Addressing global responsibility for conservation through cross-cultural collaboration: Kodama Forest, a forest of tree spirits
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- Kato, K. Environmentalist (2008) 28: 148. doi:10.1007/s10669-007-9051-6
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A commitment to conservation of a place is based on the sense of place expressed by its “conceptual community”, including those who are not its residents in the geographical sense, but who nonetheless identify with it for various reasons. With the global nature of environmental issues being clearly recognized, such communities form a “terrain of consciousness” (Berg and Dasmann 1978), extending responsibility for conservation across cultures, time and space. Although the social mobility and diversity brought about by today’s technology often work against the development of a sense of place, they also allow the formation of such conceptual communities, who can highlight local distinctiveness while at the same time positioning local issues in a global context, so generating a sense of global responsibility. In the case of Tasmania, Australia, recent international interest in its ecologically and culturally significant places, such as Recherche Bay and the Styx Valley, has intensified the focus on forest issues, building on Tasmania’s already well-recognized history of environmentalism. It is important that these issues be recognized in Japan in particular, where a rising awareness about climate change and mass consumerism has alerted the public to the problem of deforestation; however the fact that Tasmania is one of the major sources of woodchips for paper production is not widely known. Awareness by the consumer, it is argued, is a foundation for forming a sense of global responsibility and it is necessary to form a conceptual community of those committed to the same issue. Cross-cultural collaboration is therefore necessary, and creativity can be an effective facilitating agent for this. This paper illustrates this point, through the example of the Kodama Forest, a forest of tree spirits, in North East Tasmania, that arose from such a collaboration between a group of Japanese students and a local community group. The collaboration also facilitated meaningful learning opportunities for the students, who chose to study in Tasmania because of its natural environment. The forest now provides a cultural heritage that also defines the evolution of this conceptual community through on-going collaboration. The importance of human connection at all levels, local, regional and global, in promoting environmental sustainability is addressed through the example of this forest.