This volume, which is aimed at elementary school students, explains the 12 global-scale challenges that form the latest “crisis” facing Earth. The information in this volume uses visuals to teach important concepts regarding the 12 challenges, along with how to solve and avoid them. Based on news about the crisis, this volume compares the worst case scenario (i.e., what could happen if the situation were left as it is) with the best case scenario (i.e., what would happen if the crisis were solved) to make readers consider about their present and future actions.
Even though this volume is aimed at elementary school students, the 12 challenges have all been explained by frontline researchers – most of whom are professors at the University of Tokyo. The various global-scale issues are, however, still explained in an easy-to-understand manner with the help of playful cartoon illustrations, diagrams, and charts. The highlighted issues include: “the greenhouse gas caused by human activities is increasing” (climate change), “it is difficult to recover plastic waste in the ocean” (marine plastic waste), and “there is a decline in the habitat of animals and plants” (biodiversity phenomena). In addition to these topics, expert-level discussions are included, particularly regarding notions such as the circular economy (energy issues), virtual water calculations (water issues), media autonomy (division and media), the One Health Approach (pandemics), and conflict minerals issues (hunger and poverty). The level of content is, thus, extremely high.
In addition to explaining the noted challenges, what sets this book apart is that it also offers various solutions already being implemented on a global scale. These solutions can be found under the title: "We Won’t Just Go Extinct Like This! Ongoing Crisis-Escape Operations." These solution-based discussions depict future scenarios of the type of society that could be achieved should the solutions succeed.
Typically, as researchers, we tend to focus on analyzing and deeply understanding natural or social phenomena. While we sometimes propose solutions in the form of social or policy proposals to governments and/or practitioners, we often remain cautious about predicting the uncertain futures that could result from such proposals. However, in the real world, people demand to know answers and solutions and often ask “Then what should we do?” Due to this type of difference between research and the real world, we are apt to fall into an open-ended conclusion like "Let's all think about a solution together. This book, however, does not fall into such a trap and offers sound conclusions. The significance of this volume, thus, lies in how it centers on a future perspective based on "If we understand the crisis correctly, know its scientific background, and can change society to respond to it, we can keep the impact to a minimum" (as outlined in the Introduction chapter). Building from this perspective, the book asks frontline researchers to suggest solutions and describe possible future scenarios.
I would like for both young learners who are merely embarking on their path of academia and adult readers to read this book while thoughtfully considering the roles played by researchers and practitioners in solving global-scale issues.
(Written by HANAI Kazuyo, Project Lecturer, Institute for Future Initiatives / 2023)