Proceedings Report: Symposium 2011: From Post-Disaster Reconstruction To the Creation of Resilient Societies
The annual Environmental Innovator’s symposium was originally created to bring together practitioners and theorists who are focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation. However, after the multiple disasters that hit the North-East coast of Japan in March, 2011 (an earthquake followed by a series of powerful tsunamis and subsequent disaster at Fukushima nuclear power plant ) it became clear that many of the challenges faced in the recovery process were also found in projects designed to support climate change adaptation. The possibility of sharing knowledge from both fields therefore seemed highly appropriate. Working from that insight we invited a diverse group of speakers and other participants to share their knowledge and to set the stage for building a network of like-minded practitioners and experts. To that end we were able to gather environmental leaders, representatives from governments, policy makers, climate scientists, architects and urban planners, environmental entrepreneurs, as well as students and interested citizens from around Japan.
In their opening remarks, Wanglin Yan, Tadashi Kasahara, Hironori Hamanaka, and Toshihide Fukui pointed out and re-affirmed the immediate lesson of the Tohoku disaster; namely that even a developed nation such as Japan, already invested heavily in disaster mediation and preparation, is nonetheless highly vulnerable to unplanned-for events. It was further pointed out that conventional measures used to respond to disaster are sometimes insufficient and that it may be necessary to prepare decentralized and redundant systems in order to be ready for large events.
In the keynote speech delivered by Dr. Young-Woo Park, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP), this message was built upon with the observation that as disasters in populated parts of the world are increasing the need to share information and experience gains importance. Dr. recent SREX report (Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation) that “post-disaster recovery and reconstruction provided an opportunity for reducing weather and climaterelated disaster risk and for improving adaptive capacity”. He concluded with the suggestion that in “Asia and the Pacific region, the main actions needed are mainstreaming adaptation concerns into development policies and plans, integrating with disaster risk reduction, climate proofing infrastructure, and promoting ecosystem-based adaptation.”
The two-day event was organized by 6 sessions, each of which included presentations followed by a moderated discussion, as well as a 24 hours student workshop.