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Toxic Archipelago: A History of Industrial Disease in Japan (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books) [Paperback]

William Cronon , Brett L. Walker

Price: £15.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

25 Sep 2011 Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
The Earth's environment is interlaced with complex, constructed ecological pathways that link industrial facilities and human consumers. Nowhere is this truer than on the Japanese archipelago. During the nineteenth century, Japan saw the rise of Homo sapiens industrialis, a new breed of human who was transformed by an engineered, industrialized, and poisonous environment. Toxins moved freely through mines, factory sites, and rice paddies and more directly into human bodies. Toxic Archipelago explores the relationship between the causes of colossal toxic pollution and the manner in which pain caused by pollution insults porous human bodies. Brett Walker examines startling case studies of industrial toxins that know no boundaries: a killer pollution from insecticide saturations; poisonings from copper, zinc, and lead mining; congenital deformities from methylmercury factory effluents; and lung diseases from sulfur dioxide and asbestos. This powerful and thoughtful book demonstrates a deep understanding of how the Japanese archipelago has become industrialized over the last two hundred years and the human and environmental consequences of that transformation. Brett L. Walker is Regents' Professor and department chair of history and philosophy at Montana State University, Bozeman. He is author of The Conquest of Ainu Lands: Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion, 1590-1800 and The Lost Wolves of Japan.

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"Historian Walker effectively links, perhaps for the first time anywhere, the historical processes of the economic, social, and land-use policies involved in modernizing and globalizing Japan with the pain and suffering of its environment and people. Never has a book so clearly illustrated the aphorisms 'all politics are local,' 'the personal is the political,' and 'we are what we eat.' This discussion of the evolution of environmentalism in Japan will reflect new light on the understanding of environmental history. Essential." -Choice

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Important message, but the book feels like a broken record in the second half 12 Sep 2014
By Yusuke Okazaki - Published on
Overall, the book was a pleasure to read, and the main message Walker wants to communicate to his audience is a worthy cause. Basically, in the pursuit of modernization/industrialization/empire-building, the Japanese state caused pain for some of its citizens and did harm to the environment. Walker presents several examples to illustrate that humans are always going to be affected by their natural environment, and any harm we do to that environment will hurt us in the long run. The point is well illustrated, but my problem with the book is that this point was made obvious with just the introduction and the first chapter. In other words, I think this work should have been condensed for an article, and the book felt repetitive after the first 100 pages or so. Walker does a nice job connecting local developments (human pain and environmental damage) to broader developments within Japan and its broader empire between the late 19th-20th century, but those connections are too obvious and require little explanation. For example, war required more resources, such as mining, and this increase in mining activities caused greater environmental damage, which caused more physical pain for inhabitants of local communities near these operations. There it is. I just don't think this requires an entire chapter to explain. The message is important, and this specific topic is not covered by many other scholars in the U.S., so the book is significant in that regard, but it felt like a broken record for most of the second half.
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read 8 Oct 2013
By as9045 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While Walker tends to hammer the point home, this is a pretty good read. I got this book for an environmental studies class, and I found myself enjoying it, well as much as I could with such a grim subject matter. I'm not really one who likes reading for class, but this was interesting enough to make me really think and not just skim through it like I do most books needed for class.
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