For those interested, the UNU has made available an audio recording of last week’s seminar with Prof Gerry Thomas, in which she discusses how to understand and communicate the risks posed by the Fukushima nuclear accident. I give a very brief introduction to the themes of the seminar at the beginning, noting the challenges that have appeared for people having to come to terms with the complexities of the science surrounding nuclear issues. A brief summary of the event, including Prof Thomas’ powerpoint slides, is online at UNU’s website.
On 15 October 2014, the Fukushima Global Communication Programme will be co-hosting a seminar with Professor Gerry Thomas, who is a Professor of Molecular Pathology at Imperial College London. She will be presenting on the challenges of communicating health risks in the context of nuclear accidents, drawing on the Chernobyl and Fukushima cases. Following her talk, there will be an open discussion with the audience, which I will be chairing.
I have a new op-ed piece in The Japan Times today, which reflects on the challenge posed by ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Given the truly shocking and barbaric nature of their actions, it is easy for us to see ISIS as a group of medieval savages, or some kind of evil force. Yet identifying ISIS as an evil monster that must be ‘destroyed’, as Obama and other world leaders have promised, risks misunderstanding what is a complex political phenomenon. I argue that it is important that we come to terms with ISIS as a political actor, and try to understand their goals and grievances. My thinking on these matters has been inspired by the project I completed earlier this year on ‘evil in international politics’, as well as through a course I am teaching this semester, ‘Ethics and World Politics’ .
This week I am in Germany to attend and present at the World International Studies Committee conference. After a bit of a break, I will be giving my first new paper on democracy in quite a while. It builds on previous arguments I have made about the need to expand the way democratic peace is studied. Specifically, the argument focuses on the historical and conceptual linkages between democracy and war, and the importance of properly understanding these relationships. My thinking on these issues has been assisted by a course I’ve just finished teaching this semester at Waseda called ‘Democracy, Peace, and War’.
To mark the publication of our two volumes on human security and natural disasters, next week we are having a book launch at the United Nations University. The event brings together the editors of the two books as well as a number of chapter contributors from the second volume, who have examined the political, social and economic consequences of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident that struck Japan on 11 March 2011. The details are:
Date: Monday 28 July 2014
Time: 16:00 – 17:30, followed by reception
Venue: Reception Hall, 2F, United Nations University Headquarters
Click here to register to attend
This event is open to the public, all are welcome. So if you are free and interested, please join us.
I recently published a new piece on Japan Focus, which is looking at some of the major issues confronting Japan’s likely return to nuclear power. You can read the article here. And if you want the brief version, here are some of the key points of the piece:
- Utilities are focusing too much on technical fixes after Fukushima. There is a need for greater focus on developing a robust safety culture.
- Challenges to developing a stronger safety culture include the sub-contracting system, and economic demands that make utilities less likely to go ‘above and beyond’ when it comes to safety.
- Japan needs a more sophisticated debate over different energy policies, and what role nuclear power should play in the country’s future. As Japan discovered when the ‘nuclear safety myth’ was shattered, it is impossible for nuclear power – or indeed any energy source – to be 100% risk free.
- Advocates of nuclear power need to better address concerns related to: the continuing impact of the Fukushima disaster, the hidden costs involved with nuclear power, the storage of nuclear waste, and the dangers posed by future natural disasters.
- Anti-nuclear advocates need to better address the economic and environmental costs of abandoning nuclear power, as well as engage with a wide range of actors from the nuclear industry and listen to how they have responded to the Fukushima accident.
- The approach Abe is pursuing is setting Japan on course for an unproductive and suboptimal middle ground: it is exposed to the potential risks of operating nuclear reactors in a disaster-prone country, while receiving limited benefit, given that it is predicted that nuclear power may constitute less than 10% of Japan’s energy supply.
- The direction Japan is headed will solve neither the long-term economic or environmental challenges Japan faces in securing its energy supply, nor will it satisfy the anti-nuclear majority or pro-nuclear business groups.
And for all the detail, please read the full article. Thanks to Japan Focus for publishing it.
Many thanks to The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan for kindly inviting me to participate in a roundtable discussion on the politics of Fukushima last night. It was a great opportunity to reflect on how the disaster has impacted Japanese democracy, what changes it has brought about, and where the country might be headed. Fortunately the whole event was recorded, so if you are interested, please have a look. Thanks to the FCCJ for providing the video and picture.
This coming Thursday 3 July from 18:00 – 20:00 the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan will be hosting a roundtable session on ‘The Politics of Fukushima’. I will be speaking, along with Tsuyoshi Shiina, from the Unity Party, who is a Member of the House of Representatives. I am very excited to be participating in this event, and look forward to sharing some findings from research I have been doing on the Fukushima nuclear accident and how it has impacted on the current state of Japanese politics. For more information about the event, check the FCCJ webpage. There hopefully should be a video recording of the event, which I will share here afterwards if it is available.
June is shaping up to be a busy month for publications. Following on from my co-edited special issue of International Politics, I am now very happy to announce the publication of another co-edited volume with Routledge, Human Security and Japan’s Triple Disaster: Responding to the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis. This is the companion to Human Security and Natural Disasters, which we published earlier this year. In that book we focused on theoretical issues and a range of international cases, whereas in this volume we look specifically at the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident that Japan suffered in 2011. We start from the observation that while Japan has been the leading proponent of the human security approach internationally, it has tended to assume that it is a concept that is primarily relevant for ‘others’. Yet the events of 11 March 2011 demonstrated with terrible force that human insecurity is also a problem in Japan. We are very happy to have these two books completed, and we are planning a book launch for late July. I’ll provide more information about that soon, and in the meantime, for more information about the book, including a table of contents and endorsements, check here.
Every year the UNU and Shibuya city office organize a series of public seminars. The theme for this year is “Towards Recovery in Fukushima”, with the seminars being given by people involved in UNU’s Fukushima Global Communication Programme. I am very glad that I will have the opportunity to give the fourth and final lecture. My talk is provisionally titled “Human Security after 3/11: Vulnerability and Empowerment” and I will be looking at some of the most severe forms of human vulnerability that are present in Fukushima more than 3 years after the tsunami. I will also be considering the positive ways that people have been trying to respond to these difficult circumstances and rebuild their lives.
More information about the seminar series is available in English and Japanese. If you want to attend, you need to register here (in Japanese). Please note that all the sessions will be in Japanese, except for my talk which will be in English and translated into Japanese.