Note — May 10, 2020

Living with Just Enough

Not sure how historically accurate this is, but it seems to be a plausible interpretation. At the very least, most of the observations were true in other countries at various periods so even taken as an idealized period, there are still lessons for us.

TL;DR the resource-scarce, environmentally aware society and especially crafting of Japan’s Edo period gives us interesting lessons for finding our way amongst the crises.

The description of craftspeople as specialized in what they produced but diversified “vertically” in their understanding of all the steps and context of that product reminded me of Ursula Franklin’s description of holistic technologies in her lecture series compiled in the book The Real World of Technology. Or, for a quicker read, in Deb Chachra’s fantastic Why I Am Not a Maker (also here with Klint Finley and Sara M. Watson).

Found in Hillary Predko‘s excellent turn at The Prepared.

[T]he Edo period of Japan has a lot to teach us. We could in fact use it as a model of how to flip impending environmental collapse into sustainability, primarily by allowing a rich and insightful mindset rooted in centuries of experience and wisdom to guide our decisions. […]

But the culture as a whole was pervaded by a sense of time in which outcomes were measured in centuries, and in which it was nearly impossible to plan even simple tasks without a broader awareness of chains of consequences that would emerge from one’s actions, or of the origins, destinations, and connections among the people and things which supported human life like a vast web of interconnected spirit. […]

Though a very active national trade network existed, each of the dozens of fiefdoms into which the country was divided was encouraged to be as self-sufficient as possible. Each village in a fief was encouraged to do the same, as was each family in a village. […]

The importance of the cross-fertilization and innovation that emerges when most people in society are designers and practitioners of crafts is often overlooked. […]

I would like to suggest that we are on the threshold of a new aesthetic shift fed by an altered awareness of our dependence on the environment and the importance of healing and preserving it that will permanently alter our sense of beauty.