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Keywords:

  • Culture;
  • international environmental policy;
  • acid rain;
  • Japan

This paper outlines a general approach for analyzing the role of culture in international environmental policymaking. It draws on work in anthropology and foreign policy analysis. The first step is to view culture as a “toolkit of environmental ideas.” The second step, relative to a given research topic, is to delimit broad definitions of culture to more workable forms. Three forms are offered (following Hudson, 1997a): culture as organization of environmental meaning, as shared value preferences in environmental matters, and as templates for environmental action. The third step is to answer three basic questions relative to the specific definition of culture used: (a) Who draws what environmentally related ideas from the ideas toolkit? (b) How are these ideas used in the political arena? (c) How do these ideas, originally drawn upon for political purposes, change and in turn lead to changes in the set of environmentally related ideas in the culture? Ideas, once they have entered the political arena, are assumed to be embodied in a “discourse.” The terminology of discourse (and the body of theory built up around it) is used as a vehicle for examining the role of culture in international environmental policymaking. A practical application of this approach is presented in relation to the role of culture in the Japanese public's influence in Japan on policymaking on the northeast Asian transboundary air pollution issue.