A Study on the Restoration of Urban Ecology: Focus on the Concept of Home Place in Callenbach’s Ecotopia—A Park Conservation and Community Networks

Masami Kato

Abstract More than ever before, after the nuclear power plant disaster caused by the Great Tohoku Earthquake on March 11,2011, people living in urban regions are beginning to consider a more eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle. To present a practical vision that citizens can translate into action, this study examines North American writer Ernest Callenbach’s important concept of “home place” in his novel Ecotopia as a sustainable vision to apply to the restoration of urban ecology. As a case study, we review a citizen movement to preserve a municipal park in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, Japan. This study illustrates how diverse citizen activities can organically form multiple layered and intertwined networks that strengthen local communities and function effectively even in difficult situations—a small but inspiring example that Ecotopian principles can emerge and thrive even within the context of a large city such as Tokyo.

Keywords Bunkyo Ward • Citizen movement • Eco-friendly • Sustainable • Tokyo • Urban region

3.1 Introduction

The purpose of this study is to consider whether the realization of Ecotopian values and lifestyle could be possible in large cities such as Tokyo. For the purpose of this chapter, Ecotopia represents the title of the 1974 novel written by North American writer Ernest Callenbach (1929-2012) and Ecotopian represents how Callenbach’s thoughts could be realized in an ecologically sustainable society.

M. Kato (*)

Department of Value and Decision Science, Tokyo Institute of Technology,

Tokyo 152-8552, Japan

e-mail: mkato@valdes. titech. ac. jp

N. Nakagoshi and J. A. Mabuhay (eds.), Designing Low Carbon Societies in Landscapes, Ecological Research Monographs, DOI 10.1007/978-4-431-54819-5_3, © Springer Japan 2014

How to bring about and live in a society underpinned by principles of sustainability is one of the most important challenges for the twenty-first century, and mitigation of global warming has been a major environmental topic. As Mander and Callenbach point out in their prologue to Gar Smith’s Nuclear Roulette, nuclear energy has been considered as a “grand ‘green’ climate-friendly energy system that can successfully replace fossil fuel and continue to sustain our industrial society at its present level” since the beginning of the twenty-first century (Mander and Callenbach 2011). However, the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima caused by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 has clearly revealed that nuclear energy can also be extremely hazardous and uncontrollable when accidents happen.

Environmental philosopher Toshio Kuwako views the nuclear power disaster in 2011 not only as the collapse of the local commons, but also the contamination and destruction of the global commons as well, and believes that from now on Japan “must bear a burden to restore” both the disrupted local as well as the global commons (Kuwako 2011).

The unprecedented nuclear power catastrophe in Japan has brought into public awareness the social and environmental issues surrounding the use of nuclear energy. Tokyo’s residents experienced a severe reduction of their power supply that restricted the functioning of the city and negatively impacted their lifestyle. As a result, more people than ever have begun to join the discussion around achieving sustainability, which alters the entire social system as well as affecting individual lifestyles.

In addition, it is a critical challenge to achieve sustainability in urban regions, where nature has been forced to yield so much to human-made environments. The urban population has been expanding all over the world, and many urban dwellers that who were born, grew up, or have lived in urban areas for a long time have not had the opportunity to experience close contact with their local ecosystems.