s humans and technology become increasingly inseparable, we believe it is important to learn more about the Society 5.0 (S5.0) to understand how it envisions nature and how the concept of Nature Citizenship might fit into this project.
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What is nature citizenship and how can it co-exist with technology?

As humans and technology intertwine, understanding Society 5.0 (S5.0) is crucial to grasp its view on nature and the role of Nature Citizenship.

In terms of development, we are experiencing the 4th Industrial Revolution, also known as the Digital Age. There are three reasons why today’s changes are not just an extension of the 3rd Industrial Revolution. It is rather the arrival of a fourth and independent one: speed, scale, and system impact.

The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. Compared to previous industrial revolutions, the 4th Industrial Revolution is evolving exponentially rather than linearly. It is also transforming almost every industry in every country.

The changes are so real and drastic for today’s and tomorrow’s society that “Peoples Living Lab—A Laboratory for Future Society” is the theme of the 2025 World Expo, which will be held in Osaka, Japan.

The theme and concept are anchored in the Society 5.0 project, launched by the Japanese government in 2017. This is a human-centred project that aims to “merge physical and digital spaces” with the ultimate goal of creating a super-smart society where “life is more meaningful and enjoyable”. According to the vision of the project’s creators, “the interaction between people and technology should be used to create a sustainable, vibrant, and liveable world where people are at the centre”. Conceptually, the idea points out the way to a better future as it seeks to solve major societal challenges.

However, despite countless initiatives to reduce our negative footprint, humanity’s impact on the planet has never been more damaging than it is today. Consequently, as a global society, we also have major environmental issues to address.

Society 5.0

According to the Japanese government, Society 5.0 is a people-centred society that balances economic progress with solving social problems through a system that strongly integrates cyberspace and physical space. In this society, people, things, and systems connect in cyberspace, achieving optimal results.

Society 5.0 strongly focuses on the public impact of technology and the need to create a better society. The vision of Society 5.0 encompasses a course of reform to create an inclusive society that meets diverse needs and preferences.

Society 5.0 will facilitate human prosperity, underpinned by improved regulation and education that enable the dynamic engagement of all citizens in the new economy and society made possible by new technologies.

However, the realization of such a society will not be without difficulties, and Japan intends to face them head-on, aiming to be the first country in the world to meet the challenges and provide a model for the society of the future.

Despite the challenges, Society 5.0 will create a human-centred society that puts the individual at the centre, rather than a future controlled and monitored by AI and robots.

Society 5.0 will be increasingly diverse. Thanks to its deeply technologised, cyber-physical nature, Society 5.0 will be able to incorporate into its social structures and dynamics beings that have not previously been found in the world’s societies.

Although it originated in Japan, Society 5.0 is not just about the prosperity of a single country. So far, the project has grown and is consistent enough to be the main theme of the 2025 World Expo.

Nature Citizenship

In examining development concepts from a sustainable development perspective, we have found that most ongoing action focuses on climate change. Conservation programmes tend to be legal in nature, with rare sanctions imposed after serious damage to nature and natural ecosystems has occurred.

After studying several examples, we can see that the mere designation of a river, a forest, a coral reef, etc., as a “protected natural area” is not enough to protect these ecosystems from harmful human interference.

The debate on whether or not nature has Professor Christopher D. Stone sparked rights. Originally published in 1972, “Should trees have standing?” was an essential tool for the then-emerging environmental movement, launching a global debate on the legal rights of nature, aided by the US Supreme Court decision in Sierra Club v Morton.  At the heart of Stone’s book is the compelling argument that the environment should be granted legal rights.

In terms of visibility, one of the most important milestones was that in 2008, the people of Ecuador voted to include the rights of nature (Pacha Mama) in the country’s Constitution. Other countries, such as Bolivia and Panama, followed suit in the following years.

A holistic approach to environmental stewardship

On the other hand, some cultures, especially indigenous cultures and countries like Bhutan, show this vision is not new in human history. In this remote Asian country, there is such a holistic cultural relationship between citizens and nature. The Constitution states in Article 5 that every citizen is a custodian of the Kingdom’s natural resources and environment.

However, we believe there is a lack of comprehensive and global action to protect nature effectively. 

In our opinion, a new theoretical framework needs to be considered, which is the concept of citizenship applied to nature. Our vision is that this is the right moment to harness the power of new digital networks to benefit nature.

Nature Citizenship advocates giving natural systems an identity and granting them legal status. It calls for its inclusion in national constitutions, advocating that a citizen can be a constitutionally mandated guardian of natural systems. This approach promotes the reconnection of human beings and nature, fostering a deeper understanding of their interdependence.

We aim to work towards incorporating the rights of nature into national and regional law in all countries. Furthermore, we seek to advocate for including Nature Citizenship in national and regional law in all countries.

In summary

Nature Citizenship is a comprehensive system in which society understands nature holistically; every citizen should feel and act as a guardian of nature and natural ecosystems.

One of the goals of S5.0 is to save the planet through better use and distribution of resources. It can become a key factor in the right direction. In our view, S5.0 should incorporate nature more expressively as a human- and nature-centred project. The World Expo 2025 will help to promote the S5.0 concept and share it with the rest of the world, ideally taking up Nature Citizenship as an additional “flag”.

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Journal reference

Barbosa, L. (2023). Society 5.0 – Exploring the concept of nature citizenship in a human-centered society powered by technology. In M. Veysel Kaya (Ed.), Social & economic studies within the framework of emerging global developments, Volume II (pp. 143-154). Peter Lang: Germany. https://doi.org/10.3726/b21202

Luís has an extensive career as a C-suite executive across multiple business sectors, including multi-sector corporations and government agencies in Europe, GCC, and Asia. He is currently based in Singapore, leading operations, digital transformation, and innovation programmes across Asia Pacific in the FMCG sector. He is a jury member of the European Commission Innovation Council (EIC) and an EDF evaluator. Luís is completing a PhD in Communication for Development and a Masters in AI. He is an alumnus of INSEAD and MIT and an invited lecturer in Masters programmes on Innovation and Sustainability at the most prestigious business schools and universities.