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History: Friend of Sustainability?

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

My name is Mana Iwata. I have just started working at as a Green Business Development & Event Intern. I am currently taking a gap year and will start postgraduate study at the University of Edinburgh as an MSc History student later this year. Today in this blog, I would like to share my story of how I reached out to a sustainable business internship.

Tea, History, and Sustainability

I love the tranquillity and elegance of the Japanese tea ceremony which I have been practicing for thirteen years. It provides a personal connection to the cultural history of my country. The more I have learned about this art, the more I have come to see it as a microcosm of Japanese society. More specifically, it reflects Japanese society's norms and values in both a positive and negative light. For instance, it represents the Japanese spiritual tradition of environmental coexistence. In addition, the custom of always having a male leader and other exclusive practices against women can still be seen in modern gender issues. As a final example, the ceremony relates to globalisation since tea was a product having an enormous power to transform the world when it arrived in early modern Europe. This sparked my academic interest in the mutual interaction between culture and societal attitudes. As an Undergraduate, I specialised in British History and researched how the perceived meaning of tea both revealed and influenced Britain’s changing attitudes towards Asia (China, Japan, and India) in the early modern period.

This is me hosting an Omote-Senke-style tea ceremony at Nanzan University in Nagoya.

You might think that history and sustainability do not sound very related. However, these two areas actually share a core value in the way they see the world, and it is helpful to have a historical perspective to work on sustainability. That is, they both see the current world in a long-term context. History is not only a field of study that uses critical thinking and analysis of sources to examine ways of thinking and life in the past, but in doing so, it can pose questions and offer insights into contemporary and future society. In short, this aligns with sustainability because we need to understand the roots of issues and gain insights in a long-term context.

Having a historical background, I aim to apply this attitude, which is striving to deeply understand the underlying factors and possible consequences involved, to this internship. I would also like to learn and obtain scientific and technical strategies concerning green business which can help address real-world environmental challenges and societal inequities. I find this important because my ultimate objective is to help create a more fair and sustainable society.

Thank you very much for reading my first ever blog post. I hope you enjoyed it!

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