Environment1. Environmental problems and biodiversityInternational Symposium

International Symposium

Human Relations with Animals and Plants: Perspectives of Historical Ecology
March 26, 2017
16:30 – 20:40 (open at 17:30)
600 persons
Nikkei Hall
No participation fees *With a sign language interpreter Sponsored by National Museum of Ethnology and Nikkei Inc.
Record of Symposium
In considering “the relation between contemporary civilization and the environment,” the conservation of rare species and the maintenance of biodiversity are said to be central challenges related to global environmental difficulties. This project is intended to consider the relation between contemporary civilization and environment through grasping the use and extinction of endangered animals and plants, changes in conservation, and the problems raised there, centering on a historical ecological approach to the relation between humans and environment from prehistory to the present day. The research grasps the history of human impact on the environment characteristics around the world, including cold areas (far north), islands and oceans (Oceania), deserts (Africa), forests (Amazonia, tropical Asia, and Japan), and inland waters (China). Consequently, it is also an attempt to consider the reciprocal relation between animals and plants and human society at global, continental, and regional levels.
Results (Effects)
1.The symposium was intended to grasp the relations among living things and people from a historical ecological perspective. In conventional research, historical ecological studies have been accumulated in environmental anthropology in English-speaking countries. Although theoretical research has not fully developed at this point, professor William Balée’s research framework, such as cultural forests, is increasingly cited. Nevertheless, little is described about research on environment and culture, which is a Japanese academic tradition, in his review papers. At the symposium, Japanese researchers introduced numerous study cases.

2.Similarly, fundamental differences between the terms used in Japan, such as ecological history environmental history, and eco-history, and historical ecology used in English-speaking countries have been discussed only slightly to date. At the symposium, the importance of archaeological and historical studies in research of this kind was pointed out, particularly addressing examples of Andean Highland civilization.

3.In individual case reports, plants such as potato, taro, and banana and animals such as whale, sea otter, cormorant, elephant, ostrich, and fox were chosen as themes. In addition, lively discussions were held about the process and motivation for the domestication of wild species and about the conservation of rare species, such as native potato, in contemporary civilization. As often reported at the symposium, for the culture in each region to be maintained, the power of civilization is increasingly becoming stronger. It can be summed up to the point of how difficult it is to maintain the balance among the three: nature, culture, and civilization. In the future, the comprehensive form of the coexistence of nature, culture, and civilization is needed for the contemporary earth.