A very good example, and one which is not very well-known, is the experience of Japan during the Tokugawa period, its last feudal dynasty which lasted from 1600 to 1868. Prior to the rise to power of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the economy of Japan was chaotic as was its political system. But with tight political control came an economic boom, as evidenced by the rise of major cities and commercial activities. What’s little-known about the Tokugawa period is that it also saw extensive environmental stewardship. The Tokugawa shoguns instituted a program of reforestation and mandated silvicultural practices that had the effect of regenerating Japan’s forests to a dramatic degree. This would not have been possible without the attendant economic reforms going on in Japan at the same time. Today, Japan is a rich, prosperous and heavily forested land; by all rights due to its geographic and political factors it should be barren, impoverished and ecologically devastated. The Tokugawa environmental triumph is the subject of a book by Conrad Totman called The Green Archipelago which discusses the matter in great detail.
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