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Environment and History

The Borderless Archipelago: Toward a Transnational History of Japanese Environmentalism

Simon Avenell

Environment and History 19 (2013): 397-425. doi: 10.3197/096734013X13769033133620

This article reconsiders the contemporary history of Japanese environmentalism through the lens of transnationalism. From as early as the antipollution struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, Japanese activists looked beyond the boundaries of their archipelago in search of allies and environmental knowledge. In the process they became involved in the nascent global environmental movement and helped support victims of industrial pollution and natural degradation in Asia, Europe and North America. Crossing borders empowered Japanese activists to challenge the developmentalist agenda of their country, to address the environmental impact of Japan's economic expansion into East Asia and to advocate a globalist agenda often at odds with the logic of the nation-state. Rather than a simple evolution in which global consciousness replaced commitment to the local and the regional, the article suggests an increased spatialisation of activists' environmental consciousness derived from mutual recognition within an ever-expanding web of transnationally networked movements. The article argues that our understanding of Japanese environmentalism is enriched by attention to the multifarious and multidirectional transnational flows of people and ideas over the past half century.

KEYWORDS: Japanese environmentalism, transnational history, pollution export, environmental globalism


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