Research Program 1

Societal Transformation under Environmental Change

Program Director

SUGIHARA Kaoru

RIHN

Trained in Japan (Doctorate at the University of Tokyo), I have held positions at the History Department of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, the Graduate School of Economics, University of Tokyo, and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (Japan). My research concerns the history of intra-Asian trade and labor-intensive industrialization in the last two centuries. I am currently working on the economic and environmental history of Monsoon Asia in long-term perspective. I also act as Vice-Chair of the Future Earth Committee of the Science Council of Japan.

Researchers
MASUHARA NaokiSenior Researcher
YAMAMOTO AyaResearch Associate

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.

To demonstrate the fundamental significance of global environmental sustainability for human society, we need to make intellectually explicit the links between environmental change and natural disasters on the one hand, and social issues such as livelihood, inequality, social security and conflict on the other, and reinforce understanding of these links 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 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. 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.

Recent land development activities in some parts of tropical peatlands have led to unpreceded scales of forest fire incidents, which are a serious health threat to people of local areas and neighboring countries. This photograph shows a peatland fire in Riau Province, Sumatra Island, Indonesia.

Recent land development activities in some parts of tropical peatlands have led to unpreceded scales of forest fire incidents, which are a serious health threat to people of local areas and neighboring countries. This photograph shows a peatland fire in Riau Province, Sumatra Island, Indonesia.

Program seminar at RIHN, 29th January 2018

Program seminar at RIHN, 29th January 2018

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Research Program 2

Fair Use and Management of Diverse Resources

Program Director

NAKASHIZUKA Tohru

RIHN

Tohru Nakashizuka has studied forest ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem services at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Kyoto University as well as at Tohoku University. At RIHN, he is to study wise and fair use of diverse resources.

Researchers
KOBAYASHI KunihikoResearcher
SHIBATA ReiResearcher
KARATSU FukikoResearch Associate

Global environmental problems are inter-related. Studies concentrating on single issues are often not effective; consideration of inter-linkages of multiple resources involving stakeholders are essential. Recently, the nexus structure linking energy, water and food production has become a prominent area of study, but truly sustainable societies require more comprehensive understandings of the ecological resources that provide ecosystem services and cultural resources. The production, circulation and consumption of resources should be discussed in a wide range of spatial scales, and stakeholders should be involved in these discussions. Sustainable use of resources requires fair and wise systems and proper indices to manage these processes.

In particular, it is necessary to transform existing socio-economic or human behavioral systems to new systems that pay greater attention to renewable natural resources, as these have sometimes been externalized from conventional economics. Asia is experiencing rapid change in economy, urbanization and population, though traditional techniques for sustainable resource management, associated with the relatively rich humanospere and cultural background in this region, also survive. Studies of such experience of resource use in Asia may thus give important suggestions to sustainability in general.

RIHN research projects have accumulated information and suggestions necessary for this transformation, though gaps remain. Program Two therefore explores wise and fair management systems capable of addressing multiple resource-uses by multiple stakeholders, in multi-spatial scales. We encourage new project proposals including those by innovative young scientists addressing such novel and under-examined subjects. Internal Program discussion will address the conditions necessary for transforming values and human behavior, as we propose new indices and institutions for fair resource management.

In fiscal 2017, we conducted a research review on the issue of equity in relation to the concept of fair use. We considered several dimensions of equity, including (1) economic equity related to the burdens and benefits of resource use, and procedural equity focusing on procedures for making such decisions; (2) the question of equity between whom, for instance, between modern generations, modern generation and future generations and human society and natural society; and (3) the question of who will or should evaluate equity is also an important element. In addition, in our first year of activity we also established a framework for understanding fair use.

Agricultural land in India

Agricultural land in India

Logging of tropical rain forest in Malaysia

Logging of tropical rain forest in Malaysia

Palm oil factory in Malaysia

Palm oil factory in Malaysia

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Research Program 3

Designing Lifeworlds of Sustainability and Wellbeing

Program Director

SAIJO Tatsuyoshi

RIHN

Tatsuyoshi Saijo (4th from left) specializes in designing social systems that promote sustainability and equity without inhibiting individual incentive. His interest is in developing the field of “Future Design”, one that links the happiness and wellbeing of current generation to that of future generations.


More than 60% of the world’s population resides in Asia and over a third of global economic activity occurs there. Asia is comprised of an incredible diversity of cultures, histories, societies, economies, livelihoods, and ecologies. Asia is also affected by myriad global and local environmental issues, such as population increase, air, water, soil, and coastal pollution, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity loss. The region is also affected by growing wealth disparity, social isolation, rising levels of poverty, and the disappearance of traditional cultures and knowledge. The combination of migration between the countryside and cities, rural depopulation, and urban concentration is accompanied by rapid socio-cultural change, over-exploitation of resources, and deterioration of natural environments. Both urban and rural lifeworlds are disintegrating rapidly.

As a consequence, in reconstructing the lifeworld concept and highlighting the reciprocal linkages between rural and urban spaces, Program 3 designs lifeworlds of sustainability and wellbeing and co-creates concrete pathways for their realization. Program research is based on the diverse world-views and accumulation of experience of human-nature co-existence. These latent socio-cultural elements, such as livelihood styles, lay knowledge, conflict resolution strategies, and the vitality of the people themselves can be called upon to address contemporary problems and to help chart a course toward possible future societies. Program 3 builds upon these experiences and knowledges of human-nature interaction to propose concrete changes needed to achieve a sustainable society.

The transformations and frameworks leading to sustainable urban and rural lifeworld design, will also entail fundamental shifts in existing economic systems, markets, and political decision-making systems. Rather than investigating top-down approaches to system change, Program3 will work with local residents, government officials, companies, citizen groups and other stakeholders to propose sustainable alternatives and gauge their feasibility.

In order to avoid the risk of developing proposals that are only applicable to specific regions or sites, Program3 will aim for research results that are generalizable while also retain the diversity at the heart of local lifeworlds and wellbeing.

The varieties of fruits and vegetables for sale at the market in Kanchanaburi reflect Thailand’s changing society

The varieties of fruits and vegetables for sale at the market in Kanchanaburi reflect Thailand’s changing society

Socialization of composting type toilet in Burkina Faso, Photo by ITO Ryusei

Socialization of composting type toilet in Burkina Faso, Photo by ITO Ryusei

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