This past summer, I had a chance to visit the ruins of Arahama Elementary School in Sendai, Japan. The school stood in the Arahama area on March 11 in 2011, when the giant tsunami caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the area where approximately 2,200 people in about 800 households lived. Unfortunately, many of them became tsunami victims, but 320 residents, students, and school personnel survived. Having evacuated in the four-story reinforced-concrete school building, they had followed the vigilant principal’s instructions and moved to the rooftop by the time the tsunami reached the school. Sendai City has decided to preserve the school ruins building as an important legacy to pass down the threat of the tsunami and the lessons learned to future generations.
“I never thought it would come here.” This message is heard repeatedly almost every year whenever devastating flood disasters occur. Indeed, heavy rainfall events have been increasingly frequent. Putting together various lines of scientific evidence, however, naturally leads us to a conclusion that unprecedentedly powerful hazards are far from scientific fictions. I still clearly remember the extreme shock I felt when I learned that water-related disasters would be highly likely to be amplified by climate change while studying compiled papers and contextualized results in a wide range of fields of science as a review editor of Working Group 1 of the fourth IPCC Assessment Report, published in 2007. It is critically important for experts to integrate various sources of scientific knowledge and translate it into people’s actions.
In its 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan adopted in 2016, the government of Japan proclaims the promotion of "Society 5.0," an initiative to bring wealth to people by merging the physical space and cyberspace and creating a 5th society after the historical societies structured around hunting, agriculture, industry, or information. To strengthen disaster-resilience in society, scientists and engineers need to help people build the capacity for accepting disaster risks simulated and predicted in the cyberspace and to create science and technology understood and trusted by people. In light of the locality and variety of water-related disasters which are greatly influenced by factors such as land use, lifestyles, and industry, we have a mission to provide tailor-made information, engineering, and human resources which will lead people to take practical actions as the principal of the Arahama Elementary School did.
31 October 2018
Director of ICHARM