Robert Stolz's Bad Water: Nature, Pollution, and Politics in Japan, 1870–1950 is an impressive analysis of the history of the interaction between political and ecological thought in modern Japan. The Japanese experience of the Ashio Copper Mine pollution incident during the late Meiji period created a great many thinkers and activists, such as the politician and ecologist Tanaka Shozo (1841–1913). This book is valuable to the study not only of Tanaka and of Japanese environmental problems but also of the history of ideas on the relationships among politics, society, the human body, and nature in a global context.

The term bad water (akusui 悪水) originated from farmers’ opposition to damage caused to their crop fields by leeching from mines that had been opened before the Meiji era. Stolz argues that people's environmental awareness changed, as evidenced by the switch from...

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