Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate
Chapter 29: Surging environmentalism in Japan: a sociological perspective
Hisayoshi Mitsuda IS JAPANESE ENVIRONMENTALISM SUCCESSFUL? Japanese environmentalism today is not only alive but also able to mobilize much broader public support for its goals, which are increasing in number. Few social movements have received such widespread support among the general public in Japan. Why has Japanese environmentalism been so successful in mobilizing so much support and generating numerous and diverse organizations? There are two major reasons. First, the seriousness of environmental destruction in modern Japan greatly stimulated public support for environmental protection. In particular, local grassroots anti-pollution movements ( ‘Jyumin-Undo’ ) have emerged in reaction to a wide-ranging environmental deterioration due to pollution and waste problems in and near their communities, in effect caused by the industrialization and urbanization during the rapid economic growth of the 1960s and 1970s.Most such communitybased movements are run by powerless residents victimized by pollution. The second reason is the emergence of an alternative, post-materialistic lifestyle among the Japanese people. After the Second World War, Japanese economic growth created widespread affluence among the general population. In particular, the emergent urban middle class began to be concerned with a non-materialistic lifestyle and search for unpolluted natural settings in periphery areas. Unexpectedly, the very success of economic growth, the so-called ‘economic miracle’, has encouraged the establishment and strengthening of environmentalism in the process of Japanese modernization. Japan, like the USA and Europe, has conservative and radical environmental elements that is, major cleavages in their environmental movements. In Japan, unlike the USA, environmental radicalism is a multi-class phenomenon (fishermen,...
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