Cycling to save the Earth

2007-05-28

Start of another adventure
Start of another adventure

If you love the earth and you love to cycle, we have the perfect summer adventure for you. Japan's cyclists know that the best places to pursue their passions are in the midst of nature, far removed from any metropolis. Cycling in polluted, congested cities like Tokyo or Osaka is annoying at best and dangerous at worst. For this reason, most cyclists are nature lovers by default. Bicycle for Everyone's Earth (BEE) Japan is the only organization that allows avid cyclists living in Japan to combine their love of the sport with their passion for preserving nature. Every summer BEE riders cycle the entire length of the Japanese islands from Hokkaido to Kyushu, while educating people about the environment.

BEE was born in 1997 with a group of three JETs (English Teaching Assistants) who were nearing the end of their teaching terms. They decided to combine their green spirit and love of Japan into a bike ride promoting eco-friendly behavior. The next year, another group of English teachers took up the idea, and it became an annual event. Through the years, the ride has been featured in magazines, newspapers, NHK television, and on national radio. A very international organization, BEE riders are both foreign and Japanese.

The primary purpose of this year's ride is no different from prior rides: to follow an eco-friendly lifestyle while educating people about the environment. BEE participants eat only vegetarian food for the duration of the ride, believing that eating low on the food chain will aid the environment. They also avoid purchasing food from convenience stores - which generate thousands of tons of waste in plastic and Styrofoam packaging. It's a moving template for ecologically friendly living. It's teaching by action and example.

The team visits schools and international centers, and works with environmental organizations to teach Japanese people about the environment. For example, last year after a major typhoon, BEE participants held a clean-up at the Miyajima Island beach. The team put on their gloves and picked up all manner of garbage including a toilet seat, a car bumper, a frog prince watering pail, and a baseball helmet - which later was recycled on the trip as a replacement bicycle helmet.

Every year, the team picks an environmental group to support. Last year, BEE sponsored the Northernmost Dugong Protection Association (http://sea-dugong.org), which strives to preserve the life of these manatee-like sea mammals that are considered an endangered species. During the course of the ride, BEE collected signatures from people in order to protest the destruction of dugong habitat in Henoko, Okinawa. As the capstone to last year's BEE ride at Henoko, four-hundred meters of ribbon were joined together and the messages on them read aloud by the public and the BEE team. BEE 2006's final contribution was to donate 200,000 yen from their fundraising efforts. This year, the team is supporting various individuals and organizations who are devoted to stopping the construction of the nuclear reprocessing facility at Rokkasho-mura (for more information, see http://stop-rokkasho.org/).

The BEE team will launch the ride on August 1st and after numerous environmental awareness sessions, home stays, media appearances, onsen (hot spring) visits, and cleanup activities, the ride will end on Oct 1st. Some relevant dates and locations for anyone interested in riding with BEE or participating in an event are August 1 (Wakkanai), August 7-8 (Sapporo), August 11 (Rokkasho), August 17 (Morioka), August 20 (Sendai), August 24 - 30 (Tokyo), September 5-6 (Nagoya), September 9-10 (Osaka), September 11 (Kobe), September 19-20 (Hiroshima), September 23-24 (Beppu), September 27-28 (Kumamoto), and October 1 (Kagoshima).

The team will also be holding fundraising concerts in Tokyo during July and August at the Pink Cow restaurant/cafe (July 26 and August 30, Shibuya).

While planning is well under way for this year's BEE, the team welcomes anyone interested in doing an event, offering a home stay, or even joining as a rider (for part or all of the way). Please contact Maria Pacana, the 2007 coordinator, if interested at: maria@beejapan.org



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