Toxic Archipelago: Industrial Pollution in Japan – A talk by Brett Walker, September 16, 2010
Brett Walker is a professor of History and Philosophy at Montana State University. His recent work includes Toxic Archipelago: A History of Industrial Disease in Japan (2010), JAPANimals: History and Culture in Japan’s Animal Life (edited with Gregory Pflugfelder, 2005), and The Lost Wolves of Japan (2005), which was nominated for the George Perkins Marsh Prize (ASEH), the John King Fairbank Prize (AHA), and the John Whitney Hall Prize (AAS). Organized by the HumanNonHuman Research Collaborative.
The Earth’s environment is interlaced with complex, constructed ecological pathways that link industrial facilities and human consumers. Nowhere is this truer than on the Japanese archipelago.
During the nineteenth century, Japan saw the rise of Homo sapiens industrialis, a new breed of human who was transformed by an engineered, industrialized, and poisonous environment. Toxins moved freely through mines, factory sites, and rice paddies and more directly into human bodies.
“Toxic Archipelago” explores the relationship between the causes of colossal toxic pollution and the manner in which pain caused by pollution insults porous human bodies. Brett Walker examines startling case studies of industrial toxins that know no boundaries: a killer pollution from insecticide saturations; poisonings from copper, zinc, and lead mining; congenital deformities from methylmercury factory effluents; and lung diseases from sulfur dioxide and asbestos.
Brett Walker demonstrates a deep understanding of how the Japanese archipelago has become industrialized over the last two hundred years and the human and environmental consequences of that transformation.