Mountain Dreams, Chemical Nightmares
This chapter examines the adverse effects of environmental pollution on human bodies by focusing on the case of arsenic poisoning in Toroku, a tiny mountain hamlet in Japan, attributed to Sumitomo Metal Mining. Toroku's environmental history powerfully illustrates the results of what J. R. McNeill has termed frontier transformations as well as changing modes of production. Movements of people, things, technologies, and even dreams across borders, in and out of this frontier area, mark turning points in Toroku's history. Many involved dreams of wealth, and some turned into nightmares. This chapter first provides a background on early human history in Toroku before discussing Toroku's transformations during the Meiji period concerning irrigation ditches, wet rice paddies, and community governance. In particular, it considers the story of Satō Dōgen as the first of many events, dreams, or border crossings that transformed Toroku. Finally, it assesses the harm caused by the arsenic mine on Toroku's people and environment.
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