34.1 Local Governance for Transition to Sustainable Society

Takaaki Niren , Research Center for Socioecological Systems, University of Shiga Prefecture, Hikone, Japan

Local Governance for Transition to Sustainable Society

Takaaki Niren

Research Center for Socioecological Systems

University of Shiga Prefecture, Japan

1.      Background

We are now facing to the risk of climate change and following ecological crisis. Such situation was made by human behaviors of seeking for partial solutions by individual actors in society. The governments also behave as individual not as public because public and private spheres were separated strictly within the modern legislations and the administration systems of the governments organized  as bureaucratic sections segmented by their different functions. Thus nobody and no-organization has responsibility for total system of society.

However, human impacts on ecosystem invoked environmental problems everywhere and threaten human survival. In the case of Shiga, Japan we experienced the heavy lake water eutrophication and ecosystem destruction of Lake Biwa in 1970s and 1980s, people took notice that their lifestyle per se impacts to the lake ecosystem. They developed a movement for changing their daily washing to no detergent washing. This movement motivated the prefectural and central governments to legislate lake water pollution laws and bylaws and the chemical corporations to change their products from phosphoric detergent to no-phosphoric one. This is the case emergence of local governance for sustainable society. For challenging global warming we have to develop our global governance but we couldn't develop governance at global level immediately. If local governances grow in clusters, they will transform to global governance. Therefore it is important to develop local governance.

2.      Local Community and Governance

As in the case of Lake Biwa environmental movement, local people act leading role for sustainable society. Because people have needs to survive, to bring up their children and to desire safety. They always struggle for satisfying their needs. But our global system doesn't exactly provide us necessary services. Most of the world population live in urban areas and there we have to get necessary goods and services through market and government at the expense of money for payment and tax. We couldn't get anything without money thus we get money through some employment in most cases. This is the prerequisite for survive. It becomes more unstable because the globalization of economy amplifies the fluctuation of boom and recession and then amplitude of price and employment change become larger. Our lives depend on the global fluctuation of economy more and more. We lose our foothold gradually in the local community.

Basically where people live, there are various needs for supporting their lives and if they could get ecosystem services there, they would produce and distribute products and manage local economy and ecology. If we could develop local systems for survive, we can change our economy more stable and our ecology more healthy and consequently reduce impacts toward global warming.

The eChi-San Chi-Shou' initiatives are now developing in Japan. eChi' means local, eSan' means production, and eShou' means consumption then this means local production and local consumption. Mainly those initiatives are leaded by producer groups. But principally the eChi-San Chi-Shou' should be initiated by consumer groups because it is just to choose ecological and healthy life-style. The springboard for the initiative is perceive that local products, especially local foods, local materials of house, are better for health, economy, society and ecology than remote products. For this purpose there is an attempt to manage local market in the ecovillage to exchange local products and wisdom to apply them.                  

3.      Local Industry and Governance

In Japan big business provide goods and services to world market as well as most of the industrial countries. Supporting industries like as producing automobile parts or electronic components provide their products to big business. Thus most part of the business is exposed by fluctuation of the world market. Local industry produces not for local market but for global market as well. As a result local industry goes away from local market and local people. Local market is not big to sustain big industry but more stable than that of global. If Business depends on the big but unstable global market, its growth is high at one time and also its downfall is fast at another time.   

There are two different drives as localization and globalization in business. We exemplify these two drives and declare pros and cons of localization and globalization drives from the perspectives of GDP effect, employment effect, market stability, trade network, material flow and CO2 emission.

4.      Local Corroboration for Governance

To change the economy to sustainable and stable one, both sides of economy, demand side and supply side, have to change together. Such change will never be induced within prevailing business and consumer's behaviors spontaneously. To induce the change, all stakeholders within the local economy involve its all processes and share a common vision. Local business groups, local consumer's groups, local governments, local environmental groups and other various local groups could access to the processes to change the economy. In Shiga we set up eEco-Economy Promotion Initiative' to promote the low carbon society with business groups, academic groups and local government. The targets of it are to promote spontaneous innovation for green economy and to implement local carbon offset conserving local ecosystems and activate local economy. Through experiences toward local governance we can draw out lessons.