J500 Media and the Environment

Environment without Bounds by sachikom
February 12, 2008, 1:32 am
Filed under: Society + Media

When you consider the Japanese, do you conjure an image of kimono-wearing Mr. Miyagis and Geishas? Do you believe Japanese people are all sushi-making, Karate-chopping, technology wizards? When mainstream Americans consider environmentalism, they often think of “tree-hugging liberals and that all farmers and ranchers are land-exploiting conservatives.”(Gonzaga University, “Back to the land: Environmental and agricultural archetypes and stereotypes”)

I found that being Japanese and caring about the environment in America are similar in some ways. I believe there’s not really a boundary between Americans and Japanese, mainstream Americans and environmentalists. But sometimes, people label or separate themselves from others and refuse to dialogue!

”Do you speak English?” My apartment landlord is rude. As soon as he saw me, he asked that question. Also he used to ask how to pronounce my name every time I saw him. But I like his rudeness. At least, he can pronounce my name correctly now.

Dialogue is important. When I talk to American friends, I try to inform a little more about Japan. I feel good when I can remove some of their stereotypes. (But I am careful not to misrepresent.)I had a few chances to talk about global warming with my friends and people who have different views. Knowing their views were valuable for me. A friend of mine complained her environmental studies professor was too liberal. As far as hearing from her, I didn’t think the professor’s too liberal. But that might be the way mainstream Americans perceive things.

“I’m not an environmental fanatic,” Schwarznegger said in the Fortune Magazine. “That’s why our program [in California] works, because people know that I have not come from that background.”As students of the media and environment, we should work on filling the gap between the different sides and remove a boundary that separates people and their actions!

By Sachiko Miyakawa

By Daryc Cagle


6 Comments so far
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Brilliant and provocative analysis. Why do you think people like to be part of the mainstream instead of being on the cutting edge of change, Sachiko? Why is that safety so palatable and what can we do to inspire people to want to be more and do more?

Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

Great post, Sachiko–very funny and very insightful. You write so clearly for a foreigner (I’m kidding, I’m kidding!)…seriously, I GREW UP in this country and I face many of the same questions daily–and like you, I’d much rather deal with the questions (or any possible rudeness attached to them) than continue with the wrong info. I think to some extent the same is true with our environmental discussions. It’s very hard not to offend someone’s sensibilities when opinions are so diverse, but as long as the intentions are good, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Anyway, I really liked reading your post…thoughtful, personal, hilarious…I haven’t been to Japan yet (although I’ll definitely go at some point). I never thought they were all Karate-chopping Geishas, but I do worry about the giant lizard.

Ranjit Arab

Comment by rarab

An interesting perspective on stereotypes there Sachiko. You ought to try being African though (if that is at all possible), but for many third world and developing countries, paying heed to environmental concerns features pretty lowly on the scale of priorities, especially when social ills like poverty, unemployment, lack of infrastructural development and provision of basic services dominate. That being said, many of these countries face the gravest threat in terms of the effects of climate change. Which is not to say that no efforts are being done to make people aware of the gravity of the situation. Indeed, there are many environmental groups that are active campaigners, but in the overall scheme of things when it comes down to wondering where your next plate of food is going to come from, considering eco-friendly light bulbs is not even going to enter into the equation.

So really, while its useful to consider what industrialized countries like the U.S and Japan are doing to green the environment through the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Gore and what approaches are to be followed in making the movement more mainstream, at some point we’re going to have to consider how serious the world is in terms of meeting time frames of the Millennium Development Goals in order to help countries grappling with competing interests.


Comment by denzylj

I visited Japan about 9 years ago to visit my sister who lives in Kyoto. America seemed so far behind Japanese trends and technology. I thought my sister’s Japanese husband dressed weird. But sure enough, three years later I was wearing the same styles as him…. scouring the internet for the same calculator watch that I made fun of him for. They offered to buy me an MP3 player because they were all the rage in Japan. “What the hell would I need one of those for?” I thought. I figured that would never catch on in America. 9 years later (9 years!) and I am inseparable from my iPod. It makes me wonder how advanced the green movement is there. It stands to reason that Kyoto would host one of the most pivotal conferences of the green movements. But I wonder, was it fashionable like it is here? Did it already do the whole sexy thing then move on? Or is it just something they accept and are trying to fix? Your post just made me look at environmentalism from a global perspective… something I should do more of.
-Travis B

Comment by travisjbrown

Simran- People are so scarred of change and being different from others!
I learned a lot from George’s lecture last week and also Scharwatznegger. Being funny and sexy break tension and push people toward change. I tend to talk about environmentalism from social-justice or tell people like “this is the right thing to do.” But I realize that’s not appealing to the mass audience much.

Ranjit- Are you talking about Gozila? Haha. Anyway, as you said, dealing with questions are better than continuing misunderstandings. When I heard about people who don’t eat meat for the environment, I thought they were extreme and stopped thinking further. I now read those articles and understand why they choose to do so.


Comment by sachikom

Denzyl, It’s hard for the third world countries to do environmentalism. I was living in China, so I see it’s not their top priorities. Japan used to emphasize industrialization much more than now, polluting air, water and land. At some points, many people got ill because of those pollution. We then realize we can’t just care about the economic growth. I think many third world countries end up going through this process until they reach to environmentalism. But I’m afraid that’ll be too late. It’s not very realistic, but I’m always wondering what’s the best way to connect green with economy or business. Those developed countries, including Japan and America, should invest more to green technology!

Travis- I love Kyoto. I wish I could live there!
Like America, green in Japan is not sexy enough. It’s still developing. But a few years ago, I was impressed with the “Cool Biz” campaign under Koizumi, the former charismatic prime minister, a good friend? of Bush. He dressed casually and encouraged people to set office temperatures 82.4F in summer. ( http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article525496.ece ) Conservatives criticized it’s rude that politicians and businessmen don’t wear a tie. But it saved a lot of energy. My dad loves it because he doesn’t need to wear heavy suits in summer. (His company does it every summer.) I’d love to see an American leader becomes green and cool, maybe sexy.


Comment by sachikom

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