[imgcontainer right] [img:ONAGAWA-articleLarge.jpeg] [source]New York Times[/source] Should fishing villages destroyed by the tsunami in Japan last March be rebuilt where they stood, or should people move to larger, consolidated towns? Older residents want the smaller villages; younger people want the larger towns. Hiroaki Suzuki, 21, opposes rebuilding a small village, saying he wants to live in a centralized community away from the sea. [/imgcontainer]

The New York Times had a fascinating story yesterday about “clashing generational interests” in Japan that should be very familiar to rural residents in the U.S. 

The tsunami that struck the Japanese coast destroyed scores of fishing villages. The question that is causing the conflict is how these places should be rebuilt. 

There were 15 villages destroyed by the tsunami near Onagawa, Japan. Building a few centralized towns would be cheaper than rebuilding all 15 villages, reasoned Onagawa’s mayor.

“But the village elders fought back, saying they wanted the government to rebuild their ancestral villages so that they could spend their last years there,” reports Norimitsu Onishi. “Younger residents, many of whom supported consolidation but were vastly outnumbered, were left grumbling among themselves.” Younger Japanese wanted to move into larger, more consolidated towns.

The mayor who proposed the consolidation lost his office. The new mayor says he will rebuild all 15 sites. “Each village has its own way of doing things,” Kiichiro Abe, 59, the leader of the fishing union in Oura, population 217, said in an interview by the sea. “The people in this village want to live with their own people, and so do the people in the next village.” Elders want to die in the villages where they have lived.

Young people now feel like their views are being ignored. Onishi reports:

But the younger people in the villages, who were in the minority and who, as Confucian culture dictates, tend to defer to their elders, quietly started telling town officials that they favored centralization, said Toshiaki Yaginuma, the leader of the local government’s reconstruction team. Larger towns, they said, would mean livelier communities and more classmates for their children.

A resident of Oura, Katsuyuki Suzuki, 33, said he wanted to move to a bigger community for his 3-year-old daughter. He did not see how each village’s customs were so different that residents could not live together, especially if it meant reconstruction would be faster and cheaper.

“I mean, we wouldn’t be sleeping in the same place — we would have our own houses,” Mr. Suzuki said.

So, who rules — the old or the new, the past or the future?

• The 7th annual “I Love Mountains” rally is being held today in Frankfort, Kentucky. There will be a rally, a march and lobbying against the environmental damaged that comes with coal strip mining. 

• The L.A. Times has a story about the uniquely large coalition of groups that are against the House transportation bill. Civil rights groups are opposed. So is the Episcopal Church and the American Society of Landscape Architects. 

The House and the Senate this week will take up their “vastly different” versions of the transportation bill. 

• The feds have freed up $9 million to help medical students repay school loans if they agree to work in underserved areas. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-health-20120214,0,1745090.story

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the announcement in downtown Los Angeles, but the money could help in rural areas.

• President Obama released his budget yestereday. Business Week reports that he included a 4.8 percent increase in the Agriculture budget. 

The President’s budget does include a savings of $32 billion over ten years by cutting some farm subsidies, such as direct payments. Last fall, there was an agreement in Congress to cut $23 billion over ten years and to eliminate direct payments. 

The USDA would still close 260 offices around the country, but the budget would increase money for ag research and for some rural development. Most of the ag budget ($75 billion last year) goes for food programs. 

Chris Clayton has more on the Ag budget here

• Pam Smith at DTN reports that new research finds that honeybee deaths may be caused by insecticidal seed treatments. 

• It appears that Chuck Hassebrook is the only Democrat seeking the open U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska. National Journal reports that state Sen. Steve Lathrop announced yesterday that he won’t run. 

That leaves Hassebrook, a University of Nebraska regent and chief of the Center for Rural Affairs, on the Democratic side. Rs will be represented by either Attorney General Jon Bruning or Treasurer Don Stenberg. 

• A House and Senate conference committee is “coming under increased pressure from a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the Federal Communications Commission has the flexibility it needs to free up more spectrum for unlicensed uses such as Wi-Fi,” reports the National Journal’s Juliana Gruenwald. 

Folks are concerned that language in the House version of a Federal Communications Commission bill would restrict the FCC from providing additional spectrum for uses such as Wi-Fi.

“It is particularly critical that some of the ‘the beachfront’ spectrum located in the television bands remain available for unlicensed services, which are driving innovation, promoting rural broadband deployment, and creating new services in the wireless ecosystem,” Google, Microsoft, Public Knowledge and several other tech firms and public interest groups wrote in a letter to the conference committee.

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