Project summary

Research objectives

This project examines the importance of place-based, small-scale and diversified economies for the long-term sustainability of human societies.

Our working hypothesis is that a highly specialized subsistence strategy can support a larger community for a short period, but a decrease in subsistence and food diversity makes the subsistence system and its associated community more vulnerable in the long-run. Archaeological, historical and paleoenvironmental studies will be used to test this hypothesis. To link these studies with the present discussion of the scale and methods of alternative food systems, ethnographic and ecological studies of contemporary small-scale food systems and communities will be conducted. In combination, studies of the past and present will point to the future, as the research process also involves the collaborative design of ecologically sound and equitable food systems.

Research fields

Our regional focus is the North Pacific Rim. In particular, we have identified northern Japan, with its solid archaeological record and its importance in contemporary food production, as the core area of our field research.

Research fields
Research fields

The West Coast of North America, with rich traditions of ethnographic and ecological investigation as well as active contemporary food/agriculture movements, will provide comparative case studies. These two regions share a number of characteristics in common, including climate, vegetation, fauna and a high level of seismic activity. There are also cultural ties with historical depth as a result of the migration of anatomically modern humans after the late Pleistocene. Historically, the abundance of small-scale economies supported by marine food exploitation (e.g. salmon and herring) and intensive nut-collecting also characterize these two regions.

In Japan, the economic recession and birth rate decline since the 1990s has led to persistent questions of the possibility and desirability of continuing economic growth. The vulnerability of relying on food and goods associated with a large-scale economy and long-distance transportation became particularly eminent shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, when the distribution networks of staple foods, including bread, rice and milk, were severely damaged for several weeks. In San Francisco, Los Angeles and many other places on the West Coast of North America, grass-roots movements that endeavor to support smaller-scale food production are particularly active.

Together, studies of both sides of the North Pacific Rim will provide insightful results for future alternative food production strategies.

Research Plan

Longue-Durée group

Preliminary analysis of prehistoric Jomon data in northern Japan indicates a significant decrease in subsistence diversity and a rapid population increase at around 5000 years ago, followed by a drastic population decrease at around 4500 years ago or slightly later. In order to examine the causes, conditions and consequences of these changes, paleobotanical and zooarchaeological analyses, GIS analysis of regional settlement patterns, lithic analysis, residue analysis of pottery and climate change studies are currently in progress. Research plans for comparative studies include archaeological analysis of prehistoric and historic hunter-gatherers in northern California and the Northwest Coast area.

Contemporary Society Group

As a pilot study, ethno-historical and ethnographic research of small-scale fishing communities in northern Japan were conducted. In addition, ethnographic studies of small-scale farmers in Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures were conducted to collect first-person, primary data about the challenges faced by families and small-scale communities in the areas affected by the 3.11 triple disasters. For Coastal North America, archival and preliminary field research of small-scale farmers, fishing industries and indigenous communities were conducted.

Implementation, Outreach and Policy Proposal Group

Preparations for this research group are still at their nascent stage. Discussions for the following sub-projects are in progress: 1) an Eco-literacy project with a focus on cherry salmon, 2) a collaboration with small-scale farmers in the 3.11 disaster area, including vegetable oil producers in Tochigi and Fukushima, and 3) urban farmer field schools in collaboration with educational programs in UC Berkeley.

Farmers Market in California
Farmers Market in California

Member list

ABE, Chiharu
AGARWAL, Sabrina University of California, Berkeley
ALTIERI, Miguel Universityof California, Berkeley
AMES, Kenneth Portland State University
ARIGA, Keisaku Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
BALÉE, William Lockert Tulane University
CAPRA, Fritjof Center for Ecoliteracy
CISTERNA,Nicolas Sternsdorff Harvard University
CRAWFORD, Gary University of Toronto
CREMA,Enrico R. Pompeu Fabra University
CUTHRELL,Rob University of California, Berkeley
ERTL, John Foreign Language Education Center, Kanazawa University
FAWCETT, Clare St.Francis Xavier University
FITZHUGH, Ben University of Washington
FUKUNAGA, Mayumi University of Tokyo
FUJISAWA, Ryo Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
GIBBS,Kevin University of California, Berkeley
GOTO, Nobuyo Ohu University
GOTO, Yasuo Fukushima University
CRAIG, Oliver University of York
GRIER, Colin Washington State University
HAMADA, Shingo Osaka Shoin Women's University
HERON, Carl University of Bradford
HOSOYA, Leo Aoi Ochanomizu University
IIZUKA, Noriko Doshisha University
IKEYA, Kazunobu National Museum of Ethnology
INANO, Yusuke
ITO, Yumiko Aomori Prefectural Govermment
JANIK, Liliana
JOHNSTON, Barbara Center for Political Ecology
KAMIJYOU,Nobuhiko Hirosaki University
KANEKO,Nobuhiro Yokohama National University
KANER, Simon Centre for Japanese Studies University of East Anglia
KANNO, Tomonori Tohoku University
KAWAHATA, Hodaka Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo
KITAMURA, Sachi International Christian University
Koiwa, Naoto Hirosaki University
KOMIYA, Hajime Keio University
KRIGBAUM John University of Florida
KUSAKA, Soichiro Museum of Natural and Environmental History, Shizuoka
LI, Liu Stanford University
LIGHTFOOT, Kent University of California, Berkeley
MAHER,Lisa University of California, Berkeley
MADELLA, Marco Universitat Pompeu Fabra
MATSUI, Akira Nara National Cultural Properties Research Institute
MATZEN, Sarick University of California, Berkeley
MIUTANI, Shimon Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
MOTONO, IchiroKyoto Seika University
MURASE, RisaThe Japanese Hub of Global Studies, Sophia University
NAKAHARA, SatoeChukyo University
NAKAMURA, OkiRitsumeikan Global Innovation Research Organization Ritsumei University
NARA, TakashiFaculty of Medical Technology, Niigata University of Health and Welfare
NEGISHI,Yo Akita International University
NELSON,Peter University of California, Berkeley
NISHIDA, Yasutami Niigata Prefectural Museum
OHKI,Saori Educational Board of Niiza City
OISHI, Takanori RIHN
OKAWA, Takuya Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
ONISHI, Tomokazu International University of Kagoshima
OWENS, Mio Katayama University of California, Berkeley
PALLUD, Céline Universityof California, Berkeley
POPOV, Alexander Nikolaevich Scientific Museum, Far Eastern Federal University
SASAKI, Tsuyosh Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
SATO, Takao Keio University
SAVELLE, James McGill University
SAWADA, Jyunmei Niigata university of health and welfare
SCHECHNER, Grant University of California, Berkeley
SCHECHNER, Tsim D. University of California
SLATER, David HunterSophia University
TABAREV, Andrei Russian Science of Academy
TAKAHASHI,Satsuki George Mason University
TAKASE,Katsunori Hokkaido University
Thomas F Thornton University of Oxford
WEBER, Andrzej University of Alberta
WEBER, StevenWashington State University, Vancouver
YAMAGUCHI,TomikoInternational Christian University
YAMAMOTO, Naoto Nagoya University
YONEDA, MinoruUniversity Museum, University of Tokyo
YOSHIDA, AkihiroKagoshima University
YOSHIDA, Yasuyuki Center for Cultural Resource Studies, Kanazawa University
YUMOTO,Takakazu Kyoto University