Introduction to the Institute for Sustainable Community and Risk Management (ISCRM)
The Institute for Sustainable Community and Risk Management was established as one of the project research institutes at Waseda University in 2000, in order to make a contribution to further understanding disaster-affected societies in a sociological view, developing disaster research method and solving disaster-related social problems and risk-management issues (http://www.kikou.waseda.ac.jp/english/index.html). The Institute for Sustainable Community and Risk Management conducts field and survey research on group, organizational and community preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural and technological disasters and other community-wide crises. The researchers have carried out systematic studies on a broad range of disaster types, including earthquakes, typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, and hazardous chemical or nuclear incidents. The Institute has been deeply concerned about the long-term reconstruction processes of communities affected by disasters, especially such as the ones affected by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, Unzen-Fugen volcanic eruption.
In considering the circumstances of disasters in Japan, the 1990s is said to be a turning point. Above all, it was partly because of the characteristics of disasters that occurred frequently since then and partly because of the way in which their social effects appeared as social processes. For example, the eruption disaster of Mount Unzen-Fugen, which occurred at the beginning of the 1990s, is known for the circumstances in which the strained state of damage continued being baffled by pyroclastic flows and debris flows that occurred in succession and the disaster was prolonged. The enlarged and prolonged damages and living crises in the disaster revealed another aspect of a disaster phenomenon to which little attention had been paid before then. Influences of the prolonged disaster changed family relations and economic lives irreversibly, and efforts to recover their lives and to reconstruct their community created longstanding trials and movements by local residents. The prolonged disaster gave rise to dynamic social processes where each particular resident groups had been given a different influence on. After the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake disasters that attacked such a place as isolated islands, depopulated areas, and local cities occurred in succession in the 2000s: the evacuation of the island's entire population for four years and five months due to the eruption of Miyake Island (August 2000), the case of the Chuetsu earthquake in Niigata Prefecture (October 2004) where depopulated areas were devastated severely due to the earthquake, and the case of the Niigata Chuetsu-Oki earthquake (July 2007) where the similar depopulated regional towns were seized with fear of the breakdown of the nuclear power stations. In catastrophic damage to infrastructures that supported communities and in the prospect of a sharp budget cut in local funds throughout the country, important questions are raised such as: what reconstruction of living and community against disasters that attack villages in depopulated areas is, and what problems to be talked over seriously are appear to be on the agenda.
These recent disaster experiences in Japan direct our attention toward various types of precariousness that exist in the social structures of communities and vulnerability individual resident groups have. These disaster experiences also lead to a viewpoint where even under the condition that we have to accept this vulnerability as given we are necessary to ask and to talk over such questions as how living conditions could be restored from there and on what a basis we could do it. When considering long term disaster processes like restoration and reconstruction processes in Asia, this kind of knowledge may probably help to understand deep social influences a disaster has and to depict social problems that they might have and encounter.
Our Objectives: Toward A More Resilient Community
---Vulnerability of local communities, accumulated for a long period of time in the process of economic transformation---
After the World War Two, Japan has seen very dramatic economic changes, such as the rapid economic growth in the 1960s, the oil shock and its following recession in the 1970s, the skyrocketing rise of land prices and the boom years in the 1980s, the glosth ten years of economic struggling in the 1990s after gthe bubble economyh. Local Communities, be it urban or rural, have been forced to change dramatically.
These changes in local communities have tremendous effects on the peoplefs lives and on their hope for the future.
In the course of time, the peoplefs lives have been changing in various ways in terms of economic condition of living and desired lifestyles. Even if they continue to have a sense, if any, of belonging to the same community, each of them has been getting to a different social position, a different affection of culture and seeking for a different way of life. In addition to this, there has been lots of population movement. New comers from different areas with different backgrounds have been getting into the same district to live with. These community conditions lead to the lack of living-together feelings and the incapability of solving their own community problems in cooperation. Under these conditions it is getting more and more difficult for the local residents to get together in order to prepare for, respond to, and recover from community-wide crises.
How to deal with these situations is a focal point of disaster-preparedness and mitigation of the times. Our institution intends to make a contribution to enriching the knowledge of disaster studies, to understanding well the torment of the people in the disaster-affected societies, and to promoting practical procedures in order to better deal with disaster-related social issues.
ISCRM holds several conferences and lectures every year in addition to regular meetings which are held at almost once a month pace. While most of the staff are majoring in sociology, some are urban planners, disaster managers, and social activists. So we could have a fruitful discussion in regard to a variety of disaster-related fields. ISCRM research yields both basic social science knowledge on disasters and information that can be applied to develop more effective plans and policies to reduce disaster impacts. The Institute has its own book, monograph, and report series. Besides maintaining its own databases, ISCRM serves as a repository for materials collected by other agencies and researchers. ISCRM 's specialized library, which contains mainly Japanese and Asian collection on the social and behavioral aspects of disasters--now numbering more than 3,000 items?and which also gives information about the studies of other countries through internet (http://db2.littera.waseda.ac.jp/saigai/index.htm ), is open to both interested scholars and agencies involved in emergency management.