Every person on the planet is entangled in a web of ecological relationships that link farms and factories with human consumers. Our lives depend on these relationships -- and are imperiled by them as well. 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 transformed by an engineered, industrialized, and poisonous environment. Toxins moved freely from mines, factory sites, and rice paddies into human bodies.
Toxic Archipelago explores how toxic pollution works its way into porous human bodies and brings unimaginable pain to some of them. Brett Walker examines startling case studies of industrial toxins that know no boundaries: deaths from insecticide contaminations; poisonings from copper, zinc, and lead mining; congenital deformities from methylmercury factory effluents; and lung diseases from sulfur dioxide and asbestos.
This powerful, probing book demonstrates how the Japanese archipelago has become industrialized over the last two hundred years -- and how people and the environment have suffered as a consequence.
Brett L. Walker is Regents' Professor and department chair of history and philosophy at Montana State University, Bozeman. He is author of The Conquest of Ainu Lands: Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion, 1590-1800 and The Lost Wolves of Japan.
"This is a fascinating, original, and persuasive book that makes several important contributions to the field of environmental history. With this work Walker further solidifies his position as the leading environmental historian of Japan writing in English." -- Timothy George, author of Minamata: Pollution and the Struggle for Democracy in Postwar Japan
"In this powerful, disturbing new book, Brett Walker turns his attention to the environmental consequences of industrialization in Japan over the past two centuries, focusing especially on toxic pollution and the human suffering it has caused. Toxic Archipelago is a major contribution not just to Japanese environmental history but to the history of industrial pollution worldwide." -- William Cronon, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"Brett Walker has written an exemplary history of chemicals, pain, and ecological simplification in Japan. In beautifully clear language, Toxic Archipelago explores what Walker calls the 'hybrid causations' of industrial toxicity, helping us understand how toxic substances pervaded Japan's human and non-human communities. Above all, Walker keeps us from turning our faces away from the pain at the heart of his histories. This is an illuminating, compelling, and haunting study." -Nancy Langston, author of Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES
"'Ecology is history,' writes Brett Walker. Toxic Archipelago is a history of unexpected relationships and unintended consequences. It is a passionate reflection on the ecology of suffering and sacrifice and a provocative account of biological and social pain situated deep within the bodies and landscapes that have given rise to a modern industrialized Japan." -Gregg Mitman, author of Breathing Space: How Allergies Shape our Lives and Landscapes