Living in harmony with nature in accordance with Satoyama, a Japanese-based concept

Young people should be taught to appreciate nature, so we will always think of human and nature as inseparable

Pic Source: Agoda

IN CONJUNCTION with Environment Day 2021, various conservation, preservation and sustainability issues of the environment are frequently raised.

Many suggestions and environmental improvements are also proposed every day. Multiple existing and proposed laws and regulations are in place, however, are the results proposed as desired?

The authors are excited to see an ancient village on Lake Biwa that is five times the size of the city of Paris located in Kyoto, Japan, where it is one of the secret lakes in Japan. The village was built utilising water springs and water as a part of their daily lives.

The sight of this village is like a water village and a rice paddy village as in Kuala Pilah and the like in Malaysia. The view at the foot of the mountain or hill is beautiful, it looks as if it is untouched by urban development. This village is known as Satoyama, meaning “village at the foot of the mountain”.

Satoyama is also a symbol of the Japanese lifestyle that focuses on living in harmony with nature. This may mean developing natural resources such as rivers, seas and springs, without damaging those natural resources the views of fishes swimming freely and the fishes can be caught to be used as a source of daily food, such as sushi, without having to buy fishes in the market. It is said there is a difference in taste between wild fishes and caged fishes.

The scenery and the quiet life in the village of Lake Biwa, Kyoto, can be seen in other countries of the world such as at the foot of the Alps in Switzerland, New Zealand, Austria, Italy and so on.

Malaysia is also filled with such natural beauty that can be seen in the journey from Ranau to Kota Belud with their clean river and big, wild fishes swimming happily until the fishing season is allowed. This is the natural gift environment from God to Malaysians; it is up to us whether we appreciate it or not.

We were once asked by a fish and chips seller in an English rural village in England about Malaysia. According to him through reading the media, Malaysia is a forested country.

So, what is one of the main products of the country? We proudly said yes, our country may still have many more jungles but, our country exports cars. It is said that Malaysian cars whether Proton or Perodua are quite popular among the English because of their small size, which is enough for their families which are mostly small as well, while Malaysians prefer to buy Japanese cars to accommodate many passengers because many of the Malaysian population has a total family number of five and above.

Coming back to the issue of the environment in Malaysia, where caring for the environment is also said to be one of the interests of Shariah. According to the liberal view, the environment is like an object. But according to those who profess religions, there are also ethical procedures towards the environment.

It is said that plants and animals also glorify God, therefore the environment should not be underestimated and treated arbitrarily.

There are a number of things to keep in mind for the sake of environmental sustainability, apart from topical issues such as haze, air pollution, illegal logging, landslides, commercial agriculture damaging native crops and so on.

Firstly, the country’s rich natural landscape needs to be developed and advanced fully for the comfort and wellbeing of the people in general and the locals in particular.

For example, all existing natural parks such as parks with lakes, forests, hills and so on need to be developed to be places of recreational spots for example for strolling, jogging and so on. Unfortunately, there are many more natural places that are beautiful but still not developed, still forested, footpaths which are yet to be established and also lakes or rivers that are left dirty.

It is recommended that every small town should have a recreational place for the local community to relax as this can encourage Malaysians to stay healthy to exercise.

Furthermore, this activity is beneficial for burning fat and sugar that are highly present in Malaysia’ daily food, such as nasi lemak, roti canai and teh tarik. This allows Malaysians to not only protect the environment, but also take care of their physical and mental health, killing two birds with one stone.

When exercising, endorphins will be released, thus the degree of happiness of the people will increase. In the future, a research to show whether happiness ratings rise if there are recreational spots needs to be conducted to verify the hypothesis. Therefore, social and mental issues may reduce in these times of rising tensions. These activities may also encourage Malaysians to spend time outside when the Movement Control Order ends, rather than wasting time over the Internet.

Secondly, attitudes and habits towards the environment, as well as awareness campaigns should be established. A Japanese friend living in my house was very surprised to see me throwing used oil down the drain as if I had done a big mistake. Akiko carefully disposed of the oil in the large tissues. Therefore, we suggest that recycling campaigns should be intensified and provide equipment such as free recycling bins.

We see environmental governance is often made in a command and control approach, which in my opinion is not the best way in environmental governance. For example, forcing people to recycle and imposing fines. Recycling bins should be given for free to every household and people should be taught how to recycle.

Environmental awareness education starts from a simple “Don’t throw garbage everywhere” which if not applied makes the people of some states get nicknames like “rubbish state”, and young people should be taught to appreciate nature, so we will always think of human and nature as inseparable and living harmoniously united.

If the Satoyama concept is fully understood, appreciated and practised, it may be able to preserve many old villages in our country for the sake of environmental sustainability, instead of being a commercial promotion of luxury village houses on the hillside whose price may go up to millions of ringgit. This may swerve from the original purpose of preserving the environment and the original inhabitants of the village.

The next step must be cohesive and sustainable for the wellbeing and harmony of humans and the environment.

Dr Noor Dzuhaidah Osman is a senior lecturer at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia’s Faculty of Shariah and Law, while Dr Suraya Abdul Sani and Wan Abdul Rahman Wan Idrus are senior lecturer and research assistant respectively at Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Faculty of Science and Natural Resources.


The views expressed are of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.