Some people point out that the development of technology in the 20th century brought about the expansion of economic activities and the population explosion, which consequently makes the 21st century the “risk society.” We are leading a daily life that, along with our safety, is threatened by various elements including not only natural disasters such earthquakes, floods and tsunamis, but also crime, new types of infectious diseases, etc.
With all these various kinds of threatening factors, the concept “risk” has come to be used among specialists in order to identify matters that have to be dealt with preferentially. And it is believed that creating a society that can deal with various risks with “strength and flexibility” will lead to protecting our safe and secure basis for life, while continuing stable development.
Worldwide, the number of natural disasters and the resulting amount of damage have been increasing, therefore, a natural disaster is also listed as the first risk that our country has to contend with. For example, the damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake or Typhoon No.12 that occurred in 2011not only revealed the relentlessness of nature, but also exposed how vulnerable the infrastructure of our life is in the face of a disaster. Additionally, it is expected that a more massive and extensive earthquake disaster than that of the last one will occur in the near future.
The Tokai, Tonankai and Nankai earthquakes are earthquake and tsunami disasters whose occurrences have been recorded approximately on a 100-year cycle since 684, additionally according to which the next one is due to happen in the first half of the 21st century. Meanwhile, the most alarming earthquake among inland earthquakes is one that might directly hit the Tokyo area. In addition, we need to pay attention to extreme changes in the weather as was observed in the record rainfalls last year. While global warming is a long-term change, an extreme change in the weather is a short-term phenomenon accompanied by various aspects such as a flood, a landslide disaster, a heavy snowfall, a tornado, a drought, etc. Also there is a growing concern that meteorological disasters will increase in scale and occur more frequently in the future.
Additionally, the very development of science technology that brought us various benefits in the 20th century has been revealing its dark side, which is generating and distributing a new variety of risks that we have to face, such as environmental contamination, a food safety issue, social disruption caused by information communication, etc. One example of those, probably, is the accident at the Fukushima power plant.
Ideally, we want to create a society free from disasters and dangers; however, we have only limited resources available. In order to bring a “strong and flexible society” into reality as much as possible with our limited resources, we have to identify threatening risks to society and clarify how society can prepare for each one of them specifically. The more serious the impact caused by a specific risk becomes, the more fully we need to take precautions to avoid such a danger, and it is also necessary, when preparing for any possibility, to develop the ability to bounce back from adversity.
This idea is expressed as “Resilience,” which has become the most important factor of world disaster prevention in the 21st century and was evaluated as the central goal concept at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Kobe in 2005. Recently, terms like “restoring force,” “recuperative strength,” “righting moment” or “resilience” have been frequently used like a kind of catch-phrase in the fields of disaster prevention and disaster mitigation in our country. We, as specialists, are responsible for systematizing the contents of the idea by taking a science-based approach, and describing those specifically by using simpler terms.
In dealing with an extensive and comprehensive disaster, it is particularly necessary to take an approach without being restricted by the existing framework of a community, where we have to discuss how to connect various aspects of the whole society including industry, academia, government, citizens, etc. and create a situation where each one of them can operate more effectively. Therefore, in this research and development focus area, “community” and “connect” are regarded as two important key words. The word “community” is generally used to mean territorial connection. In the focus area, we want to give importance to an attempt to strengthen the relationship among people in a local community, so we also use the word “community.” At the same time, we call the group of like-minded people a “community” and we place expectations on those gathering on the basis of common interests and occupational abilities and on their future activities.
The idea that “it is indispensable to gather needed technologies from various fields and integrate them” in order to proceed with research and development that certainly leads to the mitigation of damages is approved by experts from many fields. All that we have to do now is to put those ideas into practice, aiming at implementing them in the real world. In other words, the existing results of research and development, technology, systems and a social foundation in a community, new technique, etc. have to be connected organically.
At the same time, industry, academia, government, citizens in a local community have to cooperate together as partners and proceed with practical research and development that includes pilot programs based on the knowledge or methods of cultural and social science. In addition, it is extremely important in creating a safe and secure city or locality to increase “community strength” by working on not only the hardware side of measures, but also the software side of them, which has been pointed out for many years; however, a clear-cut answer as to how it will be put into practice has not been made yet. What will bring it into life, I believe, is a research and development project, the new Research and Development Focus Area “Creating a Safe and Secure City and Locality Connected by Communities” that was newly established by the Research Institute of Science and Technology for Society of the Japan Science and Technology Agency, which has started seeking submission of study proposals.
As the image elements that describe the contents of the research and development project, the project planning and the investigation of the first year, the following four items are listed: “Increasing the ability to respond to a crisis based on the characteristics of a community,” “Redesigning self-help, mutual-help and public-help, and effective cooperation,” “Creating a system where individual technique and knowledge are connected in order to deal with problems pertaining to safety and security” and “Promoting the system for connecting communities to be implemented in the real world (organizing and analyzing legal regulations, systems, etc. and setting up a system to promote a new approach).”
In the first public offering of this year I expect that excellent proposals that would include these image elements would be made by people from various backgrounds including localities, young people and women under the combined efforts of extensive sectors such as industry, academia, government and citizens.
Chinese / Japanese