valuable in their home countries. While the projects would differ based on each unique environment and tradition, two things would remain the same. First, I am proposing an educational program for children and youth–those “agents of change”–the vulnerable group that makes up half of the world’s population. Second, the teaching of a thinking architecture: at once sensitive to the people, the local culture, and the environment.

There is a quote attributed to the Chinese chancellor Guan Zhong: “If your plan is for 1 year, plant rice; if your plan is for 10 years, plant trees; if your plan is for 100 years, educate children”

It is not good enough to just plant the trees, we must continue to care for them, and to plant the people who will continue to do so.

I want to teach a broader architecture-the people in it, the people who make it, from the housing environment to environmental hazards, a more organic, a more human architecture. It is not about one simple design as miracle architecture, but to stress the importance of locality, of building together, learning together, and caring for the world around us.

Text and video are submitted by Peter Abraham Fukuda Loewi (Japan) – paflwork(at)gmail.com

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.


This post is published as an application by the author, to speak as a youth representative at the World Forestry Congress. Have a look at the other entries too!

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93 thoughts on “Youth Speaker entry #20: Peter Abraham Fukuda Loewi (Japan)

  1. I respect your approach and include my favorite quote from your entry: “It is not good enough to just plant the trees, we must continue to care for them, and to plant the people who will continue to do so.” Whether it is 100 years or 500 years, this applies,.

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  2. Very cool idea Peter! Your video is very informative. I had never thought about the environmental repercussions of developing man made forests.

    I agree that returning to architectural forms that engage the ecosystems they exist within is an awesome idea. I remember talking to you, back in the Ehaus days, about what a truly “environmental” or “green” approach to architecture could look like. I’m glad that you’ve gone so far with it! Keep up the good work man!

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  3. Excellent project Peter!! I love that it contains two important aspects for the future of our planet: The environmental and the educational Good luck!

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  4. One thing I have learned working in the forests is that the best way to ensure our success is to teach the next generation. If I plant trees now, I might not be alive to see them grow into high-quality timber, but I can teach a child to care for the forests so that it does grow, and to teach them to teach their children when and how to properly harvest it. Japan didn’t teach and now it is facing these problems, other countries didn’t teach and now they have over cut!

    It is imperative that we continue to teach the next generation how to teach the next generation how to responsibly interact with the world around us.

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  5. Mr Loewi’s presentation is remarkable in the senstivity with which he proposes to meet current and looming global (as well as local, for that seems integral to his message) ecological dangers. He calls for understanding of natural processes, and questions the usefulness of sometimes simplistic, unidimensional modern solutions. The ideas have important implications for the making of genuinely sustainable communities. Bravo!

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  6. Great way to educate about our environment. Does this idea apply to any eco-system in the world? and what about those places that we have decimated to build housing to support our increase need for housing? Great project and keep up with your ideas.

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    • Excellent questions!

      Yes, I think that a similar system to educate and employ though an environmentally responsible architecture is possible in every eco-system in the world.

      There will of course be differences in the details. I think one of the biggest problems we are seeing with deforestation is that we are cutting old-growth forests; we are cutting the wrong trees. We can plant tree crops and have wood usable in construction in several years, we just need to stop thinking so profit-based.

      I will add, that even if this exact idea cannot be used in all eco-systems, what was been learn is applicable anyway. It can teach us to look ahead and follow through with out actions, and it can also cause us to question and reflect on our actions. It is hard to believe that trees actually need to be cut down, but it has to be the right ones, and I hope that these projects will continue to cause us to think about what we must do, as that is always changing.

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  7. Thoughtful. I wouldn’t have ever considered too many trees as a problem until you explained why! Thank you Peter.

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    • No no, thank you!

      It is a tricky matter, and I am by no means advocating for the massive cutting of trees, but the controlled thinning for the sake of the surrounding trees. You see similar things in other countries as well, like where there have been pine beetle infestations. Most people want to leave the dead trees standing, as they will eventually decompose and help the next generation grow in, but they are highly susceptible to forest fires, and should be trimmed, and used responsibly.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. When it is cheaper to buy trees cut by China in the rain forest, those mono-culture forests have been left to waste…. no use to wildlife and their original intent forgotten. What a shame.

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    • In Japanese carpentry, it is said that the job of the carpenter is to make the building last at least as long as the tree stood before cutting it down. Ancient temples were made from thousand year old wood, no wonder they still stand today. On the other hand, look at all the poorly made houses today!

      If you plant trees at the same time you build, when its time to rebuild, you can just use the trees you planted!

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  9. This is really cool!! I fully support your project and strongly hope that “Kirame-ki” method helps to revive forests around the world. 😀

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    • Well, the kirameki method is good at getting people involved, but I actually think that it isn’t too good for the trees themselves. It may be good for the forest as a whole, but the lumber made isn’t very high quality.

      Teaching people the right thing in the right way is key to education.

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  10. I like this connection among educating youth in sustainable forestry, in building/architecture, and in disaster mitigation and recovery. It’s uncommon, yet practical.

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    • Actually Willa, 100 years is quite short for forestry! In a healthy forest, you can harvest about once a generation, depending on the type of tree. I’ve been involved with plans for 500 years, and heard of plans for over a thousand!

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