Japan: A Concise History (2015) critiques narratives related to humanity’s impact upon the environment


A Sept. 30, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: One of the World’s Most Powerful Central Bankers Is Worried About Climate Change.”

An Oct. 1, 2015 CBC article is entitled: “Mark Carney wants business to calculate the fossil fuel future: Bank of England governor’s climate change warning puts the focus on the bottom line.”

[End of updates]


Japan: A Concise History (2015) considers Japan in the context of the environmental history of the world, which is apt, given present-day concerns.

The book focuses upon the role that large-scale narratives play in shaping national identities, and provides a critique (pp. 7-9) of the narrative that nation states are merely acts of the imagination, based upon invented traditions. Elsewhere in the book, however, the author finds that the ‘invented traditions’ concept serves a useful purpose in addressing other topics of interest.

The book also provides an evidence-based critique of narratives related to humanity’s impact upon the environment beginning tens of thousands of years ago. This is in my view a valuable book, well worth reading – as are the resources that are listed, for further reading, in relation to each of the chapters.

Blurb at Toronto Public Library website

A blurb for Japan: A Concise History (2015), at the Toronto Public Library website, reads:

“To this day, Japan’s modern ascendancy challenges many assumptions about world history, particularly theories regarding the rise of the west and why the modern world looks the way it does. In this engaging new history, Brett L. Walker tackles key themes regarding Japan’s relationships with its minorities, state and economic development, and the uses of science and medicine. The book begins by tracing the country’s early history through archaeological remains, before proceeding to explore life in the imperial court, the rise of the samurai, civil conflict, encounters with Europe, and the advent of modernity and empire. Integrating the pageantry of a unique nation’s history with today’s environmental concerns, Walker’s vibrant and accessible new narrative then follows Japan’s ascension from the ashes of World War II into the thriving nation of today. It is a history for our times, posing important questions regarding how we should situate a nation’s history in an age of environmental and climatological uncertainties.”

[End of text]

Mindfulness meditation

The book is of interest to me in the context of a page at the Preserved Stories website entitled:

Mindfulness meditation

By way of example, Japan: A Concise History (2015) refers to varied Buddhisms on a number of occasions, but in a cursory way. The book, as a concise history, demonstrates the value as well as the limitations of history presented as a series of blurbs. When I attended high school in the 1960s, history was presented just in that way – as a series of blurbs, as I recall.

These days, from what I’ve observed, more opportunities may be available for at least some students to become engaged with the study of history at a more meaningful level. The comment about blurbs aside, the final chapter in the book – discussing the history of Japan in the context of climate change in the current era – is of much value and interest, and is indeed presented concisely and cogently.

Sea turtles and The Rebel Sell (2004)

A Sept. 19, 2015 Toronto Star article, related to narratives about humanity’s impact upon the environment, is entitled: “Half the world’s sea turtles have eaten plastic, study claims: East coast of North America among the most dangerous areas for potentially deadly plastic debris, which is also killing sea birds.”

The history that is of direct relevance to our daily lives is worth reading. I seldom use water bottles, and I make an effort not to use single-use plastic bags when shopping. My personal efforts bring to mind, however, an earlier post about the limitations of consumer action:

Feelings are contagious; they spread from person to person

In particular, the post refers to The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t Be Jammed (2004).

The bottom line is that things can get done, but it takes more than changing a person’s shopping habits. People, and governments, can make the difference. Which, in turn, brings to mind current narratives that play a key role in the ongoing destruction of the environment. A history of neoliberalism is a good place to start, in the analysis of current, widely circulating narratives:

Masters of the Universe (2012) focuses upon the analysis of neoliberalism, from the perspective of the available historical sources

A couple of related posts are entitled:

Christian Gerlach’s 2010 genocide-related study focuses on extremely violent societies

The nation-state circa 1950 is described as unencumbered by international obligations, co-operation, and constraint


A Sept. 20, 2015 Guardian article is entitled: “Greece’s real tragedy is that it’s just the second act in a ‘crisis trilogy’ threatening the rest of the world.”

The relatively stable climate that has insulated human civilizations

The story doesn’t stop here; it continues with another post entitled:

A great community of wealthy nations has slowly undermined the relatively stable climate that has insulated human civilizations


A Sept. 21, 2015 Globe and Mail article focusing on documentary photography by Sebastiao Salgado is entitled: “Humanity’s spirit and cruelty, in focus.”

VW emissions scandal

The links that follow below are highlighted in a subsequent, separate blog post entitled:

History of neoliberalism, which focuses upon deregulation, provides a great back story for recent VW emissions scandal 

A Sept. 23, 2015 New York Times article, of interest with regard to climate change, is entitled: “A Car Scandal Shoves Berlin Off High Ground.”

A Sept. 23, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “Volkswagen C.E.O. Martin Winterkorn Resigns Amid Emissions Scandal.”

A Sept. 23, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “Volkswagen and the Era of Cheating Software.”

A Sept. 22, 2015 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “A brief history of automotive scandals.”

A Sept. 22, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “Volkswagen’s Diesel Fraud Makes Critic of Secret Code a Prophet.”

Also of interest is a Sept. 23, 2014 New York Times article entitled: “Volkswagen Test Rigging Follows a Long Auto Industry Pattern.” I don’t have the link as I’ve used up my 10 free articles a month from the New York Times website. I know about the article because I bought a print copy of the New York Times at a newsstand at Cloverdale Mall.

Also of interest, with regard to themes addressed in Japan: A Concise History (2015), is a Sept. 24, 2015 openDemocracy.com article entitled: “A world in transformation: The refugees’ great march to Europe highlights global fractures that can no longer be avoided.”

More on blurbs

A Sept. 27, 2015 NPR article is entitled: “Forget The Book, Have You Read This Irresistible Story On Blurbs?”


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