GEO 108 Student Research on Human and Societal Impacts of 2011 Tsunami in Japan

30 Apr

Each year CEEDS invites proposals from faculty (and teams of faculty) for modification and enhancement of existing courses that will support the CEEDS mission—to graduate women who excel at integrating knowledge across disciplines in support of environmental decisions and actions. Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting some of the excellent and creative work of the faculty who have utilized these Curricular Enhancement Grants. If you have questions regarding Curricular Enhancement Grants please contact Joanne Benkley at


Kayla Clark, a student from Professor Sara Pruss’ GEO 108 class, contributed a very good presentation based on the research she did on the human and societal impacts of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Kayla chose to research those topics because, as she says, “too often disasters are framed as ending soon after the actual tsunami, earthquake or hurricane passes, however the effects of displacement and loss of communities can stretch long after the tsunami or other natural disaster ends.”

Given that the Geo 108 class was studying the tsunami around its one-year anniversary, they were able to see how much the society has been able to recover or if there are still individuals and communities suffering as a result of the disaster.  Here are Kayla’s findings, summarized:

Focus: The thousands of individuals that became internally displaced as a result of the tsunami, as well as the impact of the tsunami on education of all levels.

Effects on Japanese Housing Communities: One year after the tsunami, there are still many people that are displaced from their homes, many of whom are homeless. The areas that they fled have been totally devastated and the communities are ruined due to the majority of people that have not returned.

Effects on the Japanese Education System: Over 7,000 schools were destroyed and 100,000 students were displaced as a result of the tsunami. The high student-teacher ratio and the inevitable emotional drainage that comes with disaster and aftermath obviously contribute negatively to the teachers’ efficiency and on the students’ ability to learn and retain information. Higher education was negatively affected as well, for the departure of foreign students and faculty meant lower enrollment in what was already a small university system. This could lead to institutional changes if the public universities shift to privatized universities or merge in order to respond to the smaller number of enrolled students and the economic strain of the disaster. Research at these universities was also interrupted due to the power outages during and after the disaster.

Effects on the World: The lack of research has an impact on global society because scientific innovations and medical progress do not just remain in the country they originate in but spread globally.

All credit to Kayla Clark for this posting.


Angela Magyari ’14, CEEDS Intern

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