Environmental history

Authored by: Philip C. Brown

Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese History

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138815186
eBook ISBN: 9781315746678
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter reviews the literature, both in English and Japanese languages, on the relationship between Japanese society and the environment. Researchers primarily have focused on the modern and contemporary eras, looking at the changes brought about by widespread use of carbon-fossil fuels and scientific and technological innovations since 1870. On the whole, they have focused on negative impact of these changes, including industrial pollution, deforestation, etc. More recent work, which often presumes a sharp break with pre-1870 Japan, focuses on the externalization of both supplies for Japan and the costs of their extraction. Although the pre-modern era has sometimes been idealized, the differences between pre-modern and modern social relations with nature do not exhibit a sharp break in attitude toward nature and active exploitation of what it has to offer. Taken as a whole, English studies of pre-modern Japan tell a more complex story of human–land relationships.

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