Watching the World

Deteriorating Manners

“The manners and behavior of the Japanese people have worsened.” This is how some 90 percent of nearly 2,000 people responded to a recent survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. What did they find annoying? For 68 percent it was “the failure of others to properly dispose of cigarettes, chewing gum and beverage cans.” More than half cited the failure of parents to discipline noisy children. Other complaints included the use of cellular telephones in public, the failure to clean up pet droppings, and improper car and bicycle parking. Young people came under the heaviest criticism. “Among respondents in their 20s to 40s, 66 percent expressed concern about the poor manners of middle and high school students.”

 Decoy Alligators

Cormorants, birds that can apparently eat about two pounds [1 kg] of fish daily, “are often the bane of recreational fishermen’s lives,” says Canada’s Calgary Herald. The paper reports that to ward off cormorants and other fish-eating birds, North American farmers and fish-farm managers are using a new tool​—plastic alligators. The 13-foot-long [4 m] alligators “have two large luminous reflectors for eyes, simulating alert gators in the wild,” explains the Herald. One biologist found that a plastic alligator floating on the surface of the water worked for about a month. After that, the birds began to catch on, and one blue heron actually “was seen perched atop the decoy.” But when the decoy was moved to another location, it once again scared the fish-eating birds away.

“Mobbing” at Work

The principal reason for lost work time in Spain is “psychological harassment,” reports the magazine El País Semanal. More than two million Spaniards suffer prolonged workplace bullying, known in Europe as mobbing. According to psychologist Iñaki Piñuel, the victims are usually good workers who awaken professional jealousy in others. Workmates may stigmatize a person by withholding his work assignments, excluding him from conversation, pretending not to see him, constantly criticizing him, or spreading false rumors to undermine his self-esteem. “It is calculated that 1 out of every 5 suicides in Europe is related to this phenomenon,” states the report. What can be done? The magazine suggests: “Don’t keep it secret. Look for witnesses. Report the situation to company officials. Don’t blame yourself. In extreme cases, change departments [or] jobs.”

Mental Problems in Children

“Up to one in five of the world’s children suffer mental or behavioural problems that could blight the rest of their lives,” states The Independent of London. In a joint report, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund warn that rates of depression, suicide, and self-harm have increased “alarmingly” among young people. The worst affected are those living in war zones and in countries undergoing rapid social and economic change. According to The Independent, the report said that depressed children “were prone to other illnesses and risky habits that could shorten their lives.” It also stated that “about 70 per cent of premature adult deaths were linked to behaviour that developed in adolescence, such as smoking, drinking and drug abuse.”

Marine Highways

“It is the ultimate ocean boulevard,” reports The Sunday Times of London. “Beneath the waters of the Pacific is a marine motorway stretching from California’s golden beaches via Hawaii to the rocky shores of Japan.” Jeff Polovina, a marine biologist in Hawaii, has recently discovered and mapped this route by tagging whales, turtles, tuna, dolphins, and sharks. The highway is rich in plankton, which serves as food for crabs, jellyfish, and squid. These, in turn, provide abundant food for the long-distance travelers. Loggerhead turtles, described by the newspaper as “the jet-setters of the reptile world,” nest in Japan, develop off the coast of California, and commute between the two. In winter the ocean route shifts about 600 miles [1,000 km] southward, running from southern California to the South China Sea.

Staying Fit

“Physical activity helps control weight, protects against health conditions like diabetes and osteoporosis, improves mood, and contributes to a better night’s sleep,” points out Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter. But besides all that, “your level of fitness is a powerful determinant of how long you will live.” In a 13-year study of more than 6,000 middle-aged men, researchers at Stanford University and the U.S. Veterans Affairs Health Care System found that the amount of exercise a person could engage in without reaching exhaustion was a strong predictor of survival. Though other research indicates that genetics play a role in exercise capacity, even daily “low-intensity” exercise​—such as brisk walking—​is helpful in staying fit.

Advertising Alcohol to Youth

“Almost one in 10 young Australians are dependent on alcohol,” reports Australia’s Sunday Telegraph. Professor Ian Webster, president of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, says that a culture has developed among young people in which a good weekend is one spent “drinking to oblivion.” The Sydney Morning Herald reports that some experts are disturbed by the “growing worldwide industry” of advertising alcohol to young people. Researchers found that most marketers of alcoholic drinks had Web sites that target young people. “These promoted tickets to live music, and included film reviews and, of course, product information.” According to the report, the World Health Organization is concerned that all this promotion “aims to ensure alcohol becomes an integral part of young people’s lives.”

Withdrawing From Society

In Japan an apparently new phenomenon affecting mainly teens and young adults has emerged. Called hikikomori (acute social withdrawal), it came to public attention during investigations into a number of vicious crimes committed by reclusive young people. “Research into the lifestyle of the perpetrators showed that their hermetic way of life​—shut up for months on end in their rooms with little more than a computer or a video game for company—​was far from exceptional,” reports the medical journal The Lancet. Other evidence indicates that hikikomori is more often manifested by lethargy than by violence. Still, “there is broad agreement that this illness is a product of the affluence, technology, and convenience of modern Japanese life,” states The Lancet. “Many hikikomori spend most of their waking hours on the internet or playing video games, while snacking on food and drink delivered to their homes.” Some estimates place the number of reclusive young people in Japan at one million.