Yuki Yoshida

Sunday October 04, 2015

Yuki Yoshida - 5

 

Yuki Yoshida 

GESA 2013  |  Japan  |  Environmental Social Scientist

 

Yuki Yoshida

Do people from different cultures relate differently to nature? Collaborating in Payerbach, Austria towards a tri-lingual literature review.

Exploring the interface of humans and their natural environment has been the unifying theme in my life. The physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the human-nature relationship fascinate me and seem foundational for meaningful, lasting conservation. Academically, my career in environmental studies began through a college study on environmental attitudes and behavior where I focused on interpersonal dimensions through measures of social norms and relatedness. Believing environmental, personal, and social well-being to be interdependent, I pursued the study of well-being through working with the self-determination theory and the field of positive psychology.

Today, I am researching how Illinois farmers relate to their land and negotiate agricultural practices. In-class opportunities to research the history and evolution of the sacred Kii Mountains in Japan and to write an ethnography on the meaning of a reconstructed prairie in my university town to its visitors were also informative. Emphases on place and on cultural constructionism bring fresh angles to familiar themes. Personal experiences have also enabled me to explore the human-nature relationship. As a young child I was immersed in the metropolises of Singapore and Tokyo, both overwhelmingly human-dominated settings in which nature was idolized through domestic animals and marketing. In high school, I fell in love with the dramatic landscape of the Swiss Alps and learned to engage with it actively. This was paralleled with the awe-inspiring discovery of the extent to which small-scale farmers and mountaineers had marked the land.

A farmer and his son examining an implement designed to control water levels and reduce nutrient runoff from the corn fields.

A farmer and his son examining an implement designed to control water levels and reduce nutrient runoff from the corn fields.

I spent most of my college time in Vermont, where I discovered the intimate relationship between myself, food, and the land, particularly through a year of eating foods from within a 100-mile radius. I also saw firsthand how land characteristics determine the availability of crops, which then induces its cuisine, and vice versa, as the people and culture shape agriculture. The realization gave a new meaning to the interaction between land and culture and deepened my appreciation for ethnobiological diversity. Today, I live in the mecca of industrial agriculture. Though the farmers I am learning about are the antithesis of the local foods movement, there are commonalities such as a desire to steward the land. I have always hoped to continue adapting to, interpreting for, and negotiating between cultures, and I would like to continue to dig at these perhaps less tangible, yet integral aspects of the human-nature relationship.

I am hopeful that my multicultural upbringing and academic background will enable me to navigate between communities and stakeholders, and to communicate the cultural and biological assets of undervalued communities. I hope particularly to assist the adaptive survival of traditional farmers in Japan who are threatened by competition with large-scale agriculture and the imminent introduction of GM crop. The agricultural and biological diversity fostered over centuries of close work with the land is invaluable not only to these farmers but to society at large.

Yuki is collaborating with Kaylena Bray (2013), Vanessa Reid (2013) and resource people Susannah McCandless and Emily Caruso on the Wellbeing Initiative funded by the Alumni Innovation Fund.

 

A field day in Central Illinois, where university faculty and conservation groups demonstrated agricultural practices that mitigate the impact of industrial agriculture on the soil and water.

A field day in Central Illinois, where university faculty and conservation groups demonstrated agricultural practices that mitigate the impact of industrial agriculture on the soil and water.

Near my grandparents’ home in Fukushima, big-box stores have been replacing one rice field after another. Watching the soil disappear motivates me to listen to the dwindling population of farmers as they negotiate global market pressures and the legalization of GM crop in Japan.

Near my grandparents’ home in Fukushima, big-box stores have been replacing one rice field after another. Watching the soil disappear motivates me to listen to the dwindling population of farmers as they negotiate global market pressures and the legalization of GM crop in Japan.

My first interview was of a Swiss farmer with 12 cows and some chicken.

My first interview was of a Swiss farmer with 12 cows and some chicken.

Native prairie has largely been lost to industrial agriculture, but a restoration site has gathered many dedicated visitors.

Native prairie has largely been lost to industrial agriculture, but a restoration site has gathered many dedicated visitors.

Yuki Yoshida - 6

A soybean field of Central Illinois in the summer. The fertile soils and flat topography of the region are well suited to industrial agriculture.

Yuki Yoshida - 7

A farmer with tractors on his corn field in Central Illinois. Fertilizer runoff from the US Corn Belt is the major contributor to the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

One comment

  1. […] had the potential to unleash. Determined to explore further, we – GESA 2013 participants Yuki Yoshida, Vanessa Reid and Kaylena Bray, along with GDF staff Susannah McCandless and Emily Caruso – […]

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