Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Community-Based Outdoor Education Using a Local Approach to Conservation

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Community-Based Outdoor Education Using a Local Approach to Conservation

Article excerpt

Abstract

Local people of a community interact with nature in a way that is mediated by their local cultures and shape their own environment. We need a local approach to conservation for the local environment adding to the political or technological approaches for global environmental problems such as the destruction of the ozone layer or global warming. The local approach to conservation is based on the paradigm of "life-environmentalism" found in the discussion of Japanese environmental sociology. Life-environmentalism focuses on the lives of local residents to analyse regional environmental problems and pay attention to their local cultures. In this paper, I will examine whether Japanese outdoor education can contribute to the local approach of conservation and I will present a test case of community-based outdoor education based on life-environmentalism.

Introduction

The Norwegian environmentalist Sigmund Kvaloy (1993), suggests there are two different types of social organisation, Industrial Growth Societies (IGS) and Life Necessities Societies (LNS). IGS is "aiming for--and its success is measured against--linear or accelerating expansion of the production of industrial commodities and services and the use of industrial method--standardized mass production, concentration in a few, urbanized centers, carried out by specialists on all levels" (Kvaloy, 1993, p. 121). He also writes, "there is only one historical example of this kind of society, our own, which is tending to become global" (Kvaloy, 1993, p. 121). In describing the consequences of globalisation, Berque (1994), a French geographer with a long history of conducting research in Japan, says "the idea of modernity has been spreading over the earth erasing realities indigenous to each place. And the realities were defined as something wrong by justice of universal space" (p. 156). He then wonders, "how can we respect traditional and unique architectures, the sacred glove of the shrine and the winding streams in each community, when international style supported by the strong justice of universalism is being forced on us, and standardized linear rice fields, the straightened rivers and redevelopment of traditional rows of houses are being forced on communities?" (p. 156).

Much of the natural environment in Japan has been formed by the interaction between society and nature. Because Japan is one of the most densely populated countries (336 persons per square kilometer in 2002) where even mountainous areas are densely settled, it has small amounts of wilderness areas. For example, the 28 Japanese national parks account for only 5.4% of national land, although 65% of the land is covered with forest. In 2002, 69% of all the municipalities were mountain villages, but all kinds of communities, not only mountain villages, have local cultures to interact with nature. Mediated by their local cultures, people and communities have interacted with nature and formed their own environment over a long time. These environments show different characteristics. Because the land of Japan extends from a subarctic zone to a subtropical zone, the temperature in midwinter in the northernmost island, Hokkaido, reaches minus 30 degrees but rarely dips below 10 degrees in the southernmost island of Okinawa. People live in landscapes varying from mountainous regions to alluvial fans to coastal areas. These differences of climate and terrain provide various fauna and flora indigenous to each region. The local people of a community in any particular region establish a complex cultural system consisting of various local cultures based on various uses of the biological and physical environment within that region. Moreover, local cultures are influenced by main industries, degree of urbanisation or depopulation, history of each community, and so on. To conserve our environment, we need to combine local approaches to conservation with political and technological approaches to global environmental problems. …

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