Wisdom based on “Land and Water”, the Foundation for a Paradigm Shift
(Draft by the Committee of the Vision of JSIDRE)

I. Principles of Cycle that Dominates Life

1. The Earth is the “Planet of Life”. Since its birth, 4.6 billion years ago, the rotation of the earth and the revolution around the sun created the water and atmosphere cycles with energy coming from the sun. The original forms of protein were composed from the composites of the earth’s crust, leading to the birth of the living forms. These evolved, and a biosphere was created together with the atmosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere, which all together composed the ecosystem of the earth’s surface.

2. On the surface of the earth, diversified bio-geo-chemial cycles maintain the system of these spheres and allow the existence of living forms. These interactions among them had peculiar forms and sizes as well as different time cycles. The biosphere also holds unique cyclic mechanisms of food chain and its return to inorganic materials, which sustains many different living forms of life. The eternal “principle of cycle” controls the life, and the living forms born from land and water revert back to inorganic land and water.

3. The birth of human life dates back only to several million years, which is just a short moment in the long history of the earth. Since then, human life has conquered other living forms and expanded their rule throughout every corner of the earth. Humankind was born from the biosphere, and now has established a strong dominant position on the earth’s surface, which is referred to as the “human sphere”. It was the pivotal point in the history of life that shows the dominance of “human sphere” over all other forms of lives, and it could only be achieved through the formation of infrastructure for the maintenance of agriculture and livestock.

4. Agriculture and raising livestock are production activities based on the cyclic system in the biosphere, from which deep insights and interests in nature were nurtured. Particularly, agriculture takes diversified forms by the availability of land and water resources in different parts of earth’s surface. Population growth has been supported by productivity increases in agriculture, and hence agriculture has triggered the birth of a civilization and creation of local cultures.

5.  Land and water, deeply associated with the cycle in the biosphere, are the most basic resources for existence. Water maintains the metabolism of crops, and is a basic ingredient for photosynthesis. Water falls to the surface of the earth, and cycles locally in different forms by flowing, being stored, or seeping into the water table, and returns back to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration. Water cycles this way and it acts as a medium for bio-geo-chemial cycle. The soil receives and stores it, and is the place of material interaction and cycle that constitutes the land.

6. A sound maintenance of the land and water according to the principles of cycle directly enhances the preservation of infrastructure for existence. Therefore, it is a very significant fact for biosphere and human sphere that land, water, air, and living things exist in wide and open conditions, namely as open-water and open-soil interfaces, in rural areas.


II. Wisdoms based on “Land and Water”

1. The monsoon region of Asia is characterized by diverse forest zones and heavy rainfall. Various peoples settled and number of unique cultures relying on paddy farming was formed mainly due to the varying local conditions. Paddy farming with high population carrying capacity has induced the development of infrastructure in Japan, which situates on the fringe of Asian continent.

2. Land and water in Japan, the foundation of the paddy farming, are characterized by seasonally fluctuating rainfall and small-scale geographical units, which are easy to control compared to those on the Asian Continent. Land and water have been integrated in the artificial infrastructures, so that the cycle system can be enhanced and the blessings of nature can be received. To maintain and manage the system, social groups and institutions were created, with established rules, annual events and customs.

3. The complex system of “land”, “water”, and “people” can also be regarded as the social overhead capital, and it spreads over a wide region. Our forefathers named this system as “Sui-Do”, the system of land, water and people. “Sui-Do” has more exceptional characteristics as a result of integration than the grouping of each component, and also covers what is called “Fu-do”, the system of climate, soil condition, fertility, topography, landscape, etc. Various “Sui-Do” can be observed in every part in Japan and Asian regions with heavy Monsoon rains.

4. Knowledge has been created and accumulated for managing and operating the system properly. Wisdom based on “land and water” has the following characteristics: (a) targets a wide-ranged area, reflecting the integrated, complex nature of the system of land and water. Land and water are the core of “Sui-do”, and have been managed by people; (b) has a long-term vision based on its past experiences as well as future prospects, because infrastructure functions over a long period; (c) has the technical skill of creating and maintaining land and water by integrating the knowledge of related fields such as land, water, and crop science according to the local needs; (d) has organized the group of people who obtained the wisdom based on “land and water wisdom” and managed land and water to systematic improvements. We exist now with the inheritance of this wisdom from our ancestors.

5. The wisdom based on “land and water” has achieved successful results in various areas by making full use of these characteristics. The followings are typical examples: Reclaiming good farmland taking account of land suitability, while preserving the system of cycle and utilizing full production potential, and cultivating soil for preserving water and bio-geo-chemial cycles; Developing new water resources by storing water so that naturally fluctuating flow can be stabilized and effectively utilized, and diverting water from reservoir or river to the farmland by excavating canals; Overcoming difficult local conditions by poor drainage by draining excessive water and conserving watershed areas and forest to preserve hydrologic cycle; and Constructing and arranging people’s dwellings in an appropriate manner, and organizing people into a group and a social institution by establishing rules among people so that smooth cycles of land and water can be ensured.

6. Historically, it is apparent that our ancestors maintained and enhanced the potentials of the land and water system with their consistent striving by applying this wisdom in a rational manner. Many of the water systems still in use in alluvial fans and plains in Japan had been constructed before the modern period. In Azumino alluvial fan, distinguished in fresh and clean water, water system was designed to deliver water to every region of the area with high percolation and frequent water shortages by constructing link canals (weirs) perpendicular to the vertical canals along the land slope, which divided the original river flow as much as possible. Similarly, on the Okayama plain, facing the Seto Inland Sea, the sea tide differences were used to reclaim the sea and then turned the tidal land into fertile farmlands. This was accomplished by strengthening the drainage and securing the irrigation water through conserving the watershed in the mountains as well. Such examples, large or small, can be found in numerous places in Japan.

7. Even with human expansion into new territories and everything that it brought with intensity, land and water systems in many places were managed properly keeping harmony with the cycle of the original ecosystem. As such, good partnership of bio-geo-chemial cycle in view of national land development was maintained between the city and rural areas. Country areas provided human resources and agricultural products to urban areas, and they acquired organic wastes and received inputs for agricultural production as well as manufactured products by maintaining interactions with urban areas. The cycle in the ecosystem could only be maintained by the preservation of a rural environment, which constitutes the major portion of the earth’s surface and possesses abundant open water and land interfaces. It goes without saying that the infrastructures have been provided for the full functioning of cyclic system in agricultural practices.

8. The wisdom based on “land and water” previously described under “the principle of cycle” is a unique one in Monsoon regions in Asia. In rural areas in the region, flowing and stagnating areas of water exist in multiple phases and diversified conditions, and form a unique ecosystem. Thus Asian people formed original perceptions for nature based on paddy farming, which is different from those of Western societies, and hence, a common cultural heritage developed.


III. Changes Over Land and Water

1. With rapid industrialization, mass production and consumption took place in the latter twentieth century. The convenience in living has been greatly improved, but the common practice of mass waste became a serious issue. This process only takes account of production efficiency regardless of problems in other processes. The viability of cycle has been eroded or the cycle itself has been lost.

2. Agriculture is no exemption. Although the population carrying capacity has progressively been strengthened, agriculture based on large-scale and monoculture operation, mechanization, and chemical substances has been promoted particularly in countries with comparative advantages under efficiency and competition principles. However, many countries still cannot supply enough food to their exploding population, and food distribution imbalances can be observed on a global scale. Japan also accumulates massive amounts of nitrogen through the imports of huge volume of food, and consumes enormous amounts of imported mineral energy resources for food production. Wastes from massive food consumption are discharged into the hydrosphere, and degrade cycle system significantly. Comprehensive management of national land has also been hampered. Urban areas are suffering from enormous amounts of waste that cannot be effectively treated. Traditional approach of circulating resources based on partnership between urban and rural regions have not been used nor pursued.

3. Circumstances surrounding cycle have been subject to change. From production to consumption, the system is now quite massive, and people face difficulties in recognizing the cycle mechanism. In addition, massive wastes are disposed into the environment exceeding the purification capacity in quantitative and qualitative terms. The lack of consciousness for environmental issues and the resulting situations will in the near future threaten the survival of human species. As such, human beings are being pushed away by the fate of civilization that they created.

4. Wisdom based on “land and water” has also changed. With the introduction of western modern science, education and research system was subdivided into specialized and individual fields, and analysis was made to discover the law of phenomena. Knowledge used to be something of a skill to acquire by one’s observations and experiences, but altered into “science and technology” which is specialized and universal. Science has been subdivided into specialized fields, and each field became more detailed after identifying the object and methodology of studying. The standard of science has also been upgraded. Technology as well has developed greatly by the application of modern advanced science.

5. After the Meiji period, new plateau lands were developed by excavating new canal system and irrigating the land, and flood plain of major rivers was reclaimed by introducing farming machinery and drainage measures. These developments had not been possible until the modern era. In addition, traditional water usage systems were integrated on a large scale so that efficient water delivery could be achieved in many areas. After the World War II, diversified and complex problems have been effectively managed by improving safety and stability applying detailed analyses of structures and hydraulics, strengthening operation capacity of numerous control facilities, and coordinating water and land use with urban sectors. Together with this, new land and water system has been built by the infrastructure development on a large scale. It is symbolized by Aichi Yosui Water development project, in which irrigation water development was the main purpose of the regional integrated development. These are the achievements of the wisdom based on “land and water”, which adopted the approach of modern science/technology, and applied the concept of the cyclic system widely.

6. In this development process, the tendency was to encourage individual technology alone and evaluate the whole region only from single specialized view of science and technology. Similarly wisdom based on “land and water” relied too much on the subdivided science method. As a result, we have lost the view of the wisdom of land and water system, while the original characteristics of the wisdom was to integrate land and water according to specific local conditions. It has contributed much to overcoming the food shortage after the World War II and increased production capacity afterwards. However, it was not possible to resist the strong pressures from socio-economic conditions of the time to prioritize production expansion only. For example, not sufficient consideration has been paid to the ecosystem in water cycle mechanism. Multiple functionalities of irrigation water in rural areas, supporting original local culture, were not fully taken into account because the efficiency of irrigation and drainage facilities weighted too much.

7. However, we have consciously tried to change the paradigm according to the original characteristics of the land and water system in pursuing “overall integration” from relatively early stage. These measures include improving the living conditions of villages, in view of the association between production and living spaces, expanding the target from agricultural land to rural areas, prioritizing more of ecosystem, and establishing linkages with a number of agricultural policy measures. These specialized endeavors are being requested by the society at present.


IV. Founding a New Paradigm in the Wisdom based on “Land and Water”

1. At the start of the 21st century, human beings are facing such global challenges of population explosion, global warming, destruction of ecosystems, and the degradation of resources. As such, the environmental ethic consisting of following principles should be endorsed: (a) nature as well as human beings has the right to exist; (b) present generation should not deprive the potential for existence of future generation; and (c) the resources of the earth are limited.

2. Civilizations have survived by averting the potential risks. However, the challenges that the present civilization is facing would not possibly be dealt with by individual and partial approach. We need to adopt comprehensive approach of rehabilitating various cycle systems including water and substance or ecosystem itself.

3. We have associated ourselves with the “principle of cycle” dominating the life through agriculture, the basics for food production, and the land and water, nurturing it. We also have taken full accounts of the comprehensive characteristics of land and water system, accumulated the results of science and technology, and worked with modern approach. We should learn from our experiences and take leadership to maintain human activities living on the earth with finite resources. It would be we who are taking care of the wisdom based on “land and water” to assume responsibility for our civilization and culture. We should also not forget that to cultivate our successors of the wisdom with high ethical standards would be a great contribution to our society.

4. New wisdom based on “land and water” would be realized in the following manner.

4-1. New paradigm of science/technology should be established based on the principles of rehabilitating cycles in the human society as a whole. With this point of view, paradigm shift of integrating individual fields such as hydrologic cycle and bio-geo-chemial cycle that have been developed in a specialized and separated manner, and understanding them in the whole process of cycle. “People” with the wisdom based on “land and water” have achieved numerous accomplishments by taking advantage of its knowledge of “water” and “land” and the comprehensive workings on local land and water system. Now it is necessary to promote systematization of the wisdom as the universal standards strongly, and establish a foundation for new type of science and technology. In this regard, supported by the modern science and technology and based on the accumulation of accomplishments so far, it is requested to regenerate the wisdom to the present world, having very high production capacity and technology standard, by re-evaluating the spirits of “land and water” system inherited to the modern time.

4-2. All entities including human beings themselves, enterprises, and societies should establish the system of production, consumption, and disposal based on the maintenance of land and water cycle. It would not be possible to revive the old bio-geo-chemial cycle mechanism in the present world. However, sustaining sound and active agricultural production activities in rural areas is important for the maintenance of land and water because rural areas with abundant open interfaces with land and water will continue to occupy large share of the earth’s surface. Therefore, infrastructures will be provided in rural areas to attain sufficient cyclic functions. In addition, destruction of local land and water cycle should be avoided. For example, massive, long-distance, and one directional movement of food will not only destroy land and water system of the exporting countries, but also disturb the bio-geo-chemial cycle on a global scale. To avoid unregulated food movement, sustainable and stable food production system should be established within the country herself by overcoming the cause of food import and the weakness of domestic production.

4-3. In rural areas sound management systems of cycle is in effect. In addition, farmers are residing to manage land and water resources, which leads to the formation of a new culture. Thus we should evaluate rural areas more appropriately. Improvements of living conditions and the development of the area will be the basic premise for those who are living in there, taking advantage of diversified human/material/cultural as well as tangible/intangible resources. Furthermore it is now widely accepted that agriculture and rural areas have multifunctional roles besides food production. Rural areas have the materialistic functions such as national land conservation by flood prevention and conservation of diverse natural environments. Rural areas can also be the area of discovering various human values needed for the society through the recovery of rich sensitivity by interacting directly with living forms, and environmental education through land and water. Rural areas should be the social and cultural area of realizing activities and living styles that are not possible to enjoy in urban areas.

4-4. The wisdom based on “land and water” should be disseminated to all over the world. It is anticipated that the regional destruction of the cycle will grow on a global scale to point where the demand and supply of food will be precarious. Therefore, it would be necessary to obtain accurate figures on regional land and water resource bases, and support actively for sound development and management of these resources. In such cases, strong measures are needed to conform to the local land and water conditions. Western way of thinking has so far been the de facto global standards, however, this could be misleading to apply uniformly to world over, which could result in destroying land and water system. We should apply science and technology according to unique regional characteristics. For the development of the wisdom based on “land and water”, we need to have closer cooperation and interactions with countries of Monsoon regions in Asia, which have much in common with our country.

(Translated by Nobumasa Hatcho and supervised by Masaharu Kuroda)