“How brilliant you truly are!”
“How brilliant you truly are!” I often exclaim, despite myself. What am I talking about? Well, I am talking about some of the Seoul citizens I’ve met recently. I regard myself as a hardworking man who has achieved a great deal, but recently I’ve often come to refrain from such complacency because I meet many citizens who work much harder than me and achieve much more than me. I am deeply moved by these great human beings who are committed to social issues and do whatever they can do to find their own solution to tackle them.
Even today, I met some such people who participated in a civil workshop held today under the theme “Switch Off One Nuke Plant Tonight”. Would you like to hear what these GRRRREAT CITIZENS have to say to us?
“Switch Off One Nuke Plant Tonight” Campaign – saved power that can be consumed by 18 people a month
There is in Dongjak-gu, Seoul, Seongdaegol Children’s Library. The library is managed by Director Kim So-yeong, who was born in Buan, Jeonnam. As we know only too well, Buan is where residents united in fierce opposition to the government’s plan to set up a nuclear waste storage facility there. Director Kim said to me that she was awakened to the danger of the nuclear power plant by her father, who was among the opponents of the storage site. Her concern over the use of nuclear power has deepened since the Fukushima nuclear accident last year.
She called environmental organizations, asked some questions, asked for lectures and so forth …
It was about a month and half after that that Green Korea United visited Seongdaegol Children’s Library and began to give lectures for child users of the library and their parents. If you learn something, she thought, you should put it to good use. She decided a month later to start a public campaign under the slogan, “Switch Off One Nuke Plant Tonight in Dongjak,” and selected ten “Good Energy Keepers”. These “keepers” began to meet people to explain and discuss why the nuclear power plant project is bad and what we should do to close it.
Eventually, 34 out of 200 households who were members of Seongdaegol Children’s Library agreed to participate. They switched off their large TVs and wore thermal underwear. Some families even tried to flush their toilet only after several uses. Too much, perhaps! But the point is that they were able to save 140kw of electricity, which is enough to meet the needs of eighteen people for a full month. Isn’t that remarkable?
These energy-saving efforts helped lower household electricity bills, thus contributing to improving the household economy, but there was even better news. Parents said that their children began to read more books as TVs were switched off, and families came to have closer relationships as they slept closer together at night to keep warm because their bedrooms were now heated much less than before. Some even said that their children got through the winter without catching a cold thanks to the thermal underwear they wore. As the stories of such a joyful experience spread, more and more families joined the Switch Off One Nuke Plant Tonight campaign.
So far, the library has held seven lectures and three workshops under the campaign, and had a field trip to Imsil, Jeonbuk. It also plans to formally announce the launch of the Seongdaegol Power Saving Plant. What is a Power Saving Plant? Well, a power plant is where electric power is produced and, similarly, a power saving plant is where electric power is saved. In Japan, more and more citizens are organizing “power saving plants” and joining campaigns to save energy in the wake of the Fukushima tragedy. So, my dear Seongdaegol Children’s Library members, how can I refrain from exclaiming in wonder when I see you and hear what you’ve done?
Environmentally-friendly LED crosses
May I introduce to you one more GRRREAT CITIZEN? What do you think would be the most significant feature in an aerial view of Seoul by night? Crosses, of course! Neon crosses soaring over the roofs of their churches cover almost the entire night sky in Seoul. That said, however, there is a lady who is playing an active part in the Switch Off One Nuke Plant Tonight campaign with neon crosses. Her name is Yu Mi-ho, and she serves the Christian Environment Movement Solidarity. Her goal is to change all the neon crosses in Seoul into crosses lighted by environmentally-friendly LED bulbs. It is quite a Christian way of switching off one nuke plant, isn’t it?
The Switching Off One Nuke Plant Tonight is not something that is happening in a faraway land. We need to try thinking a little differently because it could lead us to ample opportunities to act in our everyday lives.
Green campus, saving 280 million won in a period of four months
There is also a GRRREAT University. Unfortunately for Seoul citizens, it is not in Seoul, but I feel that I need to mention the institution because it has set a remarkable example. Last year, Daegu University introduced a self-supporting accounting system under which utility costs, for electricity, water, etc., should be paid not by the university headquarters but by each college that uses them. The university administration hoped the new system would help reduce energy consumption within the university, and found it to be a great success.
As it turned out, they could save as much as 287.5 million won in four months. To achieve this, they used equipment, systems, and guidelines designed for effective saving of energy and water, and operated a close monitoring system. As such, they have been able to save a lot of energy and money.
I think that our city of Seoul needs to more such green campuses to save energy, reduce costs and free students from the burden of high tuition fees.
GRRREAT civil servants – “Energy means jobs.”
I’ve talked a lot about the great citizens of whom I am so proud and, now, I’d like to talk about some great civil servants who work in our city administration. Gangdong-gu is currently operating a biodiesel project which involves collecting used cooking oil for conversion into biodiesel. They collect the used oil from six schools, elementary, middle and high schools and ninety houses, and turn it into biodiesel to use for its garbage trucks. Currently twenty-six out of thirty-two garbage trucks operated by the Gangdong-gu administration run on recycled fuel. They say that using biodiesel is a two-bird-one-stone solution because the fuel emits less exhaust gas.
Public servants in Gangdong-gu Office have been great so far, and they will go one step further. The success in the biodiesel project has become known to many families and has spread to apartment blocks, and they now plan to expand the project to include families dwelling in detached houses. They also plan to raise a social enterprise responsible for the collection and management of used cooking oil, thus contributing to the creation of jobs for local communities. Energy is money, energy is education, energy is community, and energy is jobs. How can I not admire them? Aren’t they really GRRRRREAT civil servants?
When I made a pledge that I would “reduce one nuclear plant” in my term of office, some argued that nuclear power was “an unavoidable option” in this country where no chemical fuel was produced. But we should learn from the lesson of Japan.
When I made a visit to Japan from February 8 to 10, I met some Japanese ministers including the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Minister of Reconstruction, and Nuclear Disaster Minister. They looked so depressed. The whole of Japan seemed to be sinking after the Fukushima nuclear accident. Many Japanese intellectuals were overwhelmed by the pessimistic view that Japan would never be able to recover the peace they had enjoyed prior to the Fukushima accident.
Currently, fifty out of a total of fifty-four nuclear power plants in Japan have stopped operation, and three more will soon follow suit. Japan is turning back. If Japan can do without nuclear power plants, it means that Korea can, too. Wouldn’t it be most unfortunate for this country if Korea, Japan’s closest neighbor, was unable to learn from the Fukushima nuclear accident?
I believe that the campaign to “switch off one nuclear plant” is the best present we can give to future generations. That present is being given by our GRRRREAT citizens. The energy- and environment-related problems are problems of action, so they can never be solved without our citizens’ participation. Citizens, rather than civil servants, should take the lead.
I pledged many times that I would become the first Seoul Mayor who would try to change citizens’ lives. Our lives have already begun to change thanks to some GRRRREAT citizens. I am a very happy mayor because there are so many GRRRREAT citizens in this city.