Urban Planning: Environmental Issuesクラスの今週の課題は、江戸の持続可能性の記事について書きました。
Japan for Sustainability(JFS)さんの記事ですね。

Japan’s sustainable society in the Edo period (1603-1867)

A couple of a hundred years ago, a great self-sufficient sustainable city had existed in Japan. The city is called Edo, which was located in now Tokyo during Edo period. This article shows how efficient and practical the way of reuse and recycling was and how superior the energy system was. As for the reuse and recycling practices, tens of thousands of diverse specialized traders and craftsmen conducted the practices in their normal daily life in ways of repairing any products that were out of order, trading anything that were not needed any more, and even reuse human waste as fertilizer source for farmers. As for the energy system, while only nearly nothing was exchanged with other countries, Edo realized a remarkable self-sufficient society driven only by solar energy. For example, bundle of straw produced by solar energy was used about 20 percent for making daily products, 50 percent for fertilizer and the remaining, and 30 percent for fuel and other purposes.

The differences between then Japan and current Japan is like night and day in terms of sustainability. During the Edo period, nearly nothing was imported to Japan from other countries. In contrast, currently, Japan depends heavily on imported resources to produce foods and goods from other countries. Also, as the article mentions, Japanese in those days used things until they could not be truly used any more to manage limited resources within the country. However, nowadays, many Japanese does not care about it. For example, Japan imports some 70 percent of foods from oversea and throws away one third of them. Moreover, in those days, Japanese led a life with jobs based on clothing, food, and housing, which are essential for humans’ life. On the other hand, many Japanese, currently, have jobs no directly related to the three elements and buy services and goods for these elements from others while there are no attempts to produce on their own.

What makes them so different? One of the significant differences is a sense of ethic. From civil war period through Edo period, a four-class social system existed. The samurai was clearly at the top of the hierarchy. However, a life of samurai differed little from that of the other classes. Samurais were based on Bushido, an ethics for samurai. They were heavily responsible for prosperity of their nation so they never held their life dear for it. So without much surprise, they took initiative in avoiding having a luxury life that can consume a big part of their limited resources. Therefore, it can be said social equity was realized in a favorable manner even though social system actually existed. These ethical norms greatly encouraged the city to be sustainable even for over 250 years. Nowadays, many more Japanese have already lost these spirits. The key to enable Japan to be a sustainable nation might be in this samurai spirits.