Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Bad Water, Nature, Pollution and Politics in Japan, 1870-1950

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Bad Water, Nature, Pollution and Politics in Japan, 1870-1950

Article excerpt

Stolz, Robert. Bad Water, Nature, Pollution and Politics in Japan, 1870-1950. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014. 288 pp. ISBN 9780822356998, paper. US $24.95; also available in hardback.

Bad Water from Robert Stolz, Assistant History Professor at the University of Virginia, is a fascinating exploration of the history of Environmentalism in Japan from around 1870 to 1950, a time period between the end of the Age of the Samurai to the Reconstruction of Japan following the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The book explores some interesting perspectives and philosophies, and tells a compelling intellectual story. From the lens of another culture, we can get a better idea here of how to understand and interact with nature. The author notes that some of the Japanese argued that nature was something we could neither transcend nor control. The book ends on a sad note mentioning that nature is also something that we cannot necessarily depend upon to save us.

Bad Water is full of ideas by mostly environmental figures in Japan. There are also references to western thought, in particular Darwin, Marx, and Deep Ecology. Japan struggled with waste from mining operations which made them rethink the way they viewed nature and politics. It also had those who had green Agrarian dreams and those who sought to understand and define man's role in the environment. In this history, the conceptualization of Nature as a provider changed to something that is at the will of our politics. The author argues, like Marx, that nature has been subsumed by capital.

The story presented does seek to make arguments that everybody in the field will not agree with or be happy with. Common terms may mean different things in different political nations with the author having his problems with the ideas of liberalism and sometimes Deep Ecology in these battles.

The author even writes:

"As mentioned, I also completely disagree with the exaltation of an untrammeled, unpeopled nature at work in Deep Ecology. This represents nothing more that the overcoming of the crisis merely in thought, in individual consciousness." (p. 202)

Stolz also attacks Liberalism:

"Throughout this book, I have tried to show in a similar way that a return to liberalism and the liberal subject, with its imagined autonomous bodies, while perhaps understandable in the immediate post war moment, was also a problematic solution to the environmental crisis". …

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