It’s important to note the progression of environmental degradation in different societies but it is even more important to look for the causes of such degradation. In the case of Japan and Buddhism, the correlation between pollution and mindset may not be correlated as one would expect. However, such relationships (especially causation) for such an expansive religion is not so easy to find. What is more relevant, I believe, is that the Buddhist mindset is not necessarily what is causing the harm.
While many topics in ethics emphasize the importance of religious and educational renewal, technological advances have severely caused a disconnect between humans and the land. In some ways, technology allows us to delve deeper and understand more on a smaller scale. However, the type of inspection that most governments fund have more to do with economic profitablity and human-use and less with understanding and appreciation. Such power in economic systems may be what trumps any religious effectiveness. For example, in many tribal African communities, the native’s spiritual appreciation for wild animals may be over-powered by the human-interests for rainforest resource use.
Ideally, a less-economic based world would allow for more appreciation and less environmental harm, but we are beyond that point of return. Looking into the methods that work and those that don’t is what we must continue to do. The world is by no means focused on a common environmental goal, but if more and more individuals open up to the idea, an in-tune appreciation should slowly follow.