The article by Silverberg and Smith (2019) writes about how Japan is at the forefront of the movement towards leading climate change, and elaborates on the efforts that the country has put in in order to promote environmentalism and sustainability amongst its people, and this effort to protect our Earth has been in motion since the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997. The article links their commitment to sustainability to the Japanese respect for nature, minimalism and aesthetics – addressing roles that Shintoism and Zen Buddhism play in everyday life. The article then elaborates on the commitments from major Japanese cities to cut out and possibly eliminate carbon emissions by 2050. A long term strategy was recently implemented that emphasized that the goals of environmentalism and economic growth were no longer conflicting with each other, but rather, sustainable development could lead to potential for more long termed economic growth. The article then gives many examples of how extensively Japan has invested funding into projects that promote overall sustainability, climate change and disaster risk mitigation, stating that it has helped the country foster bilateral relations with countries that are like-minded, such as members of ASEAN, India and the EU, and how Japan has helped its sustainable allies with development in their own countries.
Of course, Japan isn’t without its flaws, and many of their policies fail to single out climate change as a primary concern, with a greater emphasis being placed on protecting public goods, with climate change via a clean and safe environment conveniently falling into parameters of their framework, instead of being the main focus of their policies. The article does represent Japan in a mostly positive light in regards to their efforts towards the environment, but also points out its motives for doing so. An example of this can be seen through their National Security Strategy, where sustainable development is simply an answer to global issues, and is not the main focus of their strategies, despite their efforts to promote sustainability. Hence, the article criticizes Japan’s stance on this, stating that its efforts of sustainability and going green are only because it benefits the country on an economic front, enabling them to be a hub for investment opportunities on a global scale. Despite this, Japan has paved its way as a leader in terms of sustainability and environmentalism and will continue to do so.
The article puts focus on how Japan is pivoting its focus onto lowering carbon emissions, development in the renewable energy sector, and water conservation. By reducing the country’s carbon footprint, Japan reduces the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere, which traps heat in the atmosphere and leads to global warming. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions also improves air quality and reduces air pollution, thus helping the country to be green. The improvement in air quality reduces the chances for acid rainfall, which is detrimental to ecosystems and can cause the loss of habitats for animals, and water pollution. Given how important the ocean is for sustaining human life, the movement of working on climate change is said to be ‘green’.
The article follows the general argument of Kalland (1997) in which they both criticize Japan for loving nature, but only because it provides benefits to society in other forms such as aesthetic purposes and economic growth, as stated in the article. Is it not out of respect for the environment that they continue to fuel efforts to protect it, but more so because by dominating and controlling it, they can use it to their advantage and give them opportunities elsewhere, and it is simply out of convenience that they follow the path of sustainability. Silverberg and Smith (2019) briefly touch on the Japanese people’s respect for nature and minimalism, but also state that Japan has made use of this perspective or ‘cultural mythos’ in order to fulfil their own goals which are more economically focused, which is supported by the Kalland argument in which it is stated that the Japanese only love nature in a certain way, and if they cannot control and own it and if it conflicts with their own personal goals, then it is not something that should be focused on – a sentiment that is shared by Shinzo Abe as stated in the article. Kirby’s (2011) article emphasizes how stubborn Japan has been in regards to sustainability, and this is again reflected in the tempered stance that Japan has taken in which they are only promoting sustainability because it is conveniently in line with their goals.
While Japan does indeed invest in efforts that promote environmentalism and sustainability, it may not be for the reasons of simply respecting and loving the environment, but instead, might be conveniently objectivized to be aligned with economic pursuits.
Kalland, A., & Asquith, P. J. (1997). Japanese perceptions of nature: ideals and illusions. Japanese images of nature: Cultural perspectives. Richmond, UK: Curzon.
Kirby, P. W. (2011). Troubled natures: waste, environment, Japan. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaiʻi Press.
Silverberg, E. & Smith, E. (2019). Does Japan Have A Gloval Environmental Strategy? Retrieved from: https://thediplomat.com/2019/11/does-japan-have-a-global-environmental-strategy/