In reflecting about the Japanese government’s highly admirable pursuit of the Satoyama Initiative, I am wondering where is the discussion about culture, about community, about the underlying spiritual worldview of the satoyama and satoumi cultures. The underlying worldview of embeddedness in nature, of oneness with the environment, is clearly what undergirded and made possible the establishment and evolution of the original satoyama socio-ecological production landscapes.
Now, however, for all of the well-intentioned efforts to revitalize satoyama for the sake of biodiversity and cultural preservation, I have yet to see mention of what I believe is that glue that holds it all together. So far, I’m seeing a modern scientific worldview trying to recreate the recognizable pieces of a historically complex social and environmental ecosystem. And as we all know, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
What is that intangible quality that supersedes this piece-meal summation? What is it that is necessary for the government and NGOs to be fully conscious of if they are to succeed in their endeavors? I believe the invisible glue is the worldview of the residents themselves. A worldview of oneness, of spirit. To be sure, this worldview is ancient, but not archaic. It isn’t reflected in the modern scientific paradigm (save for quantum physics) but it is alive and well nonetheless. Growing in recognition and influence in fact.
And unless this is properly recognized as the requisite underlying reason for being of these mature satoyama landscapes, no amount of technical innovation, capital expenditure, rural revitalization efforts tied in with modern scientific knowledge, etc., will suffice in re-establishing viable, sustainable, resililient satoyama communities.
Community fabric, embedded worldview, spiritual connection to the land, and other inherently feminine qualities are largely absent from modern discussions, but for relocalization and revitalization goals to work, they must become part of the planning equation and conversation.
Of course, I’m not Japanese and I’m not in Japan, so perhaps the conversation is happening and I’m just not privy to it, or not looking in the right place. However, if the learnings of the Satoyama Initiative are going to be offered to the world in the hope that the Japanese experience can be brought to bear elsewhere, then it seems to me that an explicit discussion of worldview’s importance would be beneficial.