People-Centered Research for Social and Environmental Sustainability


Hello, this is Mizukami Masaya. It was our eighth general seminar on July 7th. As today’s chairman, I’ll introduce the summary of the seminar.

At first, we had the presentations from following members; Niki-san, Korn-san and me.

Niki-san has wide range of interest and one of them is energy poverty. In this session, she gave us comprehensive knowledges about this topic with the latest papers. Energy poverty has many aspects towards every circumstance, but for the time being, it’s defined as “a level of energy consumption that is insufficient to meet certain basic needs”. Also, Niki-san showed that, in worldwide, almost all of citizens that are under energy poverty are living in Asia or sub-Saharan Africa. When the term “energy poverty” was first mentioned in 1990s, it focused on winter heating issues, especially in the European region. But today, energy poverty seems turn to be a serious phenomenon all over the world at any time. One of the reasons must be climate change. And another one would be that our society itself is getting sensitive to these problems. Niki-san is mainly paying attention to participatory strategy towards environmental policy or a series of energy justice. I look forward to following her progress and how to combine these topics.

Korn-san’s topic is urban traffic congestion. He is pursuing how to mitigate urban congestion and considering the way to introduce ICT strategy toward this issue. To gain a broader perspective in this area, Korn-san read a paper investigating the impact of travel restrictions in Japan caused by COVID-19. According to his review, movement restrictions can be effective in reducing overcrowding, whether or not the lockdown is tight. In fact, even in today’s situation without strict restrictions, morning trains look calmer than before. As for me, in some cases, I prefer online activities to going to school. (Of course, it’s not always.) Given to this, ICT seems one key to consider about congestion. And simultaneously, exploring “what is the root problems for traffic congestion” may be also important. For example, in Japanese context, population movement is the main cause of congestion in Tokyo. Moreover, this issue concentrates on crowded train. When it comes to other countries, the cause would be lack of transportation infrastructure or rapid urbanization. By the way, United Nations reported that 68% of the world population will live in urban area by 2050[1]. I’d like to dive this topic with him and find new means to construct urban function.

 Lastly, my topic is social security. This term “social security” is actually very ambiguous and hard to determine. But probably everyone knows what pension system or livelihood protection system is existing for. These systems are called social security as wide concept. I recognize social security as more crucial matter for the time to come in terms of sustainability. I raised this theme with providing data of the latest census. According to this report, from 2015 to 2020, population bias has been greater between rural and urban area in japan. Furthermore, number of people per household has been decreasing in whole country, and elderly rate has been increasing steadily. A number of studies show that this kind of trend could easily cause serious problems like energy poverty or social exclusion. These facts made me focus on social security. But of course, social security is just one policy strategy and not the only key to discuss this issue. In order to build constructive discussion, there needs another perspective beyond conventional system.

 After three presentations, we had bonding session as usual. The theme was “what you like about your local area”. I asked everyone to share their local area and introduce preferences. Through this session, we could have a short trip together via screen. Every member shared unique and beautiful side of their local area, such as picturesque meadows, interesting museums, tranquil harbors, a plaza for locals to relax, a train crossing near the house. My favorite is Taro’s one “Good drainage”. He said that Shonann(湘南) has good drainage and he has never experienced some postpones of outside events like Sports day. Yeah, that point sounds great. By the way, your perspective was definitely distinctive. Keep going your own way Taro!!

 And July 6th was Augustin’s birthday. We sang the song for Augustin together (It was hard to synchronize the rhythm). I hope you have a great year and really look forward to talking with you more at the laboratory!!

Some people may say that there are not many things in my city but morning light is beautiful and that’s enough to me.

(Photographed by the author)

[1] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2018. 05. 16 released) 68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, says UN. (2021. 07. 12. refer)


(Written by Mizukami Masaya)