In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that devastated part of northeastern Japan in March 2011, proposals for reconstruction and rehabilitation are still subjects of debate. The claim by many climate scientists that large-scale extreme events can be expected in the future, with similar catastrophic effects in coastal areas, suggests the need for long-term planning that aims at building resilience, the ability for socio-ecological systems to withstand and recover quickly from natural disasters, and continue to develop. We hypothesize that ecosystems and socio-economic resilience will provide affected communities with flexible barriers against future disasters and greater protection in the long run than will hard/engineering solutions such as high seawalls aimed at ensuring only physical security. Building social/ecological resilience in the Tohoku region will increase general security and is anticipated also to contribute to an enhanced quality of life now and for generations to come. This paper argues that building resilience in the affected area requires a transformation to sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries and we describe how the links between satoyama and satoumi, traditional rural territorial and coastal landscapes in Japan, can contribute to this revitalization and to strengthening the relationship between local residents and the landscape in the affected communities. Decision makers at local, regional and national levels need to take a holistic approach based on sustainability science to understand the inter-relationships between these landscapes and ecosystems to develop a robust rebuilding plan for the affected communities. Moreover, this paper suggests that building resilient communities in Japan that demonstrate the strategic benefits of satoyama and satoumi linkages can be a model for building resilient rural and urban communities throughout the world.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Statistics provided by the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan. Communication of April 9, 2013, in Japanese.
For examples of engineering approaches to the promotion of sustainable development, see Kauffman and Lee 2013.
For other examples of regime shifts in terrestrial and aquatic environments due to human intervention and in relation to resilience of complex adaptive ecosystems. See Folke et al. 2004.
The reference includes many examples of regime shifts in ecosystems and addresses conditions that result from human interventions that can make ecosystems more vulnerable to changes that previously could be absorbed.
Tidball (2012) suggests that “when humans, faced with urgent disaster or hazard situations, as individuals and as communities and populations, seek out doses of contact and engagement with nature to further their efforts to summon and demonstrate resilience in the face of a crisis, they exemplify an urgent biophilia.” The idea of “biophilia” comes from Wilson’s (1984) hypothesis that there is an instinctive urge in humans to affiliate with other living systems.
Held at Arizona State University, February 20–23, 2012, see www.icss2012.edu.
Issues discussed in meetings with stakeholders and local residents in Kesennuma January 22, 2014. Report of meeting sponsored by Sustainability Science Council (SSC) of Japan to Integrated Research for Sustainability Science (IR3S) program, The University of Tokyo. (Unpublished). See also Asahi Shimbun (2014) Editorial: Residents’ views should come first in Tohoku reconstruction work. March 11. Online at www.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201403110035.
Elinore Ostrom (1933–2012) winner of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economics in 2009 created a new theory of the commons which challenged the long-held theory of Garret Hardin known as “The Tragedy of the Commons”, which held that the protection of public (common) places required the assignment of property rights or other government regulation. In contrast to Hardin’s theory Ostrom found that people can and often do manage efficiently common resources like forests and fisheries independent of government intervention.
T. Elmqvist made the comment during a planning meeting on resilience and recovery in the aftermath of the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami held at UNU, Tokyo. See, also, Tuvendal and Elmqvist 2012.
These issues were discussed with stakeholders and representatives of three non-profit organizations in Miyagi Prefecture January 22, 2014. “Experts Meeting on enhancing resilience and local sustainabilty for the great east Japan earthquake disaster-affected areas” report, on file at IR3S Program, The University of Tokyo.
Adger NW, Hughes TP, Folke C, Carpenter SR, Rockstrom J (2005) Social-ecological resilience to coastal disasters. Science 309(5737):1036–1039
Armitage D, Béné C, Charles AT, Johnson D, Allison EH (2012) The interplay of well-being and resilience in applying a social-ecological perspective. Ecol Soc 17(4):15. Available at 10.5751/ES-04940-170415
Asahi Shimbun Editorial (2014) Residents’ views should come first in Tohoku reconstruction. March 11, 2014. Available at www.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ20140310035
Asia Air Survey Co Ltd (2013) Impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake on the Natural Environment in Tohoku Coastal Regions. Ministry of Environment, Biodiversity Center Center of Japan
Berkes F (1993) Traditional ecological knowledge in perspective. In: Inglis JT (ed) Traditional ecological knowledge: concepts and cases. Canadian Museum of Nature/International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, pp 1–9 (cited in Folke 2009)
Bird W (2013) Post-tsunami Japan’s plans to rebuild coast in concrete. Yale Environment 360: May 16, 2013. Available at www.japanFocus.org/site/make_pdf/3945
Chapin III FS, Power ME, Pickett STA, Freitag A, Reynolds JA, Jackson RB, Lodge DM, Duke C, Collins SL, Power AG, Bartuska A (2011) Earth Stewardship: science for action to sustain the human-earth system. Ecosphere 2:art89. 10.1890/ES11-00166.1
Dessai S, van der Shiejs J (2007) Uncertainty and climate change adaptation—a scoping study. Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development and Innovation. pp 7–9, 33–59
Dessai S, O’Brien K, Hulme M (2007) Editorial: on uncertainty and climate change. Glob Environ Change 17:1–3
Duraiappah AK, Muñoz P (2012) Inclusive wealth: a tool for the United Nations. Environ Dev Econ 17(03):362–367. doi:10.1017/S135577OX12000150
Duraiappaah AK, Nakamura K, Takeuchi K, Watanabe M, Nishi M (2012) Satoyama–Satoumi ecosystems and human well-being. United Nations University Press, Tokyo
Duraiappah AK, Nakamura K (2012). The Japan Satoyama Satoumi Assessment: Objectives, Focus and Approach. In: Duraiappah et al. (ed) Satoyama–Satoumi ecosystems and human well being. United Nations University Press, Tokyo, p 6
Duraiappah AK, Asah ST, Brondizio ES, Kosoy N, O’Farrell PJ, Prieur-Richard A-H, Subramanian SM, Takeuchi K (2014) Managing the mismatches to provide ecosystem services for human well-being: a conceptual framework for understanding the New Commons. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (7): 94–100. Available at www.sciencedirect.com
Elmqvist T (2013) Urban Sustainability and Resilience—why we need to focus on scales. The Nature of Cities. Available at www.thenatureofcities.com/2013/03/27
Elmqvist T, Folke C, Nystrom M, Peterson G, Bengtsson J et al (2003) Response diversity and ecosystem resilience. Front Ecol Environ 1:488–494
Elmqvist T, Fragkias M, Goodness J, Guneralp B, Marcotullio PJ, McDonald RI, Parnell S, Schewenius M, Sendstad M, Seto KC, Wilkinson C (2013) Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities. Springer, Dordrecht. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-7088-1_1
Fisher NS, Beaugelin-Seiller K, Hinton TG, Baumann Z, Madigan DJ, Garnier-Laplace J (2013) Evaluation of radiation doses and associated risk from the Fukushima nuclear accident to marine biota and human consumers of seafood. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110(26):10670–10675. Available at pnas.org/content/110/26/10670.short
Folke C (2006) Resilience: the emergence of a perspective for social-ecological systems analyses. Glob Environ Change 16:253–267
Folke C, Carpenter S, Walker B, Scheffer M, Elmqvist T, Gunderson L, Holling CS (2004) Regime shifts, resilience and biodiversity in ecosystem management. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 35:557–581. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.35.021103.105711
Folke C, Carpenter SR, Walker B, Scheffer M, Chapin T, Rockström J (2010) Resilience thinking: integrating resilience, adaptability and transformability. Ecol Soc 15(4):20. http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss4/art20/
Fukushi K (2014) Post-disaster reconstruction of the region for sustainable and resilient society. Presentation at the Symposium on Sustainability and Resilience, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan. Sustainability Science Consortium of Japan. January 22
Gadgil M, Berkes F, Folke C (1993) Indigenous knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Ambio 22:151–156
Gunderson LH, Holling CS (eds) (2002) Panarchy: understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Island Press, Washington
Gunderson LH, Pritchard L (eds) (2002) Resilience and the behavior of large-scale ecosystems. Island Press, Washington
Hatakeyama M (2012) Presentation to ICSS2012: sustainability science in action, Arizona State University February 21, 2012. Presentation available online at http://www.icss2012.net/people/presenters and personal notes by Kauffman taken during presentation
Holling CS (1973) Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 4:1–23. Downloaded from arjournals.annnualreviews.org
Holling CS (1996) Engineering resilience versus ecological resilience. In: Schulze P (ed) Engineering within ecological constraints. National Academy Press, Washington, pp 31–44
International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) WGII (report) (2014) Climate Change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability: summary for policy makers. Online at ipcc-wg2.gov
Japan Satoyama–Satoumi Assessment (2010) Satoyama–Satoumi Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Socio-ecological Production Landscapes of Japan—summary for Decision Makers. United Nations University Tokyo, Japan. Available at http://www.ihdp.unu.edu/article/read/satoyama-sdm. Accessed April 5 2013
Kajikawa Y, Tacoa F, Yamaguchi K (2014) Sustainability Science: the changing landscape of sustainability research. Sustain Sci (this issue). doi:10.1007/s11625-014-0244-x
Kamiyama A, Iijima A (2012) Current trends in eco-friendly reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake. World Acad Sci Eng Technol 6:12–26
Kates RW (2011) What kind of a science is sustainability science? Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108(49):19449–19450
Kates RW, Clark WC, Corell R, Hall JM, Jaeger CC, Lowe I, McCarthy JJ, Schellnhuber HJ, Bolin B, Dickson NM, Faucheux S, Gallopin GC, Grubler A, Huntley B, Jager J, Jodha NS, Kasperson RE, Mabogunje A, Matson P, Mooney H, Moore B III, O’Riordan T, Svedin U (2001) Environment and development: sustainability science. Science 292(5517):641–642
Kauffman J, Lee K-M (2013) Handbook of Sustainable Engineering. Springer Reference
Kohsaka R, Shih W, Saito O, Sadohara S (2013) Local assessment of Tokyo: Satoyama and Satoumi - traditional landscapes and management practices in a contemporary urban environment. In: Elmqvist T et al (eds) Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities. Springer, Dordrecht, Heidelberg, New York and London, pp 93–105
Komiyama H (2014) Beyond the limits to growth: new ideas for sustainability from Japan. Springer, Tokyo, pp 18–21
Komiyama H, Takeuchi K (2006) Sustainability science: building a new discipline. Sustain Sci 1:1–6
Komiyama H, Takeuchi K (2011) Sustainability science: building a new scientific discipline. In: Komiyama H, Takeuchi K, Shiroyama H, Mino T (eds) Sustainability science: a multidisciplinary approach. United Nations University Press, Tokyo, pp 2–16
Krasny M, Tidball K (2009) Community gardens as context for science, stewardship and advocacy learning. Cities Environ 2(1):8. Online at http://escholarship.bc.edu/cate/vol2/iss1/8
Krasny ME, Tidball KG (2012) Civic ecology: a pathway for earth stewardship in cities. Front Ecol Environ 10(5):267–273
Latief H, Hadi S (2007) Coastal protection in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Chapter 1. FAO Corporate Repository. Food and Agriculture Organization. Available at www.fao.org/docrep/010/ag127e/ag127e00.htmA6127
Masten A, Obradovio J (2008) Disaster preparation and recovery: lessons from research on resilience and human development. Ecol Soc 13(1):9
McAslan A (2010) The Concept of resilience: understanding its origins, meaning and utility. Torrence Resilience Institute. Available at www.torrensresilience.org/images/pdfs/resilience%20origins%20and/utility.pdf
McLean RF, Tsyban A (2014) Coastal zones and marine ecosystems. In: IPCC, 2014. WGII, Chap 6
McCury J (2012) Tohoku: the fishing industry in GlobalPost Multimedia series After the Tsunami. Online at http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/120308/after-the-tsunami-tohoku-fishing-industry
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) (2005) Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island Press, Washington. See http://www.unep.org/maweb
Ministry of the Environment, Japan (2012a) overview of the national biodiversity strategy of Japan 2012–2020: Roadmap towards the establishment of an enriching society in harmony with nature, ch. 3, pp 170–175 (Provisional translation)
Ministry of the Environment, Japan (2012b) Forests Rivers Sea and Satoyama: reconnecting with nature, and the future: green reconstruction: Creating a new National Park. Available at http://www.env.go.jp/
Ministry of the Environment Japan (MOEJ) (2007) Becoming a Leading Environmental Nation: Japan’s Strategy for a Sustainable Society. Available at https://www.env.go.jp/en/focus/attach/070606-b.pdf
Miura H (2012) Interview: Sigeatsu Hatakeyama. Healthy forests key to rebuilding tohoku fishing communities. Asahi Shimbun April 3. Available at http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/opinion/AJ20124030019. Accessed 29 Jan, 2013
Nature Conservation Bureau of Japan (2013) Impact of the great east Japan earthquake on the natural environment in Tohoku coastal regions. Ministry of the Environment, Tokyo
Ohno E, Hayashiyama Y, Morisugi H, Nakajima K (2009) Economic evaluation of biodiversity preservation function of tidal flat and beech forest: contingent valuation method approach: Global. Environ Res 2(14):285–290 (in Japanese)
Olsson P, Folke C, Berkes F (2004) Adaptive co-management for building resilience in social-ecological systems. Environ Manage 34:75–90
Onishi N (2012) As Japan works to patch itself up, a rift between generations opens. New York Times, February 12, 2012. Online at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/world/asia/amid-japan-reconstruction-generational-rift-opens.html?ref=norimitsuonishi&_r=0
Ostrom E (1990) Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Ostrom E, Nagendra H (2006) Insights linking forests, trees, and people from the air, on the ground and in the laboratory. PNAS 103(51):19224–19291
PNAS (2007) Sustainability science: a room of its own. Proc Natl Acad Sci 104:1737–1738. doi:10.1073/pnas.0611291104
Reconstruction Design Council of Japan (2012) Basic guidelines for reconstruction in response to the great east earthquake and tsunami (provisional translation). Available at www.reconstruction.go.jp/topics/basic_guidelines_reconstruction
Saito O, Shibata H (2012) Satoyama and satoumi, and ecosystems services: a conceptual framework. In: Duraiappah et al (eds) Satoyama–satoumi Ecosystems and human well-being. Springer, Tokyo. pp 17–60
Scheffer M, Carpenter SR, Foley JA, Folke C, Walker BH (2001) Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems. Nature 413:591–596
Scherkenbach C (2013) Satoyama and Satoumi to the Rescue. Interview with Prof. Takeuchi. Human Dimens (2):46–49
Svendsen E (2013) Storyline and design: How civic stewardship shapes urban design in New York City. In: Pickett STA, Cadenasso ML, McGrath B (eds) Resilience in ecology and urban design: Linking theory and practice for sustainable cities. Springer, New York, pp 269–287
Takeuchi K (2010) Rebuilding the relationship between people and nature: the Satoyama Initiative. Ecol Res 25:891–897
Takeuchi K, Herath S (2010) Sustainability: engaging in global change through harmonious adaptation in Asia. Nova Acta Leopoldina NF 112(384):213–226
Tidball K (2012) Urgent biophilia: human–nature interactions and biological attractions in disaster resilience. Ecol Soc 2(17):5. doi:10.5751/ES-04596-170205
Tidball KG, Krasny ME (2008) “Raising” urban resilience: community forestry in post-conflict and post-disaster contexts. Resilience 2008. Stockholm, Sweden
Tidball K, Krasny M (eds) (2013) Greening in the red zone: disaster, resilience, and community greening. Springer, New York
Tuvendal M, Elmqvist T (2012) Response strategy assessment: a tool for evaluating resilience for the management of social–ecological systems. In: Plieninger T, Bieling C (eds) Resilience and the cultural landscape. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Radiation (UNSCEAR) (2014) Levels and Effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident AR 2013 Report to the General Assembly with Scientific Annexes. Vol. 1, scientific annex A. New York: United Nations. www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2013/13-8418_2013_Annex_A.pdf
Van der Leeuw S, Wiek A, Harlow J, Buizer J (2012) How much time do we have? Urgency and rhetoric in sustainability science. Sustain Sci 7(Suppl. 1):115
Walker B, Holling CS, Carpenter S, Kinzig A (2004) Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability in Social-ecological systems. Ecol Soc 19:2. Available at www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol119/iss2/art5
Westley F, Olsson P, Folke C, Homer-Dixon T, Vredenburg H, Loorbach D, Thompson J, Nilsson M, Lambin E, Sendzimir J, Banarjee B, Galaz V, van der Leeuw S (2011) Tipping towards sustainability: emerging pathways of transformation. Ambio 40:762–780
Wiek A, Ness B, Schweizer-Reis P, Brand FS, Farioli F (2012) From complex systems analysis to transformational change: a comparative appraisal of sustainability science projects. Sustain Sci 7(supplement 1):5–24
Wilson EO (1984) Biophilia. Harvard University Press, Cambridge
Yoshikawa H (2011) Science and Technology for Society. In: Komiyama H, Takeuchi K, Shiroyama H, Mino T (eds) Sustainability science: a multidisciplinary approach. UNU Press, Tokyo, pp 256–271
Yumoto T, Kada R, Kohsaka R, Saito O (2012) Why is change to satoyama and satoumi a concern? In: Duraiappah A, Nakamura K, Takeuchi K, Watanabe M, Nishi M (eds) Satoyama-Satoumi ecosystems and Human Well-being. United Nations University Press, Tokyo, pp 125–154
We are very grateful for the thoughtful and comprehensive comments and constructive critiques provided by anonymous reviewers. We also acknowledge the helpful insights to the on-going reconstruction efforts in NE Japan provided by participants in the experts’ and stakeholders’ meetings on sustainability and resilience held at the Tohoku University, Sendai, and in Kesennuma, Japan on January 22, 2014.
Handled by Osamu Saito, UNU-Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (IAS), Japan.
About this article
Cite this article
Takeuchi, K., Elmqvist, T., Hatakeyama, M. et al. Using sustainability science to analyse social–ecological restoration in NE Japan after the great earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Sustain Sci 9, 513–526 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-014-0257-5
- Social–ecological resilience
- Great NE Japan earthquake and tsunami
- Sanriku Fukko National Park
- Satoyama and Satoumi