Building social resilience to environmental change in marginalised coastal communities

Lead Research Organisation: The Robert Gordon University
Department Name: School of Applied Social Studies

Abstract

This project lays the groundwork for interdisciplinary collaboration on building social resilience in marginalised coastal communities. Seas and coasts can make a significant contribution to building a more sustainable society through, for example, low-carbon energy, resource provision and disaster risk reduction. At the same time, however, coastal communities may be more vulnerable to climate change risks or to negative effects from new offshore and coastal developments. In line with Sustainable Development Goal 14, there is hence a need to more fully understand how to manage society's relation with the sea in a way that benefits those who are most directly connected to the sea.

This proposal therefore takes two countries with a strong social, cultural and economic connection to the sea - Scotland and Japan - and connects researchers working in the common direction of understanding and governing environmental change in seas and coasts. The overall objective of the project is to clarify how different disciplinary backgrounds - environmental sociology, geography, marine law, coastal zone management, environmental science communication, and marine science for environmental assessment - can work together to more effectively understand how environmental change affects coastal communities, and connect these findings with legal and environmental assessment and monitoring processes. The intended outcome is a conceptual and methodological framework, which will form the basis of subsequent larger funding proposals and more extensive empirical research.

Key to attaining this objective is the development of initial links established by PI Mabon and Japanese Co-PI Kawabe with coastal communities in both Japan and Scotland. Specifically, Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture and Tomakomai in Hokkaido in Japan; and Orkney and Aberdeenshire in Scotland. In the project, these will be used as cast study areas for site visits, allowing project researchers to understand what kind of research would be feasible in follow-on funding and crucially allowing opportunity for interaction with local stakeholders to co-create new research questions ahead of more extensive research. This will be achieved through bilateral visits, and also through a longer-term academic visit between RGU and TUMSAT which emphasises development of early-career researchers and building of links with non-academic partners.

Significant emphasis is placed on involvement and development of early-career researchers able to take an interdisciplinary approach to resilience in coastal communities. To this end, one early-career researcher from each country is included as a Co-Investigator, and budget is requested to allow a small number of additional ECRs to join the site visits and workshops during each bilateral visit.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this activity?

The following groups are envisioned as benefitting from this activity: (a) academics and researchers working on issues related to resilience in coastal contexts - not just from a natural science perspective but also from the natural sciences (see 'Academic Beneficiaries' above); (b) local governments and civil society groups working at the local level to manage the social effects of environmental change (e.g. community groups, non-governmental organisations); (c) practitioners (e.g. industry organisations, developers) looking to build consent and social licence to implement low-carbon/sustainable developments in coasts and seas.

How will they benefit from this activity?

Academics will benefit - as outlined in the 'Academic Beneficiaries' section - from the contributions made to scholarly exchange through development of a conceptual framework, and from opportunities to participate in follow-on projects expanding beyond the core team developed during this project. Local governments and civil society will benefit from the opportunity to engage with researchers right at the outset of the problem formation stage, ensuring research questions and outputs from subsequent research are able to address local requirements. Practitioners will benefit from an understanding of how societal concerns can be better addressed within environmental assessment processes, so as to be able to tailor communication and monitoring requirements to address citizen and stakeholder concerns.

What will be done to ensure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this activity?

As outlined in 'Academic Beneficiaries', opportunities for benefit to academics and researchers will come through: (a) peer-reviewed publication, made open-access through RGU's OpenAIR repository; (b) shorter outputs (e.g. site visit reports) posted on PI Mabon's research blog (energyvalues.wordpress.com); and (c) engagement in outputs and subsequent research needs at key conferences. In this regard, to go beyond one-way communication and actively engage the wider research community in subsequent research on coastal resilience involving the UK and Japan (and beyond), it is proposed to host an afternoon workshop at the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland to coincide with RGU joining the MASTS alliance.

Benefit to local government and civil society will come through face-to-face meetings during project field visits. These will take the form of facilitated workshops, during which the project research team will learn about the local situation through discussion with relevant stakeholders, then work together to elaborate information needs and research questions. The conditions for allowing such dialogue to happen will be created by drawing on links already established during initial collaboration between the investigators and the locals, e.g. with Minamisoma City Government via TUMSAT and with Orkney Islands via RGU's Orkney Project.

Benefit to practitioners will be realised in the first instance through the involvement of two practitioner-academics (Kita and Onchi) within the research team. As marine scientists undertaking environmental impact assessments themselves, participation in the project will develop connections and insights as to how assessments may be tailored to best benefit communities and stakeholders. There will also be opportunities for face-to-face briefing sessions with regulators and developer groups (e.g. Engineering Advancement Association of Japan; Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science and Technology; Marine Scotland) which can be built in to existing ongoing work Co-PIs Mabon and Kawabe have with these organisations.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
ES/S013296/1 01/01/2019 31/10/2019 £50,304
ES/S013296/2 Transfer ES/S013296/1 01/12/2019 31/07/2021 £39,090
 
Description The project has so far focused on how inherent resilience - informal coping strategies which communities use to cope with environmental shocks and stresses - might operate under situations of unprecedented and potentially irreversible environmental change. We have focused mainly on the coastal area of Fukushima Prefecture in Japan as a case study area. Our findings so far indicate that social and cultural practices associated with inherent resilience can motivate post-disaster revitalisation by sustaining a sense of pride and identity, but that major and long-term environmental change can make it impossible to sustain community relations and socially/culturally meaningful activities. Our research also shows the importance of attention to youth as a significant group in the recovery of a locality, and the involvement of all stakeholders (including local government), and for continued critical scrutiny over who gets to define the 'social capital' or 'resilience' of a community.

Moreover, we have also sought to better understand how natural and social scientists can meaningfully work together for research into the marine environment. Our project progress to date has identified several areas of possible synergy. These are: (a) the potential for social and natural scientists to work more closely when engaging with people whose livelihoods are linked to the coasts and seas; (b) the role that researchers from a natural science background can have in building relationships with and collating local knowledge from stakeholders such as fishers; and (c) the value that social sciences can bring to helping to think through the longer-term implications of natural science research within a community.
Exploitation Route We would hope that the principles for social and natural scientists to work together on marine environmental research will be a useful guide for other interdisciplinary research teams looking for ways to more meaningfully integrate different disciplinary approaches within their research design for marine and coastal issues. We do not intend these principles to be descriptive, rather they are meant to act as a stimulus for discussion within research teams on how different specialisations and skill sets may work more closely together.

Similarly, we would hope that the conceptual insights into inherent resilience developed during the project will be of interest to other researchers from across the social and environmental sciences working in locations experiencing major and unprecedented environmental change.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment

URL https://energyvalues.wordpress.com/category/esrc-ahrc-ssh-connections/
 
Description LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND STAKEHOLDERS: a briefing session was delivered by PI Mabon and Co-PI Kawabe to representatives of Minamisoma City Government and the Soma-Futaba Fisheries Cooperative in February 2019. The briefing session, facilitated via the Revitalisation Approach of Minamisoma grant co-funding our project, provided advice to the local government and the fisheries cooperative on branding marine produce and communicating safety of Fukushima fish and seafood. INDUSTRY: two briefings have been delivered to the Japan CCS Company (one in September 2019, one in January 2020) into risk communication for new technologies in the marine environment (specifically, sub-seabed carbon dioxide capture and storage), based on field visits and desk research into social media outputs undertaken as part of the grant. These briefings shared research insights into the role of trust in communicating messages about risk and difficulties around communicating uncertainty; and informed public engagement strategies within JCCS. COMMUNITIES: a visit was undertaken in January 2020 to Naraha Town in Futaba County, Fukushima Prefecture; and specifically to the Naranoha community organisation. PI Mabon was filmed for the local 'Naraha Channel' community social media channel, discussing his research findings in Japanese. Through discussions of the similarities between Naraha and Scottish coastal communities facilitated by the visit, participating community members had an opportunity to share experiences of living through social and environmental change. COMMUNITIES: similarly, in January 2020 PI Mabon visited Yubari City in Hokkaido, and delivered a community-focused seminar to the Shimizusawa Project non-governmental organisation in Japanese. The connection with Yubari, which was initiated by PI Mabon on a previous UKRI-supported grant (2016 EPSRC UKCCSRC International Collaboration Award), was reinforced through the current UK-Japan grant, and allowed Shimizusawa Project to develop a relationship with community organisations in Aberdeen which has subsequently expanded into arts-based collaboration between organisations in the two cities.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Marine Ecology Research Institute 
Organisation Marine Ecology Research Institute
Country Japan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Dr Mabon is Principal Investigator for the award via SAMS (formerly RGU) and is hence responsible for overseeing the grant.
Collaborator Contribution MERI are Co-Investigators are support with integration of social and natural science.
Impact Collaboration multi-disciplinary: involves environmental social science and human geography (SAMS/RGU); marine law (RGU); integrated coastal zone management (TUMSAT); marine science (TUMSAT, via Co-Is Kohno and Katano); and marine biology/environmental assessment (MERI, via Co-Is Kita and Onchi).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology 
Organisation Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr Mabon is Principal Investigator for the award via SAMS (formerly RGU) and is hence responsible for overseeing the grant.
Collaborator Contribution TUMSAT are Co-Principal Investigators for the award, and are responsible - via Co-PI Midori Kawabe - for overseeing the Japan-based elements of the research.
Impact Collaboration multi-disciplinary: involves environmental social science and human geography (SAMS/RGU); marine law (RGU); integrated coastal zone management (TUMSAT); marine science (TUMSAT, via Co-Is Kohno and Katano).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Climate change mitigation and adaptation in coastal communities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Mabon delivered a guest lecture at United Nations University-Institute for Advanced Study of Sustainability on 17 January 2020, which identified areas of common interest around resilience and climate adaptation for follow-on research and also delivered training to 10 postgraduate students in climate change mitigation and adaptation in coastal and marine environments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Fossil Fuels and Local Identity 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Mabon delivered a community seminar in Japanese on the theme of 'Fossil Fuels and Local Identity'. This provided an opportunity for mutual sharing of experiences of social and environmental change for participating citizens, and led to interest in future more expansive transdisciplinary collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.shimizusawa.com/news/8291.html
 
Description Invited Talk at Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh's 'An Evening on Fukushima' Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The purpose of the event was to raise awareness and understanding among the general public in Edinburgh and Scotland more widely on the situation in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, in 2019. Dr Leslie Mabon delivered a talk on greenspace and environmental management for post-disaster resilience, based on review work conducted as part of his ESRC-AHRC UK-Japan SSH Connections grant. This was followed by a film screening of 'Over the Sky' and 'Passing the Baton', two documentaries produced by US-based Japanese filmmaker Toko Shiiki - who also attended and provided a commentary on her films. Both presentations sparked questions and discussion afterwards. Postgraduate-level university students attending the talk were particularly interested in Dr Mabon's work, which led to increased engagement on social media and an invite to be interviewed for a university student research project.

The event formed part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-20.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.edinburgh.uk.emb-japan.go.jp/itpr_ja/00_000454.html
 
Description Naraha Channel appearance 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Mabon was filmed on 26 January 2020 for a segment on 'Naraha Channel,' a web-based community TV channel hosted on YouTube for the community of Naraha Town, Futaba County, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. In the segment - filmed in Japanese - Dr Mabon discusses his research to date in Naraha following the lifting in 2015 of the town's evacuation order that had been in place since the 2011 nuclear accident. The filming process inspired questions from participating community members about daily life in Scotland's coastal communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation to fishers and local government in Kashima Fishing Port, Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Project PI Dr Mabon and Project Co-PI Prof Kawabe visited Kashima Fishing Port in Minamisoma City in Fukushima Prefecture on Tuesday 19 March 2019. The purpose of their visit was to present the concept of their ESRC-AHRC UK-Japan SSH Connections grant on 'Building social resilience to environmental change in marginalised coastal communities' to fishers and management staff from the Kashima Fisheries Cooperative, and to staff from Minamisoma City Government. Dr Mabon and Prof Kawabe provided short presentations (approx. 10 minutes in Japanese) to the group, after which time they discussed the project with the assembled fishers, fisheries cooperative staff, and city government officials. Dr Mabon also took the opportunity to present initial findings from a project into local identity and social media images of marine produce, which was undertaken as part of the Revitalisation Approach of Minamisoma-supported project he and Prof Kawabe undertook, and which will be developed further during the ESRC-AHRC project.

The subsequent group discussion helped to identify areas of interest which Dr Mabon and Prof Kawabe could explore during their research to generate insights valuable to the fishing communities. As a result of the session, the younger fishers in particular expressed interest in learning more about how they could utilise social media to develop a local post-disaster fisheries identity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Public Outreach Forum for Geologic Carbon Storage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Dr Mabon was an expert panelist at the workshop 'Public Outreach Forum for Geologic Carbon Storage', held by the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taipei, Taiwan on 6 February 2020. During this, he shared insights on communicating risk and community engagement for sub-seabed carbon dioxide storage developed through the UK-Japan SSH grant. Audience members reported increased knowledge of some of the challenges of public engagement for carbon dioxide storage, and learning from international experiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Reseach blog related to the project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact PI Mabon provides periodical updates on project progress via his own personal research blog, within which he has assigned a category specific to the UK-Japan grant for ease of finding posts:

https://energyvalues.wordpress.com/category/esrc-ahrc-ssh-connections/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://energyvalues.wordpress.com/category/esrc-ahrc-ssh-connections/
 
Description Research design for marine social science 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Mabon delivered a postgraduate research design workshop at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, which provided training to 9 Masters-level students in the Department of Marine Policy and Culture in research design for marine social science. Students reported they found the presentation useful, and would incorporate the strategies into their own research design for their MSc theses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description The sea, food and fishers' lives in Fukushima 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Mabon delivered a guest talk on the sea, food and fishers' lives in Fukushima as part of the 'Japan Events in Glasgow' series organised by University of Glasgow within the Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-20.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020