what civilization has historically been really good to the environment?



  1. 0 Votes

    Sydney, this is a very good question and I think there can be a number of possible answers. It stands to reason that the simplest and most basic human communities have had the most limited impact on the environment, so I suppose you could make a case that the early cave civilizations were at least somewhat environmentally friendly. As a practical matter, though, most of the hallmarks of human civilization, such as agriculture, building structures and organizing manpower, have some negative effects on the environment.

    One historical civilization that I think stands out in environmental stewardship is that of feudal Japan, specifically the Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled Japan from 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Although it’s not well known, the Tokugawa shoguns instituted a wide-ranging pattern of forest conservation and silviculture which had the effect of preserving Japan’s forests for future generations. Conrad Totman and James L.A. Webb’s 1989 book The Green Archipelago makes a compelling case that without these policies Japan might today be deforested, environmentally devastated and impoverished. ┬áThe pre-industrial Japanese civilization tended to construct houses out of natural materials, emphasized an ecological balance with their diet consisting mostly of rice and fish, and practiced cultural values inherent in Shinto and Buddhist traditions that embrace harmony with nature. Consequently, I’d nominate the feudal Japanese as one of the more eco-friendly civilizations that has lived on Earth, but certainly there are other examples.

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