I am very pleased to be with everyone here for the opening of Kimiko
Suzuki's "Ashio Mining Exhibition." First of all, I would like to convey my
sincere congratulations to Ms. Suzuki on this important occasion.
I would like to touch upon the subject of the Ashio Copper Mine that Ms.
Suzuki has depicted here. From the second half of the 19th century, Ashio
played an important part in the modernization of Japan's industry. However,
the copper poisoning that results from copper manufacturing caused serious
pollution problems in Ashio. The expelled smoke from the refinery containing
sulfurous gas killed the surrounding trees and contaminated the source river
of the Ashio Mountain region, the Watarase River. In addition, large
quantities of earth and sand containing mining pollutants were washed away
in the recurring floods that followed in the wake of deforestation,
depriving the farmers living downstream of their basic livelihood.
Although it was a long time before an effective plan was adopted, a
substantial green campaign for the purpose of recovering the natural
environment in Ashio began in the 1950s. And the green is now gradually
returning to the surrounding mountains.
Japan has experienced many environmental pollution problems in the
modernization process, as symbolized by the effects of the Ashio Copper
Mine. As a result of these lessons, Japan has taken drastic environmental
measures and tried insofar as possible to aim for economic growth that is
compatible with protection of the environment.
For more than 20 years, Ms. Kimiko Suzuki has continued to sound the alarm
about environmental destruction through her paintings of the Ashio Coal
Mine. One major challenge confronting humanity is sustainable development.
We tend to favor development because of our desire for a better life, but if
we do not care for the environment, our very existence will be endangered.
I would like to pay high respect to Ms. Suzuki's for addressing this problem
through her paintings. I hope that you will continue to play an active role
in this endeavor.
Finally, I hope that the paintings that are exhibited here will provide an opportunity for the many people passing through this lobby to contemplate
what the ideal relationship between humankind and nature should be.