About integrating a different environment
(A student from France studying at Graduate School of Frontier Science, The University of Tokyo)
The "Nature Interface" approach is aiming at changing the present environment from conflicts between human, artefacts and nature, to a "nature-friendly" coexistence of the whole. To achieve this goal it is necessary to learn the vital needs, behaviour and evolution of the environment so that human actions is not destructive but in harmony with nature. A new information communication system, based on micro-sensors and micro-actuators technologies, aims at the perception and capture of what Henri Bergson [1859-1941] described as the vital impulse in nature or ≪ elan vital ≫. This approach is not only a technical way of thinking, but also philosophical, as somehow it hides the hope for a better world, where everything, from a tree to a human being, could live in harmony.
But this dream has come only recently maybe as human civilization is entering its wise adult period. After centuries of presence on the earth, we try now to think about how to integrate ourselves, the human beings, in an environment existing for a long time before us. This is a quite typical line of human character. If we consider the human scale, since ages the colonization spirit has predominated. Groups of people arriving in another country usually destroyed the local environment, population, to impose their way of life. It's only recently that we started to act in order to protect local cultures, differences, as we now want to save the environment.
In a way, I think this behavior is mainly due to the feeling of strength given by the group situation, as we long thought: "the most numerous part always wins". In the example of immigration, gathering in communities of people from the same country of origin is a typical case of integration failure. Considering whether someone immigrating for short term (1-2 years) or for long time perspectives, the problem is the same. A foreigner, worried by communications barriers, will join a group of people from his home country to re-create locally a usual and relieving living atmosphere. It's a safe way to protect from the differences and "survive" in a hostile (at first sight) environment, but a total defeat all the more as it is often a reason of reject by the local community.
Myself, coming in Japan from a European country, used to an "occidental" life style, I am living this situation of immigrant. I made deliberately the choice to come, knowing that everyday I will be facing the gap between languages, cultures, explicit laws and other implicit rules. To succeed in integrating myself in the environment, means to fill these gaps by learning both on my own and from the others. Of course, the more there is differences, the more it will require efforts, patience and courage.
I think a first, but essential, step to integration success, is to be done before arriving in the new environment. I have been aware about this thanks to several happenings that obliged me to reconsider more fundamentally the reason why I wanted to come to Japan. When I finally understood, I knew that once there, whatever the differences to overcome, I will do anything necessary to my adaptation. Anything we do voluntary is more or less designed to get benefit from it (material or moral). So it is important to know what we are waiting for. From the experience of coming to Japan, I may obtain knowledge, feedback in accordance with a personal goal I have defined.
The more there is differences, the more it is difficult and I knew a complete integration would be a long hard work. Indeed, to reach the expected results, it needs the courage to engage in a positive process, to overcome appearing difficulties and to go on when you feel no more progress. From my childhood I remember this phrase I have been told (by someone I didn't know): "if you want, you can". It may sound a childish phrase that is easily contradicted, but with no doubt integration always fail if there is no sincere will. The determination is necessary to go through difficulties, over barriers that may naturally cross the way.
Nevertheless, I think that their always exits a limited set of fundamentals rules, actions, which being followed allow to support, accept the new life. As a result and quickly, it is possible to be accepted by local people and this is a major step toward the integration. Indeed, reading books on the culture, the history, is not enough to succeed in living at present time, because the temporal context is different. Either than it is not sufficient to simply observe behaviours, acts, because there is something left to analyze the whole. It is necessary to enter the deeper the pointed society to be able to communicate with people. This is the final step, also the longest, that leads to understanding the way of the evolution between the different generations is essential in the facing present comprehension and the ongoing changing.
To my mind, looking at our experience in integrating a different culture can be helpful to understand the approach to follow to succeed building a world of harmony between nature, artifacts and humans. The main lines I underlined are certainly available for this integration and Nature Interfacer may be this small element that will allow us to communicate in depth with the environment to understand its present and its perpetual variation.