After the Meltdown: Energy Regime Crisis and Environmental Conflicts in Post-Fukushima Japan

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 11:45 AM
Room: 315
Distributed Paper
Michael DREILING , Sociology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Tomoyasu NAKAMURA , School of Network and Information, Senshu University, Japan
Nicholas LOUGEE , University of Oregon, OR
Yvonne BRAUN , University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Since the Kyoto Protocols, Japanese environmentalism largely avoided a critique of the hazards of the nuclear industry with the energy demands of the country. Instead, small and marginal anti-nuclear movement organizations remained focused on this issue. Then, in 2011, the Fukushima nuclear disaster and humanitarian crisis caused by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami called the entire nuclear industry into question. However, the silence among established environmental organizations continued. Based on an extensive study of Japanese environmental organizations, we investigate why the Japanese environmental movement was relatively silent on the largest environmental crisis in the country’s history. Why were environmental organizations not in the lead of the mass protests demanding an end to nuclear energy in earthquake and tsunami prone Japan? We address this question historically and quantitatively, incorporating survey data on the Japanese environmental movement as well as extensive network data. This research is the first to quantitatively operationalize power structures in Japan and test their impact on the behavior of a large sample of environmental organizations. Our network data trace ties between the private electric utility companies (nuclear) and their key industry partners in finance, insurance, and the media to key government agencies in Japan. These industry, government and media connections are then traced to board memberships of a large sample of environmental organizations. Among other factors, the statistical analyses identify significant negative associations of government and corporate ties on environmental groups’ adoption of a reflexive and critical position on nuclear energy following the Fukushima meltdown.