Satoyama – or How Things Should Be

Posted in Environment by Arasmus on January 30, 2009

Here is the first of six YouTube videos that relay a beautiful documentary by the Japanese broadcasting service (NHK) that recently aired on the BBC. Narrated by the great David Attenborough it looks at a particular landscape that the Japanese call “satoyama” (‘where the mountains give way to plains’). It is a gorgeous study of a pattern of human life that is harmoniously integrated with the systems and rhythms of nature.  Whereas for the last 20 years people have been commenting about how we are becoming a global village, I think that the recent financial crisis coming on the back of almost a decade of internet connectivity has moved us beyond the metaphor of a village to a much more delicate interconnectivity.  As our social networks get mapped through Facebook and ideas and observations are shared instantly through Twitter, I think of us sharing a common nervous system rather than a village.  And this awareness that we are each so interdependent on one another opens a door of humility that also allows us to consider the other systems that we are dependent on, nature herself of course being the most ignored and the most urgent.  I was quite touched by the value of ‘stewardship’ that was apparent from the outset in this documentary, for example you see a bird of prey taking a fish that the local fisherman had left out for it.  This was a value that my grandfather taught me as a child but one that I feel is quite alien to to the culture and mentality in which I have spent my adult years.  In thinking about this value of stewardship it is easy to get lofty and metaphysical but there is also something very tangible and matter-of-fact about it.  In some way the value is like when a man opens a door for a woman, it doesn’t really matter who the woman is, a man does it because of his own concept of honor.  Similarly, a man must protect the environment, as he must anyone who needs protection, because his honor requires it.  There is just no other way.


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