Japan should look to satoyama and satoumi for inspiration – A new article on Our World 2.0

This morning Our World 2.0 posted an outstanding new article entitled, “Japan should look to satoyama and satoumi for inspiration“.

It is exciting and gratifying to see the concepts of satoyama and satoumi being highlighted for their potential to provide a sustainable, resilient, long-term basis for a rich and dynamic culture and thriving relationship with the natural world – not only for Japan’s rebuilding strategy but also for the world.

Japan is uniquely positioned to act as a “proof of concept” for other developed countries in finding ways to remember and draw into the present long forgotten ways of living in harmony with nature – and in the process reconnecting with those tangible and intangible qualities of interconnectedness that provide true meaning to our lives and nourish our parched spirits. Continue reading

Tight Web Saves Cut-Off Japanese Villages

Japan’s still-unfolding disaster offers important lessons for us all – on many levels – with inspiring stories continuing to emerge of personal courage and generosity and collective cooperation and resilience. One powerful and practical example of the importance of cultivating what might be referred to as “satoyama spirit” was highlighted today in a New York Times article, “Tight Web Saves Cut-Off Japanese Villages“: Continue reading

A letter from Sendai

At this time of nearly unspeakable calamity in Japan, words emanating from within the country are precious. Today, a colleague alerted me to the following, A letter from Sendai, published today in Ode Magazine. It is written by a woman I don’t know, Anne Thomas – a gaijin living in Japan – and it eloquently and movingly captures a profound moment – a confluence of local and global, resilience and acceptance, sharing and generosity, healing and hope – when personal concerns are transcended and our intrinsic oneness is recognized and appreciated, even cherished and celebrated, through a recovery of the simplicity on the other side of complexity. I hope you are as inspired by this letter as I was. Continue reading

To Serve the Ecosystems that Serve Us

The following article appears in Our World 2.0. It is a modified (improved!) version of a an earlier post on this blog. Thank you, OW2.0, for picking this up and helping spread these ideas!


What if we changed our relationship with the natural world from one of taking what we can to one of reciprocity and mutual giving?

The International Satoyama Initiative, formally launched at this past October’s COP10 Biodiversity Conference in Nagoya, Japan, provides an important boost to preserving traditional forest and farmland (satoyama), and seaside (satoumi) ecological production landscapes around the world. Its aim of restoring a balanced and sustainable harmony between humans and the natural environment is something no one could argue the world does not need.

However, is the proposed cure for satoyama’s current degenerative state — assigning such biodiverse landscapes value in direct proportion to the “ecosystem services” (the benefits of nature to households, communities, and economies) provided — adequate to the task? Or does viewing nature in such a calculated way, and justifying its preservation based on the things it gives us, simply perpetuate the tired old (yet sadly still quite widely-held) myth of nature existing for our benefit? Continue reading

Further signs of change in Japan: Portent or promise?

Inspired by the quickening pace of change occurring in Japan and around the world, a few weeks ago I began drafting a blog post tentatively titled, “Japan as Number One, Again?” in which I argue (as I have in previous posts – for example, here) why I believe that Japan is poised to once again become a world leader, not in conventional economic terms of course, but in something more elusive and subtle, but ultimately more important.

However, events and other articles have overtaken my relaxed timeline for completing my draft post and I want to share some of these recent developments right away. But first, here is a preview of my draft to provide context for what follows: Continue reading

From Ecosystem Services to Gift Culture: An Overdue Change in Perspective

What if we changed our relationship with the natural world from one of taking what we can to one of reciprocity and mutual giving?

The International Satoyama Initiative formally launched at this week’s COP10 Biodiversity Conference in Nagoya, Japan, provides an important boost to preserving traditional forest and farmland (“satoyama”), and seaside (“satoumi”) ecological production landscapes around the world and restoring a balanced and sustainable harmony between humans and the natural environment.

But is the proposed cure for satoyama’s current degenerative state – assigning such biodiverse landscapes value in direct proportion to their “ecosystem services” provided to humans – adequate to the task? Or does viewing nature in such a calculated way – and justifying its preservation for the “services” provided – simply perpetuate obsolete, if widely-held, myths of human separation from nature and nature existing for our benefit? Continue reading

UNEP says “Satoyama may prove to be one of Japan’s most important exports”

Addressing yesterday’s opening of the biodiversity summit in Nagoya, the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD, Achim Steiner, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), noted something very significant and, I believe, right on target:

Japan’s ancient culture and legendary technological innovation has given the world many things. But perhaps in many ways Satoyama may prove to be among the most important exports of Japan to a world still searching for sustainability.

On a related note, OurWorld 2.0, a profoundly important webzine, just posted a selection of their short films about satoyama and biodiversity, each one exquisitely produced by the United Nations University. This selection was featured at a film festival associated with the COP10 conference in Nagoya on October 17, 2010. Do check out these “Stories from a Biodiverse World“!