Program NameResearch Program1: Societal Transformation under Environmental Change
Program DirectorSUGIHARA Kaoru


○Research Subject and Objectives

Goal of the Program 

This program aims at providing realistic perspectives and options to facilitate the transformation towards a society that can flexibly respond to environmental changes caused by human activities such as global warming and air pollution, as well as to natural disasters.


Mission Statement

To demonstrate the fundamental significance of global environmental sustainability for human society, we need to make the links between environmental change and natural disasters, and social issues such as livelihood, inequality, social security and conflict, intellectually explicit, and reinforce them in the real world. RIHN’s Societal Transformation under Environmental Change research program contributes to this task.
The Program follows two lines of inquiry. The first conducts research on Asia’s long-term paths of social and economic development in relation to climate change and environmental history. Such studies offer historical understandings of the human-nature interface, and evaluate each region’s political and economic conditions and cultural and social potentialities in comparative perspective. For example, postwar development of the industrial complex along the Asia’s Pacific coast was made possible by the combination of imported fossil fuels and utilization of rich local resources of land, water and biomass. Industrial development in the region produced both rapid economic growth and at times severe environmental pollution and degradation. It is important to recognize the causes and consequences of these historical processes in their own light, as well as for their significance to future societal change and policy deliberations.
The Program’s second line of inquiry examines the kinds of motivations that affect people’s livelihood, by working closely with various stakeholders in local society in Asia. Our project based in Sumatra’s tropical peat swamp forest, for example, has identified four principal kinds of motivations - local livelihood; profit of local farmers and agricultural and industrial enterprises; local and centrally-based governance; and conservation measures implemented by governments, NGOs and international institutions -, and examines how they can best be coordinated to promote sustainability at the village level. Project research also helps implement policies at local, national and international levels. This ongoing project, which cooperates with local universities, companies and officials, has already contributed to the development of regional and national policies to control peatland fires, which became a significant environmental issue in Indonesia and beyond.
This program coordinates a variety of research projects along these lines in order to develop a perspective that helps direct research and social transformation in Asia.

○Progress and Results in 2017

Nakatsuka project: FR4

I am pleased to comment that the project is going well, and is most likely to yield excellent results with summary English-language publication (see Project Report). 

Professor Nakatsuka and I organized a panel at the Annual Meeting of the Socio-economic History Society, the main learned society of the field, in May 2017. We discussed the possibility of reinterpretation of Tokugawa society in the light of climate and rainfall data. There was a rich exchange with economic and demographic historians. We also successfully applied for a session at the World Economic History Congress, Boston, in July-August 2018, with additional speakers including specialists on China, India, Europe and modern Japan (from France, the U.K. and the U.S.) , to discuss the impact of the Nakatsuka group data and its implications for comparative environmental history.


Mizuno project: FR1 (from January 2017)

This project began with high expectations (e.g. favourable reviews for the English publication of a results of research leading to FR) and fully developed academic and political contacts in Indonesia. After initial negotiations with affiliated projects (some key members were also involved in projects funded by JICA, CIFOR and other projects at Kyoto University), the specific goals of the RIHN project were identified, and the collaborative relationships with them were established (see Project Report). This is one of the most ambitious interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary projects in this field (and is known as such: most European initiatives have been scientist-driven).


Yoshida project FR1(from June 2017)

In spite of the fact that this project is primarily concerned with ‘Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR)’, it has been agreed that it is part of Program 1 (rather than Program 2), in view of its strong commitment to social transformation including engagement in local policy formulation with selected local or municipal authorities and ambition to influence national policy (see Project Report).



Other projects at IS and FS stages

I have liaised with two FS projects during the academic year 2017. Murayama project on ‘living space’ attempted to combine local history, transdisciplinary research and mathematical- geographical modelling, with a wide geographical coverage (Japan, Asia and Europe). I spent some time to think about the utility of living space as a concept for the transdisciplinary project. But this project was not accepted by the Evaluation Committee in November 2017.  Hayashida project proposed an interdisciplinary research on the mitigation strategy of SLCPs emissions arising from rural areas in the environs of New Delhi, and was accepted by the November Committee. But it was not accepted by EREC and post-EREC committee. Among the IS projects, Wakimura project, which proposed to compare the tropical regions of South Asia, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa from a global historical perspective, had a most ambitious research program. In my opinion, this was by far the most promising project for Program 1, but it was not successful in moving to FS. 



Research directives

In my own research, I worked for the completion of two JSPS projects (both had been mainly conducted at GRIPS, my previous affiliation) this year, one on the emerging states in Asia and Africa, the other on the trade statistics of colonial India. Since I became associated with RIHN two years ago, I gradually brought in aspects of resource history into the research purview of these projects. On the emerging state project, I began a study of the development of "resource nexus", and had intense conversations with members of RIHN. The smaller project on colonial India is largely a statistical study, but has methodological links with the role of intra-regional trade in the mitigation of resources and its environmental consequences. I moved all the statistical materials from GRIPS to RIHN, and held a series of 'wrap-up' meetings for these projects in February to March 2018, both at GRIPS and RIHN.


I describe my thinking on resource nexus below, as this relates to the ways in which I see themes of the projects of Program 1 may be linked to each other in the coming years. The speed of the growth of cities (including megacities and megalopolis) of emerging states, especially in Asia and Africa has been very rapid, causing poverty and inequality as well as congestion, pollution and the deterioration of the quality of water etc. The first question is to identify how resources were imported into cities and combined with local ones to support production and consumption. In addition to capital, labour, and perhaps fossil energy, the local supply of land, water and biomass energy must be considered, and the synergies and trade-offs between these resources must be analyzed and a better combination sought. Cities are also a place for livelihood, so the 'water-food-energy nexus' is highlighted as a key concern for livelihood security as well.


Global urbanization also implies increasing needs for resource management in non-urban areas and uninhabited parts of the world, as the relative share of non-urban population decreases while human intervention in them though climate change, tourism etc. increases. A coordinated governance of ecosystem services and non-urban society at local, regional and global levels is needed, involving latest technology and information through urban systems. Thus the second question is to identify what is required for the management of resources in non-urban areas on a global scale.


In many respects, the two questions are driven by urbanization and globalization, so they are the two sides of the same coin. Thus we should reformulate the traditional concept of the 'urban-rural nexus', which did not include the themes relating to the Anthropocene, and create the new terms of reference, which suit the analysis of global environmental sustainability.


My thinking on resource nexus was naturally reflected in my presentations at the public domain. They included a keynote lecture at the opening ceremony of the (newly merged) Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University in May 2017, and panel presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Environmental and Policy Studies in September 2017. An academic forum was organized by the Science Council of Japan in July 2017, involving some RIHN members, from which essays were published in February 2018. I also organized a research meeting on land use among the members of Program 1 in January 2018, involving Nakatsuka, Mizuno and Yoshida project members. With the arrival of Dr. Masuhara, further meetings are scheduled.

○Project Members

Naoki Masuhara ( Research Institute for Humanity and Nature,Senior Researcher )

○Future Themes

International Publication Unit

In April 2017 I proposed to activate discussion on internationalization,  and we invited Dr Paul Kratoska, managing director of NUS (National University of Singapore) Press to discuss the publication strategies of RIHN. Partly inspired by this, an informal working group was set up to discuss the possibility of publishing an independent RIHN journal. The group drafted the scope of the journal, but eventually opted for joining Global Sustainability, a new journal from Cambridge University Press, on the invitation of Dr. Johan Rockström, editor-in-chief. We will be running a collection called ‘humanity and global sustainability’ for it. Professor Yasunari and I became section editors of the journal. Together with the promotion of existing RIHN series (from Springer) and other publications, RIHN decided to set up an 'International Publication Unit', which will commerce its activities in 2018. I will be heading the Unit.


World Social Science Forum

The Fourth World Social Science Forum (WSSF) will take place at Fukuoka in September 2018. I have been involved in the Japanese bid for this international conference as the chairman for the International Collaboration Sub-committee for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Science Council of Japan, and remain a member of the Forum Executive Committee. RIHN has agreed to be a member of the Consortium to support the Forum. Its main theme is security (including environmental security) and equality, and several RIHN applications were accepted at the Scientific Program Committee. Since this is to become the first international conference after the merger between ISSC (International Social Science Council), which was the original host of WSSF, and ICSU, its larger natural science counterpart, the event has become internationally visible, and more interdisciplinary.  We expect a significant presence of RIHN there.


【Original Articles】

Sugihara, K. 2017 “Monsoon Asia, Intra-Regional Trade and Fossil-Fuel-Driven Industrialization”. Gareth Austin (ed.) Economic Development and Environmental History in the Anthropocene: Perspectives on Asia and Africa. Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp.119-144.

Sugihara, K. 2017 “Monsoon Asia, Industrialization and Urbanization: The Making and Unmaking of the Regional Nexus”. RIHN (ed.) RIHN 11th International Symposium Proceedings ‘Asia’s Transformations to Sustainability: Past, Present and Future of the Anthropocene'. pp.67-99.

Research Presentations

【Oral Presentation】

Sugihara, K. “Intra-regional Trade and Labour-intensive Industrialization: A General Discussion”. Workshop on Emerging States in Global Economic History (Part 2), 2018.03.26, RIHN, Kyoto.

Sugihara, K. “Emerging States in Global Economic History”. Workshop on Emerging States in Global Economic History (Part 1), 2018.03.24, GRIPS, Tokyo.

Sugihara, K. “Intra-regional Trade and Labour-intensive Industrialization: A Regional Comparative Perspective and its Implications for the Emerging States”. Workshop for the Emerging States Project (Vol.2), 2018.03.09, GRIPS, Tokyo.

Sugihara, K. “Transition to the Emerging State in History and the Developing World”. Workshop for the Emerging States Project, 2018.02.03, GRIPS, Tokyo. (General meeting with Professors Roy Bin Wong and Dr Chris Baker)

Sugihara, K . “Intra-regional Trade and Labour-intensive Industrialization: A Regional Comparative Perspective and its Implications for the Emerging States”. Workshop for the Emerging States Project, 2018.01.12, GRIPS, Tokyo. (General meeting with Professor Sugata Bose)

Sugihara, K. “Comments on Multiple Payment Systems in Globalizing Economies”. Pre-Conference of the World Economic History Congress 2018 Boston, 2017.12.15-2017.12.16, Kansai University, Osaka.

Sugihara, K. “Urban Living Space as a Factor Endowment: A Note on Asia’s Long-term Development Path”. Workshop on ‘Learning from Historical Tokyo: Implications for Developing Cities’, 2017.06.05, GRIPS, Tokyo.

【Invited Lecture / Honorary Lecture / Panelist】

Sugihara, K. (Organizer, Panelist and Chair) "Roundtable on South Asia, Asia and Global History (with Professor Sugata Bose)”. , 2018.01.14, Center for South Asian Studies, Ryukoku University, Kyoto.

Sugihara, K.(Chair of Session 3 and roundtable discussant) "Trans-scale Solutions for Sustainability". RIHN 12th International Symposium, 2017.12.21-2017.12.22, Kyoto International Conference Hall, Kyoto.