Japan's Golf Courses and the Environment

Japan Golfcourses and Deforestation (JPGOLF Case)


           CASE NUMBER:         282  
           CASE MNEMONIC:       JPGOLF
           CASE NAME:           Japan Golfcourses and Deforestation

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A. IDENTIFICATION 1. Issue Japan's economic success is causing many serious environmental problems, but one stems not from its factories but from too many golfers. In the late 1980s, several groups actively opposing golf course throughout Japan met in Kobe for their third annual national convention. Attendance far exceeded expectation, as 700 delegates squeezed into 400 seat auditorium. Here is powerful testimony to the seriousness with which communities consider the adverse effects of golf courses. According to a report by the OECD, Japan's early success in combating pollution is threatened by increasingly wasteful patterns of consumption. However, most of Japan's future problems will result from growing affluence. 2. Description Japan's total land area is about the same as the state of California. Over 100 million people live in this land space. Before World War II, there only 23 golf courses in all of Japan and there were only 72 in 1956. Now, there are a total of 1,700 golf courses in operation, with another 330 under construction and roughly 1,000 in various stage of planning. Japan consists of islands covered by many mountains, and it is fairly easy for development of golf courses rather than developing agriculture and housing. Developers clear-cut the forests and use bulldozers to level hilltops and fill in valleys. As a result, golf course construction is identical to the destruction of environment. Even though 67 percent of Japan's total land area is covered by forest, its forest products self-sufficiency rate has fallen only 30 percent. Japan now must import much of the timber used in construction and the wood chips used for making pulp. Forests serve as a kind of natural dam, storing rainwater in the leaves and soil. Natural water circulating from forests feeds rivers and streams. In contrast, golf courses have only one-fourth the water retention capacity of an equivalent forest area. Most rainwater simply runs off the greens and fairways. This produces flooding downstream. On the contrary, the water flow to rivers and creeks downstream from golf links drops to a dribble during periods of drought. During golf course construction, rainfall sends mud pouring from the barren ground into streams. This often makes the water inappropriate for agricultural or residential use. An 18-hole golf course requires three to four tons of various germicides, herbicides, and pesticides every year to keep the green and fairways healthy, to combat weeds, and kill insects. Some of these chemicals are carcinogenic, while others are known to cause deformities and nerve damage. There have been reports of massive fish kills in fish hatcheries polluted by toxins in the water from golf courses. The nitrogen and phosphorus in the fertilizers will mix with rainwater and eventually flow into a reservoir. The high nutrient content of water will stimulate the growth of algae. Consequently, this requires the water treatment plant to use higher volumes of chlorine to cleanse the water. Golf courses use pesticides containing organic phosphorus. After application, the pesticides evaporate in the air and are absorbed by the human body via the skin and lungs. Caddies and greenkeepers often experience health problems because of the air pollution. Golfers themselves breathe in the toxins as they walk the course before the newly sprayed pesticides have settled down. Winds sometimes carry the chemical agents to surrounding neighborhoods, and people living near golf courses worry that their health may also be affected. Golf has an image as a healthy sport, but it may be quite different in reality. A research group in Canada also identified the problematical factors of golf courses. Soil samples were taken from greens and fairways, and sediment samples were taken from waterways and analyzed for the presence of mercury. Greens had the highest mean mercury concentration, and the majority of greens exceeded Canadian environmental levels set for mercury in soil. Sediment from a golf course lake had higher mercury levels than a lake located 5 km from the course. Mussels from both lakes were analyzed, and those from the golf course lake near the greens had methylmercury and total mercury levels an order of magnitude greater than those from the reference lake. Fish in both lakes contained methylmercury, but the level was higher in fish collected near the golf course greens. The construction of golf courses in scenic natural sites, such as forest areas and coral islands, also results in the destruction of biodiversity. In the past, golf was a sport only of the privileged classes. However, golf is enjoying ever-greater popularity among average people today. Golf links are always busy, and it is difficult to reserve playing time. Nowadays, country club memberships cost more than several years' salary for the average white-collar worker. Memberships in the most prestigious clubs cost anywhere from 100 million to 400 million yen. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that county club membership certificates are not securities in the legal sense, they are transferrable. This means they can be bought and sold. The economic boom of the past several years produced a money glut in certain sectors of society. This trend sent rich people scouring for better investment and better lives. Golf courses can pollute the social environment as well. Golf course construction companies often use political connections with local government officials and politicians for help in getting residents to agree to sell their land. In exchange for their help, the builders arrange for politicians to get club memberships at bargain rates. The memberships are almost certain to rise in value. This means the politicians can sell them later at a massive profit. Some mayors and politicians have faced criminal charges for accepting bribes from golf course developers. Between 1960 and 1964, when Prime Minister Ikeda announced a national goal of doubling Japan's national income. As a result, the number of golf courses in Japan swelled from 195 to 424. The second golf course boom occurred around 1972. Prime Minister Tanaka's domestic policies was to invest large amount of tax money into major public works projects, such as highways and flood prevention projects. The number of golf courses increased to more than 1,000 during that period. Prime Minister Nakasone planned a massive domestic construction program using private-sector capital to stimulate a depressed economy after the Plaza Agreement in 1985. To provide incentive for private-sector firms to finance these ventures, Nakasone sold off publicly held lands in and around in Tokyo. This was the beginning of speculation that dramatically pushed up land prices. At the same time, the government sought to boost the domestic economy with low interest rates. The effect was to put funds into other investments, such as country club memberships. Therefore, the price of memberships rose in 1989 to more than four times its level in 1982. Under the Nakasone administration, the Diet passed a law (it has known as the Resort Law) to construct a chain of resorts all around Japan. This law provided national and local government "support" for the construction of golf links, hotels, tennis courts, ski resorts, marinas, and so on. This support took the form not only of tax privileges, but also of permission to convert agricultural land and land in forest preservation areas to golf course and other resort use. The Resort Law got rid of the regulations which protect agricultural land and land in forest preservation areas. Golf course development is now emerging as a major environmental and social issue in Asia, as "golf crazy Japan" looks abroad for new courses and as other Asians start to play golf. The Global Anti-Golf Movement (GAG'M) was launched on World No-Golf Day (April 29, 1993) following a three-day conference on Golf Course and Resort Development in Asia-Pacific Region in Penang, Malaysia from April 26 to 28, 1993. The three sponsoring organizations are Japan-based Global Network for Anti-Golf Course Action (GNAGA), the Thailand-based Asian Tourism Network (ANTRNNA) and the Malaysia- based Asia-Pacific People's Environmental Network (APPEN). In the United States, the other golf-intensive country, the major golf organizations have signed an agreement with the US Department of the Interior develop environmentally-friendly courses. 3. Related Cases JAPGOLF case CUBA case ASIAGOLF case Keywords (1): Product = WOOD (2): Bio-geography = TROPical (3): Environmental Problem = DEFORestation 4. Author: Akiko Takeda (May, 1996) B. LEGAL Cluster 5. Discourse and Status: AGRee AND INPROGRess 6. Forum and Scope: JAPAN AND UNILATeral 7. Decision Breadth: 1 (JAPAN) 8. Legal Standing: LAW C. GEOGRAPHIC Cluster 9. Geography a. Geographic Domain: Asia b. Geographic Site: East Asia [EASIA] c. Geographic Impact: Japan 10. Sub-National Factors: NO 11. Type of Habitat: TEMPerate D. TRADE Cluster 12. Type of Measure: REGulatory STandarD 13. Direct vs. Indirect Impact: INDirect 14. Relation of Trade Measure to Resource Impact a. Directly Related to Product: YES Golf b. Indirectly Related to Product: NO c. Not Related to Product: NO d. Related to Process: YES Deforestation 15. Trade Product Identification: Golf 16. Economic Data 17. Degree of Competitive Impact 18. Industry Sector: TOURism 19. Exporters and Importers: Japan and Many E. Environment Cluster 20. Environment Problem type: DEFORestation 21. Species Information 22. Impact and Effect: HIGH and Regulatory 23. Urgency and Lifetime: Low and 100s of years 24. Substitutes: BIODeGradable F. Other Factors 25. Culture Golf became a part of Japanese culture in unique way. Today, people play golf to adopt into corporate culture. Many companies do their business talks and play golf at the same time. Playing golf has become an excellent tool to be successful business person. As Japanese multinational corporations have become more influential in current international arena, business people from other countries have begun to borrow Japanese corporate culture. It sounds different for foreigners who know Japanese as serious people with a great deal of concentration when they get their work done. Actually, there are many cases that Japanese do two or more tasks at the same time. For instance, businessmen hold their important meetings in a fancy restaurant. Even politicians make important decisions in a restaurant. Probably, these occasions can help them analyzing the situation and the people to whom they are talking. The appreciation of Japanese yen promoted Japanese industries to invest overseas. The number of Japanese tourists and business people reached to the peak before the corruption of the bubble economy. At the same time, golf courses in Asia increased drastically. The exports of tourists and business people were so massive that many considered as "threats" to the environment in numerous senses (e.g. KOALA case) A rapid increase in leisure and tourism activities tends to increase the number of second homes, golf courses and ski resorts in environmentally sensitive areas, for instance around lakes, along seashores and in mountains. Akiko Domoto, a member of the Japanese Parliament who takes an active interest in environment issues, says the report which has been established by the OECD is "too easy on Japan". She criticizes the panel for accepting that Japan compensates victims of pollution, claiming that the system has a rather "spotty record". On the waste issue, Domoto believes the report does not go far enough, nor does it emphasis some of the country's more serious problems. The most important issue for Japan in the 1990s and beyond is how to avoid consumption patterns which are "increasingly resource intensive and environmentally harmful". However, not very many people are aware of the fact that this tendency was promoted by the Resort Law from the Nakasone administration. After the Bubble economy collapsed, land prices in Japan fell and more than a few people experienced tremendous losses. Within this period of time, golf memberships were sold as a result. Probably, Domoto's assumption for sustainable environment in Japan would be really depend on the exchange rate between yen and dollar. The exchange rate has tremendous influence for Japanese business activities and politics. High yen will promote more investment overseas and Japanese tourism which encourage Japan itself to be cleaner and overseas to be dirtier. Besides this terrible trend, Japanese are well known as healthy people with tremendously long life expectancy rates. With their knowledge to be healthy, there must be the solutions to the problem of expanding pollution in the rest of the world because of artificial golf courses developed by Japanese golf lovers. 26. Human Rights: Yes 27. Trans-Boundary Issues: No 28. Relevant Literature Chatterjee, Pratap. "Clubbing Southeast Asia." Multinational Monitor, 14 (November 1993): 23-25. "Enhancing Golf and the Environment." Parks & Recreation, 29 (May 1994): 40-45. "Golf in Asia." The Economist, 327 (15 May 1993): 38. "Golf Poses Too Many Hazards." World Press Review, 40 (October 1993): 52 Hadfield, Peter. "Good Life Could Ruin Japan's Environment." New Scientist, 140 (18 December 1993): 9 "Into the Bunker." The Economist, 305 (21 November 1987): 78. "Japan." Golf Digest, 39 (July 1988): 144-152. Matthews, S.L. "Mercury Contamination of Golf Courses Due to Pesticide Use." Bull Environmental Contamination Toxicology, 55 (September 1995): 390-398. Pearce, Fred. "How Green Is Your Golf?" New Science, 139 (25 September 1993): 30-36. Platt, Anne E. "Toxic Green: the Trouble with Golf." World Watch, 7 (May-June 1994): 27-33. Williams, Martin. "Making Golf Greener." Far Eastern Economic Review, 157 (5 May 1994): 40-41. Yamada, Kunihiro. "The Triple Evils of Golf Courses." Japan Quarterly, 37 (July 1990): 291-297.

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1/11/97