Confronting Global Crises: “ICU in Dialogue with the Present, Past, and Future” with Prof. Emeritus Steele

Confronting Global Crises: “ICU in Dialogue with the Present, Past, and Future” with Prof. Emeritus Steele

6th June 2020 0 By Lorrie Hayman

(Source: Lorrie Hayman)

International Christian University (ICU) is situated in Osawa, Western Tokyo, and boasts a rich and intriguing history. Recently, in an event organised by the peace-based student group at ICU, Ad Pacem, students, staff, and university patrons were given the opportunity to learn more about this history from former ICU Professor and historian Professor Emeritus Steele. During this lecture, the audience was treated to an exploration of the history of the beautiful ICU campus, as well as the opportunity to reflect and think about the future of this unique space.

On April 29th 1952 ICU was officially founded, coinciding with the Treaty of Peace coming into being, which legally ended the Second-World War and the Allied occupation of Japan. The founding of ICU was commemorated by an inscribed rock, which can still be seen outside the main library. ICU is situated on the former grounds of the Nakajima Aircraft Company. After the Second World War, the land was acquired by the university and dedicated to peace and human rights. This is the reason all students who join the university have to read and sign the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, committing themselves to support social justice and world peace. 

This inscribed rock, which reveals a dedication to the founders of ICU, also represents interesting continuity between the Nakajima Aircraft Company and ICU. That connection is 園丁 宮沢𠮷春, Mr Miyazawa Yoshiharu, who was the gardener and grounds person for the Nakajima facility, and remained so when the university acquired the land. Notably, Mr Miyazawa Yoshiharu is recognised on the inscribed rock as one of the original founders of ICU.

(Source: Professor Steele, presentation at ICU, 25th February 2020)

This illustrates the importance of the ICU grounds, which provide not only a wonderful space to enjoy nature, but also a place for the ICU Farm to cultivate fresh and organic vegetables. The ICU Farm is another example on the campus of continuity between then and now. In 1954 the cultivation of the land in the ICU grounds was launched with the initial development of the ICU Farm, and land throughout the campus was used for growing vegetables, rice and grain and for the cultivation of other food to support the local area and university students. There was even a small animal holding on campus to provide students with fresh milk and eggs! The reason for the original ICU Farm was because the university felt it was “necessary to avoid being an institution for the economically favoured few” (from the original ICU Farm information, as cited by Professor Steele). 

(Source: Professor Steele, presentation at ICU, 25th February 2020)

So from its very foundation, ICU has been a university to not only promote the cultivation of the mind, but also the cultivation of healthy fresh foods! In recent years, while the ICU Farm has certainly reduced in size, it does continue, with a dedicated group of students regularly meeting to grow food and learn about the process. 

However, arguably, the commitment to the local environment is perhaps no longer at the forefront of decisions made by the university. For example, a lovely new gymnasium building was built only a year ago, but there is no counter on the wall showing students and staff how much electricity it consumes. Moreover, the campus is full of flat roof buildings, but there is not a solar panel in sight. Rather than this being a problem, it presents an opportunity! The students of ICU now have the chance to come together again to create a space on campus which is environmentally friendly, and perhaps one day, carbon neutral. 

Professor Steele is optimistic that the students of ICU will continue the legacy of the ICU Farm and work towards a greener future. He shared with us seven goals he hopes for the future of ICU:

1. Teach to the Mission of the University 

2. Get our hands dirty: Get out of the classroom 

3. Learn from an example: Become a carbon-neutral university 

4. Take sustainability seriously 

5. Do what we preach: Draw up an Action Plan 

6. Empower Students to take action 

7. Incorporate the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) into the Core Goals of the University: its Mission

Currently, there are student-led groups who meet and discuss campus design to ensure ICU is environmentally friendly. Moreover, passionate professors at ICU encourage students to engage with course curricula which explores the Sustainable Development Goals. Finally, each week students sell locally grown vegetables from the ICU Farm and other local farmers, even after over 65 years since the ICU Farm was founded!

As a student of ICU, it is a privilege to live on this beautiful campus and enjoy the abundant nature around me. It encourages me to think more about green living and sustainable living, which is something I get to explore even further through courses and lectures like this one given by Professor Steele.