The Journal of Contemporary Social Sciences. Volume 3. March 2006. p. 73 - 76.

NOTE: This is the English version of an interview that was published in Japanese. For the original version, click here.

Global Contacts:

An Interview with Steve Shallhorn

by Tim Newfields

Steve Shallhorn, c. [DATE] Steve Shallhorn is the executive director of Greenpeace Japan. After graduating from McMaster University in Ontario in 1977, he joined Greenpeace Canada. Serving first as a disarmament campaigner, in 1987 he became the campaign director of Greenpeace Canada. From May 2000 to May 2001 he also worked as a campaign director for Greenpeace USA. During 2001 Steve was a campaign consultant in Toronto, Ontario. During that time he also worked for Consumers International and the New Democratic Party of Canada. Since August 2004 Steve has been living in Tokyo.

This interview was conducted was telephone in Oct. - Nov. 2004.

Q: What campaigns is Greenpeace Japan engaged in now?

A: At the moment there are four. We are working on a campaign to phase out nuclear power, focusing on a proposed nuclear reprocessing facility in Aomori prefecture. We are working with local people there to try to prevent this plant from opening because Greenpeace believes it is not environmentally or economically wise to reprocess nuclear waste. We have invited Jaque Aubert, a fisherman from Le Hague living near a nuclear reprocessing facility, to talk about the detrimental impact of a European nuclear reprocessing facility on local fisheries.

We also have a climate change campaign promoting the use of renewable energy through solar, wind, and geothermal power. Specifically, we are calling on the government to take four measures to combat climate change. One of those measures is to promote solar energy use. Another is to build more wind turbines. We want to shift government subsidies to renewable energy sources, and also make buildings more energy efficient.

Thirdly, we have a forest protection campaign focusing on preserving about 180,000 hectacres of forest in Tasmania and working against illegal logging in Papau New Guinea. This campaign for Tasmania is targeting two paper companies, Oji Paper and the Nippon Paper Group, since they import wood chips from those locations. Recently we have held protests outside their offices and also at trade shows. Currently about two soccer fields of ancient forests are logged per second(1), so we need to take a stand and protect more primal forests.

Finally, we are working on a toxics campaign. Part of this has consisted of a campaign against Asahi Beer to not introduce plastic beer bottles because of waste problems such bottles would cause. In July 2004 they were planning to use pet bottles for beer, but as a result of our campaign they dropped those plans. In the same vein, we have been working with municipalities such as Kamikatsu-cho, Tokushima Prefecture to reduce municipal waste levels.

Q: What have been the main accomplishments of Greenpeace Japan in recent years?

A: One of the first campaigns that really caught public attention was in 1993 when Greenpeace caught the Russian Navy dumping nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan. The Russians had towed a small tanker out to sea that was filled with nuclear waste, and Greenpeace sent satellite video images of it pumping the toxic waste into the ocean. This became a major news story and within six weeks there was an international ban on the dumping of nuclear waste.

In 2000 Greenpeace campaigned successfully to stop the use of PVC plastic in toys for young children because those plastics have a lot of contaminants and children often put them in their mouths. So we got the Japanese toy industry to commit to not using PVCs for toys for children under three.

Q: How do you feel Japan measures up in terms of overall ecological awareness compared to other countries in Asia?

A: It is probably higher than most in Asia. Although Japan has ratified the Kyoto Protocols, it still has not done enough to lower carbon dioxide emissions. And on a per capita basis, Japan probably incinerates more garbage than any other country in the world(2). What this means is that the dioxin levels in Japan are generally high.(3) Dioxin is, of course, one of the most carcinogenic substances known.(4) The government should definitely be doing more to reduce dioxin levels. The link between incineration and dioxin is widely known.(5) The link between cancer and dioxin is also widely documented.(6)

Japan's Atomic Energy Commission is proposing nuclear power as the most viable alternative to fossil fuels.(7) We disagree with that assessment. Although nuclear power does not directly cause CO2 emissions, it has serious waste disposal problems.

Q: What resources do you recommend for K-12 teachers wishing to promote more basic ecological awareness in their classes?

A: First of all, our website has lots of information. I also recommend the Redefining Progress website, which enables people to measure their own ecological footprint at This website is designed to help people individualize ecological issues, which is good. Greenpeace tends to focus on broader ecological campaigns, but own website has some educational materials.

Q: How has the Greenpeace Japan organization evolved in recent years?

A: When we first began working in Japan in 1989, laws did not exist to allow non-profit organizations to become legal entities. In 1999 we became a legal entity. Today Greenpeace is one of the largest environmental NGOs in Japan. Although the Wild Bird Society of Japan is larger, their campaigns are narrower in scope.

One emerging trend is that more large international NPOs such as Amnesty International, Oxfam, WWF, and Greenpeace are starting to work together to promote the NPO sector because Japan is sort of lagging behind in this regard. The average Japanese donation for charitable organizations is about 1/25th of that in the United States. However, the per capital income of both countries are comparable. Japan does not yet have a long social history of donating to charities, so the Japanese branches of most international NPOs are disproportional small.

Q: How future projects would you like to see Greenpeace Japan focus on?

A: I would like to see more education-related work for one thing. We need to develop more materials in Japanese. Also, we hope that our flagship the Rainbow Warrior II will come to Japan in 2005 to participate in the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. It will also be the 20th anniversary of the sinking of the first Rainbow Warrior by the French secret service.


1 According to a November 18, 1997 statement by Peter Kreitler of Kaleidoscope Television ( about a football field per second of primal forest is lost.

2 Refer to Volker Quaschning's Nov. 2003 article Development of Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Concentration in Atmosphere at

3 According to a 2001 Asiaweek article by Choong Tet-Sieu and Murakam Mutsuko listed at

4 One documented study is available in a Oct. 25, 2004 Medical Study News report, which details mortality rates among 1025 phenoxy herbicide production workers and 703 phenoxy herbicide sprayers over a thirty year period. Those workers has a 24% increased risk of cancer. For details, refer to

5Further information about the relation between dioxin and cancer is available from this 1991 Greenpeace press release:

6 One article underscoring this link is available at

7Refer to the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan's White Paper Nuclear Energy 2003, downloadable from

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Copyright (c) 2004 by Tim Newfields and Steve Shallhorn