BOOKS: Nature Watch

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2000:

Nature Watch: Essays from Japan by W. Puck Brecher

Presented in both English and parallel Japanese translation, Nature Watch collects 21 columns originally published by the internet magazine Nagano Journal, concluding with a survey of Japanese attitudes toward nature and environmental policy, compared and contrasted with a survey of Americans.

Author/researcher Puck Brecher is a university professor long stationed in Japan. Distance from the mainstream of the U.S. environmental movement may help him develop a perspective on ecology which recognizes that upholding humane values must be part of any effective nature-saving. “

I concede that the temptation to compare East and West is often too great to resist,” Brecher writes. “The troublesome part is that Japan is an Eastern nation reconstructed on a Western model. It cannot be measured by the same yardstick, and does not want to be; it cannot follow in the same ethical footsteps and does not want to try. Japan knows that it must find its own way. If it can find an alternative to a Western environmental ethic, this may be for the better.”

Brecher is troubled by “the dilemma of an artifical bird sanctuary constructed along a shore in Tokyo Bay,” which has since “grown into a healthy ecosystem of reeds, crabs, worms, and other aquatic flora and fauna,” but is at risk of destruction because “officials are concerned that these changes pose a threat to the birds. This case reveals the drawback,” Brecher observes, “of conservation inspired by human aesthetics rather than by the laws of nature. The fact that it requires constant upkeep makes it wholly unnatural.”

Brecher is similarly critical of efforts to “restore” streams by ripping out non-native trees growing along the banks.

And he notes that 80% of Japanese who have any opinion about the national environmental policy disagree with much of it, but feel they lack a voice in changing it


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