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.

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 Through the networking and research activities that have been funded through the grant, the following key achievements have been made:
1. We have evaluated the potential and limits of social networks, memories and practices in helping communities recover from major external shocks and stresses, by looking in particular at fisheries in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, as an extreme case of long-term environmental and social change. We found that socially and culturally meaningful practices have helped coastal communities to move forwards, but that these practices of 'inherent resilience' cannot be a substitute for substantive long-term state-led support as part of 'building back better';
2. We have elaborated principles for social and natural scientists to work together in more meaningful and practical ways for marine and coastal issues. To do so, we used dialogue-based project workshops to evaluate ongoing research related to the Tomakomai sub-seabed carbon dioxide demonstration project in Hokkaido, northern Japan. We found that early engagement on practical research techniques, and planning opportunities to work together 'in the field', were as valuable ways to build interdisciplinary research as more conceptual discussions on differing knowledge systems.
The grant has been extended to 31 July 2021 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic to allow bilateral travel to Scotland to take place. However, the key objectives of the proposal have already been largely met and evidenced through peer-reviewed publication.
Exploitation Route One of our key outcomes is the principles for interdisciplinary collaboration on marine environmental research, which we hope will be of benefit to natural and social scientists working together to understand the social and environmental impacts of environmental change on the marine and coastal environment. In the paper based on these principles (published in Marine Pollution Bulletin), we outline an incremental approach to interdisciplinary collaboration, which gives practical advice for how researchers from different disciplines can start to work together over time.

Secondly, it is hoped that the peer-reviewed outputs focusing on 'building back better', which were based on the situation in Fukushima Prefecture following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident and were written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, may take on additional significance given the increased policy rhetoric around 'building back better' post-COVID. In particular, the conceptual contributions relating to the value and limitations of inherent community resilience, and around the social and cultural benefits of coastal ecosystem protection and restoration, may provide a basis for others to theorise how coastal communities have coped with a different kind of shock in COVID-19.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://energyvalues.wordpress.com/category/esrc-ahrc-ssh-connections/
 
Description INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS: Project outputs have been cited in policy and practice guidelines at the national and international levels, aimed at people tasked with making decisions about how to help society adapt to shocks and stresses associated with climate and environmental change. The Landscape and Urban Planning paper of Mabon (2019) is cited in the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction's 'Words into Action' guide, The UNDRR guide uses the methodology of Mabon (2019) as an example of the kinds of techniques that can be undertaken to take stock of the qualities in an ecosystem post-disaster as part of 'building back better.' The target audience of the guide is stakeholders of all dimensions (policy, third sector, industry), and the document gives practical guidance to deliver the environmental components of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction. 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. THE GENERAL PUBLIC: in early 2021, PI Mabon gave a public talk to students of Fukushima Prefecture on the ongoing marine contamination situation at the Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear power plant, and its relation to the Sustainable Development Goals. This talk will feed into a voluntary local review of the Sustainable Development Goals being undertaken by university- and high school students in Fukushima Prefecture.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Energy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Citation in UNDRR Words into Action guide on Nature-Based Solutions
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://www.preventionweb.net/publications/view/74082
 
Description Scottish Government-Royal Society of Edinburgh Scotland-Asia Partnerships Higher Education Research Fund
Amount £7,900 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2020 
End 08/2021
 
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 Explainer on treated water releases from Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear plant 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blog post written to explain the current situation at the Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear power plant in Japan, using plain language to engage a non-specialist audience. Post hosted on own blog, but promoted via Future Earth Coasts. Shared on social media (Twitter), where readers reported an increase in awareness as a result of reading the explainer.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.futureearthcoasts.org/explainer-fukushima-coast/
 
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 Invited seminar at Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, Texas A&M University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited seminar on Coastal communities, major environmental change, and inherent resilience: insights from the Fukushima coast, delivered at Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, Texas A&M University, USA, 6 November 2020. The talk sparked discussion and questions about radiation risk and underpinning science more widely.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://youtu.be/LhvbEkJJN94
 
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 Talk to youth of Fukushima to support SDGs voluntary local review 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Mabon gave a talk titled 'Fukushima Dai'ichi and the treated water issue: the social and environmental situation in 2021' to a group of students from Fukushima Prefecture, who are conducting a voluntary local review into the Sustainable Development Goals. The talk was also open to the public, and sparked discussion on the future of the Fukushima coast and the decommissioning of the Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear plant. The findings will feed into a voluntary local review of the SDGs in Fukushima Prefecture, to be released spring 2021.
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
 
Description Young Academy of Scotland Research the Headlines Blog: Water releases at Fukushima nuclear plant 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blog post summarising the latest research underpinning the safety of the planned releases of treated water from the Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The aim of the post was to add context to some of the popular news media reporting around the water releases by providing explanation as to the underpinning science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://researchtheheadlines.org/2020/11/17/will-the-planned-water-releases-from-the-fukushima-daiic...