Inherent resilience, major marine environmental change and revitalisation of coastal communities in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

Mabon, Leslie; Kawabe, Midori; Huang, Yi-Chen; Moller, Leon; Gu, Junzheng; Wakamori, Daigo; Narita, Kaoru; Ito, Takayuki; Matsumoto, Akira; Niizeki, Kouji; Suzuki, Shotaro and Watanabe, Masato (2020). Inherent resilience, major marine environmental change and revitalisation of coastal communities in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 51, article no. 101852.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.101852

Abstract

The Fukushima Dai’ichi nuclear accident presents challenging circumstances for disaster recovery in coastal communities, as ongoing uncertainties around the nuclear plant’s decommissioning may create new risks in the future. Within disaster risk studies, inherent resilience – informal practices of resilience sustained through social memory and everyday actions – is seen as important for longer-term recovery. Yet whilst inherent resilience has been studied for acute disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, less is known about inherent resilience under major and long-term environmental change of the kind seen in Fukushima. Through interview-based research in the Soma area of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, this paper thus evaluates the potential for inherent resilience practices to support recovery when communities may have to respond multiple times as new setbacks emerge. We show that despite the challenging situation in Soma, inherent resilience practices have helped recovery on the coast by re-establishing a sense of identity and purpose for fishing communities in particular. Equally, however, we also find that ongoing uncertainty about the nuclear plant and emerging pressures linked to climate change make the full re-establishment of some cultural practices associated with inherent resilience difficult. Our findings contribute to existing research by showing that although inherent resilience may well help communities maintain core functions in a way formal institutional support cannot, changes to the physical environment of the kind seen in Fukushima may affect daily living and social relations to the extent it becomes difficult to undertake practices necessary to sustain social memory and community relations.

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