10. Tokyo • Japan
We have selected 100 unique places on Earth that are projected to undergo profound changes within the next few generations. We based our selection of the 100 places on the 4th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Simply by drawing attention to the beauty of these places, 100 Places to Remember Before they Disappear creates an argument to preserve them. The 100 Places we have chosen to highlight, and the people who live in them, are in serious danger because of rising sea levels, rising temperatures and extreme weather events triggered by climate change. Among ambassadors are Joss Stone, Desmund Tutu for more info visit http://www.100places.com. A Rush Hour Like No Other on Earth Japan is one of the great economies of the world, Tokyo one of its great metropolises. For millions of Japanese, the backdrop to daily life consists of glass skyscrapers, jam-packed streets full of colourful banners, neon signs and huge screens blasting out music videos and commercials. Around 8.6 million people live in central Tokyo. Every weekday, the number is boosted by 2.5 million commuters hastening from the suburbs to work and school in the city. The subway and one of the busiest and most efficient commuter rail networks in the world make sure they get there on time. The fast-moving city stops for a break every spring, when thousands of cherry blossom trees burst into bloom. Japanese companies close down at midday to throw hanami parties, picnics beneath the snow white and soft pink cherry blossoms. The startling beauty of the flower lasts less than two weeks, and it dies in its prime. To the Japanese, the cherry blossom is a reminder of the transience of life and beauty. Global warming is now changing life even faster. Tokyo suffers from a phenomenon known as heat islands, a characteristic of megacities where artificial heat from car exhausts and factory emissions create a local greenhouse effect. In the last 100 years, temperatures in Tokyo have increased five times faster than global warming. A century ago, Tokyo experienced five tropical nights a year at most. The figure is now 40, while temperatures on winter nights rarely fall below 0°C. Leaves now start changing colour in mid-December instead of late November, and cherry blossoms start to bloom earlier every year. With the projected rise in global temperature, the heat in big cities like Tokyo will continue to increase. This will lead to more people suffering from heat stroke and respiratory disease, and will change both the seasons and the way of life in the city. Despite the striking annual spectacle of flourishing cherry blossoms, there is very little greenery in Tokyo. Only 14% of central Tokyo is occupied by green spaces less than New York, London and Berlin. In this densely packed city, the Japanese have resorted to an unconventional solution: roof tops. In recent years, there has been a boom in roof gardens in Tokyo. From 2001, by law, at least 20% of the roofs all new medium-sized buildings must be given over to a garden. The high-rise plants cool the temperature and offer Tokyos residents the scent of soil and fresh grass. In some cases, vegetables and crops like sweet potato are grown at the top of the tall buildings, giving rise to a whole new urban farming sector.