Adaptive society in a changing environment: Insight into the social resilience of a rural region of Taiwan

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Authors: Y. Chiang, F. Tsai, H. Chang, C. Chen, Y. Huang

Publication Year: 2013


Volume: 36

Categories: Innovation, Adaptation, Adaptive Cycle, Resilience


Taiwan has abundant biological resources that provide a quality living environment; however, industrial land use may change that environment through urban sprawl and thus have impacts on rural society. This study examined the experience of a Taiwanese rural region that has been exposed to industrial wastewater discharge specifying the relationship of industrial development to rural society and its role in policy. We addressed the societal adaptation to environmental degradation from risk perception perspectives about land use. Drawing on social vulnerability concept, semi-structured interviews were conducted in five communities that use irrigation water exposed to wastewater discharge. The interviews were designed using the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response causal framework to examine residents’ risk perceptions highlighting both built-environmental sensitivity (degradation) and residents’ adaptability (capacity). In addition, remote sensing technology was used to identify the urban sprawl that led to industrial land use and exposed the rural region to water pollution risks. As a result, we present a social resilience cycle to introduce adaptive responses underlining social amplification of risk. Both local knowledge of the locals (the Hakka people) and their societal response to environmental change reflect the role of culture in influencing land use policy. It is underlined that individual and community responses shape the social experience of risk and are related to both the ethnicity of the locals and the land use policy of the government. We indicated further that a large-scale survey that would really quantity this exploratory study to support land use decision-making is expected.

Critical Reflection

In the face of industrial emissions to land, ground and surface waters, this article is focused on a 10-year-long reluctance of local people and thus their perceptions about industrial land use. The aim was to understand how this rural society could respond to impacts of the industrial land development in terms of risk adjustment to learn about the resilience of this rural society. This study examined five communities of Hsinpu Township along the Siaoli River at different locations to the high-tech factories. The key is degraded water quality affecting quality of life of the residents. It is highlighted both built-environmental sensitivity and human adaptability to address social resilience from risk perception perspectives. In addition, satellite remote sensing was used to identify the land use change in the form of urban sprawl. As a result, we can easily see that a social resilience cycle to introduce adaptive responses initiated by residents’ perceptions about land use in Results section, underlining social amplification of risk framework We also notice the adaptive capacity of the locals based on their traditional knowledge to live in a changing environment while government interventions. We also focus on the insights of this paper with a perspective on the risk perceptions about land use that allows the integration of diverse adaptive responses in terms of social resilience in which the government and the locals interact. Based on the social vulnerability concept, a social resilience cycle can thus be formulated towards adaptive responses. It is recognized that the synergy of traditional and scientific knowledge, leading to wisdom for social resilience building. The social resilience cycle shows that understanding the cause-and-effect of the risk event can help clarify how rural society adapts to environmental change in terms of social resilience and how to approach the complex social–ecological systems of a rural region from risk perception perspectives. In addition, this cycle underlines how to build from a capacity to a learning process in response to environmental change. The advantage of applying the cycle is to systematically organize the interplay among disciplines and stakeholders in dealing with the complex nature of the environment, whereby sustainability science can be fostered in trans-disciplinary processes to demonstrate development of sustainability transitions for society. This study indicated that the environmental degradation resulted from the global need for high-tech industrial development and economic growth that is transforming the structure of the global social–ecological system, leading to a more intense exposure of new endogenous fragilities.