Tokyo’s giant Gundam is currently attracting millions of visitors who come to see the giant steel robot rising up over Shiokaze Koen in Odaiba. It’s official name is the Green Tokyo Gundam Project, and it’s part of a plan to promote Tokyo’s campaign for the 2016 Olympics – they’re trying to make things greener and more environmentally friendly for the games.
It’s easy to be cynical about using a giant steel robot to promote the environment, and how there’s nothing really “green” about the souvenir shops and the way it’s set up. When you go there, there are no environmental messages or other things you’d expect from “green Tokyo” campaign. The Tokyo Olympic committee is working with a for-profit company, Bandai, helping them to promote their products in Tokyo’s bid to host the games so that the city can get prestige and the economic stimulus that comes with being a host city.
But maybe this is the future of environmentalism. They’re going to use the money raised from selling souvenirs to plant trees and put lawns in school grounds. If people come and see the Gundam and have a good time, do they need to learn about the environment? If they are encouraged to consume, to buy Gundam models and souvenir booklets, as long as the money is going to the environment, you can argue that it’s doing more good than harm. And a green Olympics is better than a polluting one, even if the organizers are doing it as part of their promotion strategy, right? I guess I can’t really convince myself completely, but it is something to think about.
Editor’s note: this post was originally published in August 2009 and has been updated.