Plum Blossoms: First Sign of Spring in Japan


Like many cultural symbols of Japan, the Japanese plum tree has its roots in China. The trees were introduced from China during the Nara period (710–794 AD). Upon their arrival they became the original spring flower to view while picnicking under the trees in spring – the tradition of “hanami/花見”. However, today the plum blossom is both eclipsed by and sometimes confused with its sister symbol of Japanese spring, the cherry blossom (桜の花). Plum blossoms are an important symbol in Japanese culture as they represent hope and vitality to reassure all that despite the lingering winter cold, warmer weather is on the way. Plum blossom festivals (梅まつり) are held throughout the country.


At dawn, walking along the mountain path, as if I was invited by the scent of plum blossoms, the morning sunrise suddenly appeared from the other side of the mountain.

Matsuo Bashou

Hodogaya Park, Yokohama — February 25,2022
Jasmen and Brian

Is the Russian Invasion of Ukraine about NATO or about Lithium?

Nobody is Talking about the Minerals

The real reasons for waging war are rarely transparent. Ideological differences associated with nationalism may be used as a front to garner support from the masses, but patriotic justifications blanket the economic motives.  A steel embargo sparked the Japanese to declare war on the US and bomb Pearl Harbor. Oil was an unspoken motive for the US invasions of Iraq. And forty years of war in Afghanistan? Nation building or an interest in mineral resources? Ukraine is no different. The real reason why Ukraine is a headlining pawn in the East-West, not-so-cold war standoff is hidden among the rocks and the rocks are white. White gold. The new oil. Lithium.  

2021 Timeline of Lithium Mining in Ukraine

The 2021 announcements on lithium mining and production in Ukraine coincide with Russia’s plans for sending troops to the border. In May 2021, DTEK, the largest private investor in the energy sector in Ukraine, announced the official launch of Ukraine’s first industrial lithium-ion energy storage system. The announcement followed a 2020 agreement with the American company Honeywell. Although it is a small pilot project, the power plant is hailed as good news for the EU Green Deal because it is a step toward de-carbonization for Eastern Europe.

     The idea of Western companies moving in to capitalize on lithium mining and production in Ukraine could not have been welcome news for Russia. By July, Putin must have been getting chronic indigestion as he learned that the EU and Ukraine were launching a strategic partnership to use raw materials. Lithium being the highlighted raw material as it is needed for the battery gigafactories currently being built in France and Germany.

     Coinciding with Russia’s move to send troops to Ukraine’s border in November 2021 came news that an Australian mining company, European Lithium, was securing two lithium deposits in Ukraine in its attempt to become the largest lithium supplier in Europe and reap the profits of being a major link in the battery supply chain.


…there isn’t an infinite supply of lithium on earth…If the production of electric vehicles continues to rise, will we run out anytime soon, and what are the consequences if we do?

-Taylor Martin

Why Lithium?

The great transition to green energy is dependent on lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and electrical storage systems. With at least 13 new gigafactories coming online by 2025 in the US alone, the world’s appetite for lithium will increase exponentially. Whereas some predictions in 2015 estimated the world’s lithium reserves could last as long as 365 years, more recent predictions claim that the growing demand for lithium will outpace the supply of all known lithium projects within the next decade or so. That is scary because an energy shortage is a prescription for a number of disasters with WAR topping the list.

Blood Lithium?

So what would become of the vogue and prestige of owning an EV if world leaders and politicians came out and told us that we need to go to war to secure lithium reserves for the future? What would become of the green energy transition? Or the new brand of capitalism and its ESG investment approach?

Is Lithium the New Blood Diamond?
Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty

Global Issues in Language Education

Studying a Second Language is a Passport to Global Citizenship

Learning a foreign language is a passport to global citizenship. The commitment to learning a new language demonstrates an interest in broadening one’s view of the world and the desire to understand other cultures. As a language learner’s worldview expands, so should knowledge and interest in global issues.

Wider View of the World

The acquisition of a second language and the acquisition of socially responsible behavior are similar in that they are both processes that affect a person’s view of the world and foster the development of a global mindset. As a person’s view of the world expands, it becomes easier to understand how global issues transcend political and cultural borders. Addressing those global issues and planning sustainable global development require communication among all members of the international community. Therefore, people learning a second language have the opportunity to become ambassadors for peace, equality, human rights and the environment.

The Role of the Language Teacher

The language educator’s role is to begin the process by providing access to knowledge that will raise awareness of issues. Increases in knowledge and awareness inevitably lead to a change in attitude about how a specific issue is perceived. Language classes that focus on higher levels of language production such as writing or debate courses that encompass rhetorical skills in cause and effect analysis or evaluative ability naturally help to develop students’ critical thinking skills. Using global themes in such courses will also help to provide those students with the opportunity to develop the skills to take action and participate as global citizens for the betterment of the global community.

Pedagogical Reasons for Using Global Issues as Lesson Themes

Although the major goals of introducing global issues into language lessons are to raise consciousness and to promote socially responsible behavior, there are also several pedagogical reasons as well. Lesson materials for using global issues themes in a language classroom can and should be authentic. That is the lesson materials represent real-world issues using common vocabulary and rhetoric. The use of authentic materials in second language teaching intensifies the meaningfulness of content. Meaningful content can be a factor that facilitates the acquisition of language in content-based instruction because meaningful learning increases retention of new knowledge and information.

  • Use Authentic Materials
  • Integrate 4 skills
  • Communicative Approach
  • Active Learning 
  • Content-Based/Theme Based Instruction
  • Inspire Independent Learners
This video introduces my textbook for using Global Issues as content for teaching English.
Tips for Teachers

Perhaps, a pressing question might be, “How should a language teacher select a particular global issue for a lesson theme?” The answer to this question depends on the answer to two other questions: Who are the students? And, what are their needs?

Since the primary focus of this discussion is on language teaching, it is essential to first consider the needs of the language learner. Therefore, before selecting a global issue as a theme and before designing materials for a lesson, the language teacher needs to consider the following assumptions:

1) The younger the students are the less likely they will be able to understand abstract concepts and intricate cause-and-effect relationship involved in the detailed explanations of global issues. The teaching implication of this is to keep the content material about a particular global challenge simple and within the realm of understanding for children and young teens.

2) The lower the proficiency level, the less likely students will be able to use intricate language patterns and high level vocabulary to express opinions and ideas about global issues in the target language. The teaching implication of this is to focus more on receptive skills (reading and listening) and use materials that provide scaffolding of target language structures. It would also be useful to include visual media (pictures and videos) in order to maximize the comprehensibility of new vocabulary.

3) The greater the social distance between local issues familiar to a language learner and a global issue introduced into the language classroom, the more difficult it will be for the language learner to understand. Additionally, a lack of understanding for a lesson theme may result in a lack of interest and motivation for the language lesson. The teaching implication here is to try to connect content material about global issues to students’ lives or to local issues that are familiar to them.

4) Students do not need to understand all the intricate connections of a particular global issue to benefit from using the issue as a theme in the language classroom. The primary goal of incorporating global issues as themes into language lessons is to begin to raise students’ awareness.

  • Try not to be judgmental.
  • Try to avoid over-generalizations.
  • You don’t have to be an expert.
  • Try to avoid an “us” vs. “them” or “we” vs. “you” tone.