Principles of Sustaining Community Response to Environmental Disaster: Lessons from Minimata, Japan and Libby, Montana, U.S.A
Environmental disasters in the 21st century have become familiar. This paper focuses on common principles of sustaining community response to environmental disaster. Using the case studies of Minimata, Japan and Libby, Montana in a compare and contrast analysis, a number of salient principles for sustaining environmental response to environmental disaster can be noted. These include: 1) acknowledging (avoiding denial of) the implications of medical diagnoses that are beyond the expected level in the community, 2) acknowledging the existence of any industrial exposures to individuals in the community even by “good” corporate neighbors, 3) accepting that both individuals and communities can be environmentally victimized, 4) acknowledging that the role and definition of “environmental victim” , whether as an individual or community, changes through time, 5) accepting that communities who have been victimized need to proactively modify the role of victim and redefine themselves, 6) realizing that community redefinition is a response state that needs to be historically based, continuous, and intergenerational, 7) working to a response state that is socially acceptable to the majority of the community, 8) working to a response state that includes research and education on exposures and illness at the community level in defined environmental centers, 9) partnering at the international level with other victimized communities to enrich dialogue and share solutions in acknowledgment of a positive ripple effect of such activities among such communities, and 10) maintaining ties with the available scientific communities for validation of community change activities that are site-specific. These ten principles, derived from empirical, international examples, would suggest that community empowerment and community based participatory research can be sustained even in the most dire environmental circumstances by modeling after other communities who have perceived a continuous change state as the most reasonable solution to long-term viability.
Keywords: Community Empowerment, Response State, Victimized Communities, Sustaining Response, Environmental Victim, Environmental Centers, Community Change, Continuous Change, Participatory Research
Dr. Craig A. Molgaard
Professor and Chair, School of Public and Community Health Sciences, The University of Montana
Dr. Amanda L. Golbeck
Professor of Biostatistics, School of Public and Community Health Sciences, The University of Montana