Reorienting Japanese university education towards community resilience in the wake of disaster responsiveness

In Envisioning futures for environmental and sustainability education
Chapter: 23

Following The Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, environmental educators in Japan needed to face a tough introspection – what could environmental education (EE) and education for sustainable development (ESD) have done to prevent, or reduce, its disastrous damages. In this context, promoting resilience of communities to confront disasters emerged as an important mission for EE/ ESD. Three cases introduced in this chapter describe the challenges of Japanese universities facilitating education for resilience with communities confronting different situations associated with natural and anthropogenic disasters. From these cases, one common key for transforming university EE/ESD towards resilience emerges – the close university-community interaction to critically address the ‘realities’ of multiple issues including social, economic, and political injustice and ecological destruction that lie behind disasters. The mission of EE/ESD is to empower people to fully participate in creating their own futures. Resilience brought about by top-down communication does not lead to true empowerment, but often to complacency, psychic numbing and apathy. The EE/ ESD of universities we aim for should enable learners to lead the transformation of society for sustainability and resilience by raising their own voices, asking difficult questions and demanding answers. Thus, in order for universities to meaningfully contribute to sustainable futures they will need to facilitate active and critical community engagement that lead to mindful resilience.