Living landscapes connected communities: Culture, environment, and change across Asia

This reference details the collaborative activities of the Regional Project implemented by the Nippon Foundation Fellowships for Asian Public Intellectuals, or API Fellowships Program (API).

The API project was designed to foster greater awareness of their neighbours amongst public intellectuals and to encourage collaboration to address common problems across the region. Between 2008 and 2012, groups of APIs visited five sites, each in a different country, to study, document and reflect on the role of local wisdom, culture and traditions in responding to societal and environmental change. The sites chosen – Khiriwong (Thailand), Biwako (Japan), Kali Code (Indonesia), Tasik Chini (Malaysia) and Batanes Philippines – reflect a diversity of geographic environments and cultures.

There is a chapter for each site containing a number of articles which reflect the interests, expertise and foci of the different APIs. These articles provide information on the history of communities and basic community activities, such as fishing and agriculture, as well as religion and beliefs, governance, and the arts. They also outline how communities have endeavoured to deal with ageing populations, depopulation and globalisation. The final chapter, Rethinking Human-Ecological Balance, contains articles which identify the common threads between sites and reflect on some of the issues and challenges that confront them. Articles contain a variety of excellent visual media, which include maps, photographs, and music notations, which support written points and illustrate the environment and culture at each site.

I recommend this resource to teachers who are looking for case studies that are interesting and will further their students’ understanding of Australia’s neighbours. Case studies could be used in a diverse range of topics including depopulation and/or ageing populations; community management and protection of the environment; conservation and sustainability; disasters; and nurturing local cultures and communities. All seven key concepts of the Australian Curriculum: Geography can be addressed using case studies from this reference. Because each section consists of a number of articles about the one site, there is some repetition of information, but this is understandable and helps to emphasise the importance of the interaction of people and their environment in a changing world. – Sharon Jones Kew East, Victoria, Geographical Education, Volume 29, 2016

This review first appeared in Australian Geography Teachers Association in 2016 (pg 49)