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Faculty Interview: Professor Wanglin YAN

Major: GIS, urban and regional environment, sustainability science

In pursuit of both environmental conservation and sustainable development of society

My study area relates to sustainable development. My efforts are mainly aimed at making proposals for the restoration of the environment and on measures for living without further negatively impacting the environment. Using analytical techniques I investigate environmental problems, identify the causes of the problem, and look for solutions that may require new policy changes and/or business involvement. I also use geological information to study the causes of regional and social problems and their connection to people to propose solutions and policy support. In terms of climate change, innovation must take a totally new approach to combating the greenhouse gas problem as it can hardly be resolved by conventional efforts. Pursuing GDP-oriented affluence and ideas from the last century are no longer appropriate today. Technology, systems and policy, our mindset, and society itself, must be fundamentally changed to ‘Break with only trying to increase GDP’

To that effect, one of the projects I’m currently involved with is regarding the prevention of the impact of climate change and desertification in Inner Mongolia. A major cause of desertification is excessive cattle grazing. This has resulted in the deterioration of the grassland. Though there are a few options: to restrict the number of cattle; to secure other sources of income; to change the way they graze cattle; or the way they live; the keyword is ‘carrying capacity’. How to deal with people’s desires that exceed the carrying capacity is a big challenge. I am aiming at proposing solutions within four years.

Decentralized energy system utilizing solar power generation

Another project concerns the quick establishment of a system that uses renewable energy in a widely a decentralized energy system. Among the types of renewable energy, solar power generation would be the best, I believe, in that many people have access to solar power. They say solar power generation is expensive. At the same time though, many people have a car even if they don’t really need it. It is a matter of choice. Using a more expensive source of energy that is beneficial to the environment has to be advocated. My point is that you yourself can choose to shift from the GDP-oriented way of thinking and have the value of ‘Breaking with GDP’.

I am currently planning to carry out policy simulations to find out: How to encourage more people to start using solar power; What are the obstacles for dissemination of solar power; What incentive scheme can be used; and so on. I expect that the feed-in tariff system that obligates the purchase of solar photovoltaic power will give some momentum to its full implementation.

At the same time, this project is linked to disaster area reconstruction. I’m working to propose an environmentally-friendly city that is comfortable to live in, while utilizing renewable energy. I’m collaborating with other professors from SFC in line with this concept, in Kesennuma.

At SFC I invite motivated students to join in this work. Innovation is urgently needed as conventional ways will result in easily exceeding the carrying capacity. The successful candidates will have analytical perspective skills, with an engineering and scientific background. Data analysis and quantitative analysis capability would be an asset. There will be many positions where students can find interesting and challenging work. Even without a scientific background, as long as the candidates are skilled in logical thinking, they will be welcome.