○Research Subject and Objectives
Our “lifeworlds” are
composed of the physical spaces and socio-cultural spheres of our
everyday lives. They are continually reproduced, reimagined, and
evolving through an interactive and reflexive relationship with society,
culture, and nature. Program 3 proposes research aimed at illuminating
reciprocal linkages between diverse rural and urban lifeworlds and
contributing to the solution of sustainability problems by working with
various societal partners such as governments, companies, and citizen
groups. Special emphasis is placed on envisioning sustainable
futures that improve wellbeing and gauging their feasibility.
○Progress and Results in 2017
1. General Structure of Activities in Program 3
One of our underlying activities of program 3 is a monthly meeting with members of the FEAST project (Lifeworlds of Sustainable Food Consumption and Production: Agrifood Systems in Transition) led by Steven R. McGreevy and the Sanitation Value Chain project (The Sanitation Value Chain: Designing Sanitation Systems as Eco-Community-Value System) led by Naoyuki Funamizu. In each meeting, members reported problems of on-going research projects, gave mini-lectures of their current research results, publication information, forthcoming events, and so on. The discussion always went beyond each project, and members of each project began to share the ideas of members of other projects and research methods. This is one of the greatest achievements of this fiscal year.
2. Methodology and Fundamental Framework in Program 3
In this environment, we started focusing upon the methodology and/or fundamental framework beyond each project, and considering research framework of Research Institute for Humanity and Nature beyond program 3. I would like to summarize what we talked and considered this year in the following.
2-1. What have we been doing?
Studies of planetary boundaries such as Rockstrom et al. (Nature, 2009) can be regarded as the evaluation of natural science after the Industrial Revolution. Reduction in biodiversity has already passed the tipping point, and the circulation of nitrogen and phosphorous is almost beyond the tipping points. In addition, yellow signals are also associated with climate change.
Next, let us see the relationship between human development index (HDI) and ecological footprint (EFP) per capita in each country. The main constituent elements of HDI are the life expectancy of the country, the level of education, and income per capita, i.e., the wellbeing of the country. On the other hand, EFP is an indicator of sustainability, showing whether the country lives in less than one Earth. Developing countries have low HDI and EFP, whereas developed countries have high values of both indicators. The target should be low EFP and high HDI, but no countries are heading for the target area. This relationship is an evaluation of social sciences, and together with the evaluation of the planetary boundaries, we must say that we are threatening our own survival.
On the other hand, the debt outstanding of major countries is huge. The sovereign debt in Japan is over 200% of GDP, over 100% in the United States, and around 70% in Germany. We, current generation, deprive future generations’ various resources of without remorse. In the case of Japan, in order to resolve the outstanding debt, the consumption tax must be raised to 30% and this must continue for a hundred years (Hansen et al. (Rev. Econ. Dyn., 2016) , Keiichiro Kobayashi, Economics of Time, forthcoming). Which generation will proceed to do this?
2-2. Why did these happen?
Maggio et al. (Fuel, 2012) forecasts the peak of production of oil, coal and natural gas. We can read that this research shows past, present and future of fossil fuel. The amount of coal we will burn in the first half of the 21st century is about 1.7 times the amount of coal burned in the 20th century. This ratio is 1.5 for petroleum, and about 3 for natural gas. In other words, in the 20th century, fossil fuel is in the run-up period, which shows that this century is the heyday of fossil fuel.
Why can’t we stop emitting greenhouse gases? Our starting point is our human nature. According to Sapolsky (SciAm, 2012), humans have three oddities. The first is contrast. Our five senses respond not to absolute values, but to their changes. When we hear loud noise or the outside gets dark suddenly, we respond naturally (or by default) to increase self-viability. This property can also be read as the principle of optimality in the sense that it does not react unless external factors change. The second is sociality. Humans dominate other animals by using cooperation among them, and then stand at the top of the pyramid of the food chain. However, sociality requires some education and experience, and we cannot learn instantaneously. The third is impulse. For example, we cannot restrain ourselves when presented with delicious food. I would like to add optimism to these. We are creatures who forget something awful in the past, pursue pleasure now, and consider the future optimistically in order to increase survival probabilities in the process of our evolution (Curr. Biol., Sharot (2011) ).
It would be natural to think that our nature including these four properties is the background for our basic social systems such as market and democracy. Let us first consider the market. Market is “an excellent device to realize short-run desire of people,” but not “a device to allocate resources with future generations in mind” (e.g., Krutilla (1967)). Future generations cannot participate in modern markets. Meanwhile, Democracy is “a device to realize benefit for currently living people”, but not “a device to include future generations” (e.g., Pigou(1952)). Nobody will win an election proposing well-being of people in a century later.
After the industrial revolution, various innovations happened and we started using a large amount of fossil fuel, and this drastic change strengthened contrast, impulse, and optimism, and weakened sociality. The nature of such transfigured humans will further transform markets, democracy, and innovation. Our nature that has changed as such further changes the market, democracy, and innovation. Through these cycles, have we been changing our society oriented toward unlimited growth together with future failures? (See Figure 2). When we consider lifeworlds in projects, we must consider these trends and effects in their local sites.
2-3. Problems of methodology in Future Earth and Futurability
In 2012, Future Earth is organized as an international research platform that creates knowledge and actions to accelerate the transformation into a sustainable society, and has been in operation since 2015. One of the fundamental ideas of Future Earth is transdisciplinary research. Stakeholders and scientists co-design research projects, co-produce knowledge and co-deliver results. However, both stakeholders and scientists are the current generation and there is a possibility that future generations will be losers even if they become win-win by actions in line with their incentives. In other words, the stakeholders that should be included are future generations, and the target to be changed is the way of thinking and behavior of the present generation.
We say that an individual exhibits futurability when (s)he experiences an increase in happiness as a result of deciding and acting to forego current benefits as long as it enriches future generations (Saijo, ed., Future Design, forthcoming from Springer). Parents can reduce their own foods and make them happy by giving it to their children. The fundamental question is whether we can extend this concept to future generations without being related to blood. The background of this setting is that there is a deep concern for the concept of sustainable development in Our Common Future, which the Brundtland Commission summarized (meeting the needs of the currentgeneration without compromising future generations' needs) is there. For example, in resolving the aforementioned debt outstanding, it is impossible to reduce the burden of future generations without incurring a heavy burden on the current generation.
Even if we have futurability, it is not easy to activate it. Is it possible to build or design lifeworlds or society, that strengthens sociality and weakens contrast, impulse, and optimism? This line of research is important in each project although we have not been pursuing this avenue this year. Or, is it possible to change market and democracy toward futurability?(See Figure 3). This could be beyond Program 3, but we could find clues to change our fundamental social systems through designing local lifeworlds.
Both FEAST and Sanitation members shared the way of thinking described above. In other words, we in program 3 have a common ground for our research. Since this year is my first year at RIHN, this is a wonderful step forward for the members and me.
3. Support for IS and FS projects
I participated in numerous workshops of IS and FS projects that intended to be projects of Program 3 and gave comments and advices. In addition to this activity, I personally talked with leaders of the IS and FS projects.
1. “Human” and “Future”
As I described in the previous section, Lifeworlds, Sustainability, Wellbeing, and Design are key words in program 3. The other two dimensions are “human” and “Future”. The human part includes human characteristics such as futurability, sociality, empathy and so on. Without considering human nature, we would not be able to find or design a path to sustainable lifeworlds. The future part is also important. In order to change “business as usual”, we must change and design our basic social systems for our future. That is, designing future will be a key element in the future projects in program 3.
2. What are the variables?
This point is related to the above. When we analyse our systems or societies, the first one is whether we consider the way of thinking of players or people as given or not. For example, keeping mobility using electric cars is one way, and the other way is to redesign cities themselves not to use personal mobility method such as cars. The second one is whether we consider the current social systems such as market and democracy as given or not. Figure 4 shows these two factors. Traditional social sciences regard both institutions and the way of thinking of people as given, and then find what have been happening.
Mechanism design in social science is an approach to attain social objectives such equity and efficiency designing or re-designing social systems given the way of thinking of people. So far as I know, Future Earth’s transformation approach seems that it implicitly treats market and democracy as given and then tries to change the way of thinking of people. On the other hand, Future Design uses both of them as variables. In order to find an avenue for sustainable future, we re-design social systems to change the way of thinking of people. Program 3 will carefully choose proposals fitting into the green part in Figure 4.
【Invited Lecture / Honorary Lecture / Panelist】