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Jun’ichi Shinozaki

Climbing for the environment

Published in 1996clockTime to read: 40s
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One of Japan’s most daring alpinists, Dr Jun’ichi Shinozaki researched the effects of global warming and pollution while climbing some of the world’s most famous peaks.

locationJapan

The late physician Jun’ichi Shinozaki saw a combination of medicine, mountaineering and environmental stewardship as essential to a balanced life. Shinozaki, who once conquered 20 Asian peaks on a single expedition, was asked by a geologist friend to undertake scientific research by collecting and analysing hair and nail samples of local populations at higher altitudes. The objective was to obtain a clearer picture of trends in global warming, the spread of airborne contaminants and other environmental phenomena. Shinozaki jumped at the opportunity.

There are hundreds of thousands of children growing up in environments intensely hostile to their healthy growth. As a physician and a father, I feel strongly that something must be done.

Eventually, more than 100 people became involved in Shinozaki’s project and a definitive plan took shape to collect samples on 36 peaks in 17 countries, starting in 1995 on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia, and ending about two years later on Japan’s Mount Fuji ─ only 150 kilometres from Shinozaki’s home near Nagoya. The hundreds of samples gathered by Dr Shinozaki and his team constituted a unique depository of information for scientific analysis.

Shinozaki took a leave of absence from the hospital where he worked as a director of obstetrics to lead the expeditions. He later returned to medicine full-time before he died in 2013.

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