Posts Tagged ‘satoyama’

Lessons from Pre-Industrial Japan

In early 2001 I happened upon an intriguing book at the Kinokuniya Book Store in San Francisco’s Japantown called, The Japanese Dream Home, by Azby Brown. Published that same year, it contained a fascinating history of Japanese architecture and provided an early basis for my better understanding Japanese design and aesthetics. This closely-read book remains on my book case, sitting next to another amazing book Azby wrote years later, titled Just Enough. The latter is a beautifully written and illustrated (by the author) book that provides scholarly (but highly readable) and valuable substantiation for many of the themes of this blog, and as such, appears at the top of my list under the above Inspiration menu.

Eleven years later I happened to meet Azby when Helena Norberg-Hodge invited him to present at the March 2012 Economics of Happiness conference in Berkeley. When I mentioned to him about my enjoying his first book, his jaw dropped and he said I was perhaps the only person he’d ever met who had read it! Little did he know that it has often been trotted out over the years to show house guests about my love for Japanese design.

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A nuke-free Japan in the near term?

Given the inherently un-sustainable nature of nuclear power generation – to say nothing of its profound lack of resilience – I have no doubt that the future of Japan, and indeed the world, will ultimately be nuclear free, perhaps within mere decades (albeit with residual nuclear contamination persisting for tens of thousands of years, well into the “Long Now”).

But what I hadn’t anticipated until recently is the possibility of Japan shutting down all of its nuclear reactors within months. Yet it is a real possibility, and if it does happen it will propel Japan far ahead of other industrialized countries in transitioning to a more harmonious relationship with nature. Continue reading

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

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