Popweekly: Digest for 04.26.10

The Lucky Camera Shop
The Lucky Camera shop, Tokyo. Fantastic little shop probably founded in the late 1940s and stuffed from floor to ceiling with classic camera gear. In the back streets behind the giant Shinjuku station, near ‘Green Peas”. By John Gulliver.

Shanghai’s Back on Top of the World

For China’s most dynamic, most cosmopolitan and sassiest city, this is a time to celebrate. After decades of hibernation following the founding of Mao Zedong’s People’s Republic in 1949, Shanghai is returning to its roost as a global center of commerce and culture. This year Shanghai, as host of Expo 2010, is squarely in the international spotlight. The fair opens May 1, and organizers expect more than 70 million visitors over six months.
Shanghai’s style is to do things big. Its population of 19 million makes it one of the largest metropolises on the planet. More than 750 foreign multinational companies have offices in the city. The skyline counts more than 30 buildings over 650 ft. (200 m) tall. Stroll down certain streets, and you can easily imagine that you are in midtown Manhattan — so much so that on visiting the city in 2007 for the MTV Style Gala, Paris Hilton was moved to declare, “Shanghai looks like the future.”
Yet Shanghai is still trying to determine what that future should be.

The neighborhood is a powerful– but often overlooked– resource for changing the world

The neighborhood is the basic building block of the commons– indeed, of human society itself– and successful efforts to make the world a better place usually start right there.
This might strike you as archaic, a throwback to the time when men wore fedoras and everyone walked to church on Sunday mornings. Yet the age of globalization actually makes neighborhoods more important than ever. After spending all day connecting with Facebook friends in Kyoto, Krakow and Kokomo, virtual globetrotters are eager for face-to-face contact in a real place, like a coffee shop, park, town square or other form of local commons.
Neighborhoods– whether in cities, suburbs or small towns– are the level of social organization at which people interact most regularly and naturally, providing a ready-made forum for tackling serious issues together. Even if the neighbors abhor our political views or artistic tastes, we nonetheless share a bond. When a crisis occurs (a rash of burglaries) or opportunities arise (plans to revitalize the park), these are the people who stand beside us to make improvements for the future.

Tokyo’s goal: Be the greenest

These private-sector companies are part of a very public push by Tokyo’s metropolitan government to turn this dense urban area, home to 13 million people, into the world’s most eco-friendly mega-city.
In addition to reducing solid waste, Tokyo over the last few years has unveiled a slew of environmentally conscious initiatives. Those include toughened environmental building standards, cash incentives for residents to install solar panels, and a plan for greening the city, including planting half a million trees and converting a 217-acre landfill in Tokyo Bay into a wooded “sea forest” park.
The most ambitious effort yet kicked off this month, when Tokyo launched a mandatory program for 1,400 of the area’s factories and office buildings to cut their carbon emissions 25% from 2000 levels by the end of 2020. The plan includes a carbon cap-and-trade system, the first ever attempted by a metropolitan area. The mechanism sets limits on emissions and requires those who exceed their quotas to buy pollution rights from those who are under their caps.

How the volcano eruption exposed the vulnerability of the global supply chain

A century ago, even 30 years ago, an eruption from Iceland wouldn’t have affected menus in Florence or auto assembly in Tennessee. But things have changed. The just-in-time mentality dictates that factories and retailers build superefficient, lengthy supply chains and keep as little capital and warehouse space as possible tied up in inventory. Globalization has meant that companies now source components and products from all over the world. The upshot: When there’s a small disruption anywhere, the machinery of global capitalism slows down. And when there’s a disruption in Europe, look out. The slow-growing region is a highly globalized economic powerhouse. “Europe is the biggest exporter in the world and the second biggest importer,” said Eric Chaney, chief economist at AXA Group. And while container ships are the workhorses of global trade, plenty of really valuable stuff crosses the Atlantic in airliner cargo bays. By Tuesday, with flights from Europe having been canceled for a few days, the automaker Nissan was suspending some production at its factories in Tennessee and Mississippi. The culprit: a lack of pneumatic sensors made in Ireland.