Dr Leslie Mabon is a Lecturer in Environmental Systems at the Open University in the UK. His research focuses on the social and cultural dimensions of environmental change in coastal zone cities, with a particular interest in resource-intensive regions where local society and culture may be closely linked to high-emitting industries. As well as working in his native Scotland, Leslie has conducted research on the southern coast of Hokkaido, Japan, for a number of years, studying communities’ responses to transitions away from high-emitting industries. Leslie’s work on the Hokkaido coast has been funded by the Japan Foundation, Economic and Social Research Council, and Regional Studies Association among others. Leslie is a Future Earth Coasts Fellow, and has a PhD in Geography. You can read more about his work at resilientcoastal.zone or on Twitter @ljmabon.
Whilst much scholarship on climate change in Asian coastal cities has been directed towards the tropics, where risks from extreme heat and precipitation are more readily apparent, colder cities in Asia also face livelihood risks from a changing climate. Yet compared to the tropics, the social dimensions of climate change in colder coastal cities in Asia remain relatively under-studied. The purpose of this paper is therefore to evaluate how citizens’ embodied experiences of winter weather affect their views towards climate change countermeasures in cities on the south coast of Hokkaido, Japan. Based on interviews and ethnographic field observation in Tomakomai, as well as the nearby cities of Muroran and Yubari, I argue citizens use everyday encounters with snow, ice and low temperatures to articulate attitudes towards climate change. Some citizens adopt a humorous stance, citing benefits such as tastier rice and easier winter driving, with a minority viewing a warming climate as beneficial to the locality through the opening of new shipping routes. Nonetheless, citizens in Tomakomai also acknowledge the combination of cold seas, cold winds from the Pacific Ocean and winter snowfall is critical to local identity by enabling the playing of ice hockey and the landing of large Sakhalin surf clams. I therefore argue the centrality of cold weather on the seas and coasts to sustaining culturally-meaningfully practices gives a pathway to communicating the need for climate action in colder Asian coastal cities, where climate risks may otherwise be less obvious or immediate.