Prospectus: The Society for the Study of Environmental Thought and Education

Representative of the Society’s Organizing Committee
Shuji Ozeki

Since the beginning of the 21st century, which is called the “century of the environment,” global environments have in fact been deteriorating even more seriously, and attention to protecting the environment and nature has been intensifying. At the same time, remarkable advances have recently been made in research and implementation pertaining to thought and education about the environment. As academic knowledge advances, it tends to be differentiated into narrower and narrower fields of expertise. However, it has been repeatedly pointed out that this differentiation into numerous narrow fields can have adverse consequences. As far as environmental issues are concerned, we should be aware of the possibility that excessive differentiation into expert fields causes us to commit serious errors when taking action to deal with environmental issues.

Thoughts on environmental issues, which have developed around the core of environmental philosophy, are principally destined not only to overcome the modern Western thought at its root but also to require reflection and review about the justification for the existence of philosophy itself. Environmental thought is now being shaped as a new academic field while combining, in a multidisciplinary manner, the essence of presently existing environmental philosophy, environmental ethics, politics, economics, sociology, science & technology studies and so on. This nature of environmental thought deserves to be positively appraised. However, due to the nature of environmental issues, environmental thought will be combined with social implementation (particularly the implementation of environmental education) instead of remaining in the form of abstract academic arguments or discussions.

On the other hand, environmental education requires the support of profound environmental thinking, rather than simply an emphasis on the importance of implementation. As the importance of environmental education has been recognized more extensively and awareness of its importance has spread even to business and various other organizations within society, environmental education has sometimes come to be used as a sort of “device” or “means” to achieve some end. In such circumstances, people who are earnestly interested in environmental education appear to be intensifying their awareness of the necessity of carrying out this activity. This situation may remind us of the statement made by Kant in his major Book “The Critique of Pure Reason”: “Intuition without concepts is blind, and concepts without intuition are empty.” Thus the implementation of environmental education without insights endorsed by environmental thinking can in fact have undesired outcomes.

The Society that we are preparing to establish will focus on multi-faceted and comprehensive studies of environmental thought. At that same time, the Society will pay close attention to the relationship between thought and implementation (particularly the relationship between thought and environmental education) and to both the ideological and educational aspects of diverse human activities regarding environmental issues. This may be viewed as a unique feature of this Society. In addition, the Society will attach importance to the following viewpoints: (1) active utilization of information-oriented technology as represented by the Internet, (2) international exchanges and communication, and (3) robust communication with researchers and activists in various academic fields who are interested in environmental issues.

In this respect, it is expected that this Society will provide a place for communication and dialogue between those individuals who intend to study the environment from the viewpoint of implementation and those individuals who intend to be involved in environmental education based on their awareness of the importance of environmental thought in its own right.