Kumi Kato

Jacaranda Blossom

Kumi Kumi Kato is Professor of Environmental Studies, Wakayama University, Japan and Research Associate at the University of Queensland, Australia. As a member of an ecohumanities scholars group, Kangaloon, founded in Australia, she defines herself as an ecohumanitarian activist who ‘acts on’ diverse environmental issues we face today. Her approach is a ‘creative conservation’ that attempts to emphasise strength, beauty, trust and the joy of being in this world. Activism here has a broader meaning embracing research, education, creative work and celebration with the foremost priority on community empowerment and benefits.

Before returning to Japan, Kumi worked in Australia for 24 years, starting with teaching languages at secondary schools and a business school, and training teachers of foreign languages. She gained a Master degree in Environmental Management & Education at the School of Environmental Sciences, Griffith University and a doctorate from the University of Queensland. She also has a Master in Applied Linguistics (Intercultural Communication). Her research focuses on human ethics seen in various human-nature interactions, most strongly manifested in traditional forms of natural resource use – e.g. fisheries, agriculture, forestry. She believes an ethics for sustainability is held by those who live with the undeniable reality of human life – reliance on other lives and vulnerability in nature. Hunters and fishers exposed to natural elements solely rely on their physical strength, for example, but carry a sense of the ‘raw ethics’ of being human.

Belief in creativity (in thinking, expression) has led her to complete several creative works – e.g. a radio documentary on women divers in Japan, a film on a Tasmanian forest, public art in three sites in Australia (e.g. a Sound Garden), and ‘150 sounds of Queensland’. She is particularly interested in sound art and soundscape, as sound allows a sense of space and temporality that embodies connection, or lack thereof, with the surrounding environment. All her creative works have thus featured sound. Creative expression not only allows us to express (invisible, intangible) human ethics and spirituality, but also to communicate research outcomes to society at large beyond academic circles. That, in itself, is an expression of research ethics – an obligation to return the benefits of research to participants and collaborators.

Kumi is working on a ‘sea ethics’ project that involves traditional fisheries in Japan, Australia and the United States, endeavoring to uncover fundamental ethics expressed in rituals, festivities and self-regulations and applying them to today’s climate crisis that requires urgent and serious re-thinking of our life as a whole. Another project concerns understanding the meaning of distance in today’s society as a way to regain time, self and physical and conceptual engagement with a place. She is a keen walker and cyclist herself and is considering crossing a large space (e.g. Australia) using those means in a near future.

Introducing SF Associate Member Kumi Kato.

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