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Rainbow Warrior Visits Okinawa

By: Jena Maddalino

Date Posted: 2000-06-16

The Greenpeace ship, Rainbow warrior was recently docked in Okinawa as part of its "toxic-free" Asia tour. For five days, May 23-27th, the ship stayed as Greenpeace members toured the Yanbaru Forest to address the destruction of the world's remaining ancient forests. This visit marked the first ever of a Greenpeace Ship to Okinawa.

The Greenpeace activists' visit marked the organizations ongoing efforts of forcing the G-8 countries to evaluate their policies regarding illegal logging. Although under the G-8 Forest Action Program, the countries have made a commitment to stop illegal logging, the issue still remains heated. "Halting the destruction of these forests is possibly the most visible sign of sustainable development. To ignore it is completely unacceptable," said Thilo Bode, International Executive Director of Greenpeace, in April.

Close to half of the world's remaining ancient forests are currently being threatened by logging. Because Japan is one of the largest importers of timber, Greenpeace has been working with businesses to start importing timber and other forest products, such as paper, from sources that are sustainable.

Rainbow Warrior and Greenpeace Japan representatives were given a tour of the natural forest located in the northern part of Okinawa. Led by local ecologist, Chosei Tamaki, Greenpeace members were able to see first hand, the incredible diversity of flora and fauna that exists in the mountainous region. Th e destruction of the Yanbaru forest is an important issue for Okinawa as over 192 plant and animal species are unique to this area. The sea life as well is being threatened as Yanbaru is continually developed. Additionally, the forest area is threatened by constant road construction, dam construction and possible US Military uses.

Greenpeace members also met with the local Prefecture Government to urge making Yanbaru a World Heritage area under UNESCO. This would be a huge step for the local government in protecting the natural beauty of Okinawa and at the same time protecting a valued resource for tourist revenue. The Rainbow Warrior was also open to the public for two days while it docked in Naha. Close to 300 residents, as well as students, scientists and media toured the 555- ton Row.

According to Greenpeace Japan, the organization will continue to work with local activists to protect Yanbaru "as a symbol of remaining natural forest in Japan".

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