Archive for May, 2010

Finding simplicity on the other side of complexity

Oliver Wendall Holmes quipped, “I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I’d give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

What does this have to do with satoyama? It speaks directly to the nature of the change we’re facing as a humanity. And it suggests the value proposition offered by a satoyama socio-ecological production landscape. As we approach the limits of industrial society, constrained by the earth’s finite natural resource endowments, we are being pushed, and pulled, past our current way of thinking that falsely assumes many things, including the possibility of endless growth, the promise of endless technological progress, and that we are somehow separate from nature itself.

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When nature is an abstraction it’s easy to take it for granted

Yesterday, after reading Our World 2.0’s excellent article, Biodiversity, the world’s economic backbone, it occurred to me that we humans are being confronted by an entirely new challenge: How NOT to take nature for granted.

After lunch I took a moment to watch from our deck as the rain fell lightly onto the leaves of our persimmon tree. It struck me that so long as our decision-makers remain ensconced in their offices and meeting rooms and subways of the built world, that nature will remain an abstraction, a backdrop against which we play the game of our human project. A project whose very underpinnings are based upon such myths as endless economic growth, endless technological fixes, endless human-centered progress. Continue reading

A classic documentary, NHK’s Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Watergarden, narrated by David Attenborough

Filmed in 2004 by NHK, Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Watergarden is a gorgeously filmed sixty minute documentary, narrated by David Attenborough. Broadcast a few years later on BBC, the full film is available to view here on Google.

[UPDATE: A four-apart HD version is now available on YouTube. The first part is available here. The remaining parts appear on the right column. SORRY NO LONGER AVAILABLE DUE TO COPYRIGHT ISSUES]

[UPDATE – Aug 21, 2011: The complete film now seems impossible to find on the internet. I’d purchase the DVD if I could find it, but that, too, appears unavailable. If anyone knows a source, please post a comment. In the meantime, while the first of six parts remains off-limits, the subsequent five parts remain available, for now. Parts two-six are available here.]

[UPDATE – March 2012: Here is the complete film in HD, recently posted, not broken into parts:

This film portrays the essence of the satoyama landscape’s seamless fabric of interdependence and cyclical relationship between human and environment. Having heard about it for years, but never wanting to use peer-to-peer networks to view it, I was very pleased to finally find it available, albeit with somewhat compromised resolution.


Japan’s strength, and future, is rooted in their ancient connection to nature

In last Sunday’s Japan Times article, To realize its cultural potential, Japan must celebrate its strengths, Kyoto-resident Roger Pulvers hits a positive chord when he asserts that Japan must celebrate its strengths, but says that they’ve already missed the opportunity to capitalize on manga, anime, sushi and karaoke. (See my published letter to the editorĀ here.) Continue reading

For the “ama” free divers of Japan, the sacred feminine remains central

The outstanding webzine Our World 2.0 recently posted a remarkable article and video about the “ama” free divers of Hegura Island off the Noto Peninsula in the Japan Sea. For centuries these divers, all women, have been collecting abalone and other sea life using nothing but loin clothes, only adopting wet suits in 1964. Continue reading

A subtle but profound shift appears to be taking place in the Japanese psyche

This weekend I was very pleased to read Japan For Sustainability’s April newsletter article, Good-Bye ‘Ownership,’ ‘Materialism,’ and ‘Monetization” in Lifestyles:
A New Era Dawning in Japan
, as it is a timely reflection of what I feel to be a very important, and hopeful, trend occurring in Japan, and later, the world. Continue reading