The role of semi-managed nature in supporting biodiversity

Hot off the press today is Catherine’s article on satoyama, the semi-managed nature in rural Japan, which has been published in the latest issue of Asian Studies Review. The article is highly topical, because satoyama was a prominent theme in this year’s Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which was just held in Nagoya, Japan last month. Continue reading

Japanese satoyama – a model for sustainability?

The United Nation’s 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity is due to be held in Japan in October, and the pictorial Kyoto Journal has issued a special biodiversity issue.*

In this special issue, Dr Catherine Knight, the convener of this website, explores the validity of the model of sustainable management, or satoyama, touted by Japanese officials and conference organisers in the lead-up to the conference.

Read or download the PDF version of the article here. Continue reading

Weeds – the great European invasion

As Bee Dawson relates in “A history of gardening in New Zealand”, when Europeans began to settle in earnest in New Zealand in the early to mid-19th century, they not only brought with them “productive” plants,  but many other plants, which soon became invasive “weeds”. Continue reading

Mountains, bears and conservation in Japan and New Zealand

Mountains, bears and conservation in New Zealand and Japan are topics featured in an interview with envirohistory NZ founder, Catherine Knight on the latest episode of Exploring Environmental History.

From Exploring Environmental History: “On the podcast Cath briefly talks about the origins and topics of the blog before exploring her work on Japanese environmental history. Continue reading

What is environmental history?

So, what exactly do we mean by environmental history, and why is it so important?

As part of a newly established MSc in Landscape, Environment and History at the University of Edinburgh, Prof. Chris Smout, emeritus professor of history at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, is interviewed about what environmental history is and why it is important.* He argues that the subject area is like a stage on which various subjects come together. The difference with conventional history is that environmental history is not only concerned with people but also with nature, the landscape and the environment as a whole. However, it is not just the history of nature but more the history of human interaction with the environment.

Click here to watch this interview with Prof. T.C. Smout introducing environmental history (7 mins approx). Continue reading

Comparing histories – nature conservation in Japan

Geographically, Japan and New Zealand are strikingly similar: they are both longitudinally narrow and latitudinally long archipelagos of similar land-mass, and of comparable distance from the respective poles. They are both prone to seismic activity, and predominantly mountainous.

However, unlike New Zealand, Japan’s uplands are still largely forested – about 69 per cent of Japan is under forest, albeit over half of it comprised of exotic coniferous species. Continue reading

Forest degradation and bears

In New Zealand, deforestation has led to chronic erosion, loss of soil fertility and serious floods. However, in other countries, deforestation – or afforestation with plantation species – can lead to a quite different set of problems. Such as bears!

A recent Japan Times article, “Bearing the Brunt”, outlines the problem of increasing human-bear conflict in Japan. The primary author of envirohistory NZ, Catherine Knight, examined the human relationship with bears in Japan through history for her doctoral thesis, and is quoted in this article. She believes that degradation of the bears’ forest habitat is the key factor in the bears’ increasing tendency to encroach into human realms for food. Extreme weather, as a possible result of climate change, is likely to have exacerbated this problem, providing a potential explanation for the recent spikes in bear incidents.