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FELLOWSHIP INTERVIEW SESSION: Dr. Jonatan Lassa as Senior Research Fellow of Disaster and Climate Resilience

admin - May 04, 2021 06:33:10 pm 91 Views Location - Zoom Video Communications

Last March, RDI held an interview session with a senior fellow who has been both a practitioner and a researcher on Disaster and Climate Resilience in the previous 20 years. Our senior fellow, Dr Jonatan Lassa, is one of the research fellows selected to share his experiences at RDI and provide opinions and input for the future development of RDI.  This interview included four questions regarding research on disaster management.

The first question, "Why do we need to research disaster management in Indonesia?" Dr Lassa began by
'Let's take a look at the historical context first'.  He first explained that forty years ago, Indonesia research ecosystem was very minimal. "We were very dependent on foreign countries in terms of ideas, funding, facilities. The ability to see research gaps was also limited. However, research related to disaster and disaster risk in Indonesia has increased in the past two decades, especially after the Indian Ocean Tsunamis 2004. Even today, the condition has become much better than ten years ago, both in terms of the number of researchers and research outputs."


He noted that any research often aims to understand better the reality. For example, suppose the focus is on disasters. In that case, the realities are sliced into variables. Those can be the natural (physical), built environment and human dimension (anthropogenic processes), including multiple human vulnerabilities.

He then continued by mentioning that the reality is layered at many levels. Some variables include funding, and the question could be: who funded it, why and what questions get prioritised. If the government is interested in supporting research, the aim could be "to get a practical answer to the questions such as "What is the problem, and what should be done now?".

Governments are often interested in short-term interest. For example, like the case of COVID-19, they want to have a direct answer through product innovation in vaccine technology and medicines. Social innovation can be more direct social process innovations such as '3M and 3T'.

Meanwhile, researcher/academic is interested in research for the long-term questions; They are chasing after the ambition to understand the multi-dimensional behaviours of the universe, such as the (geological) behaviour of the earth, biological response, human adaptation, etc. The answers are both short and long terms.

Continue to the second question, "How the RDI can contribute to this?" He made it clear that RDI, as a think tank claimed to be a 'Global', is good and quite problematic. Contribution to global knowledge is necessary, and issues such as disaster should exceed the physical and administrative boundaries. However, according to him, 'Glokal' is more suitable to be used, because we should be looking more at systemic processes such as climate change or changes in the global physical and economic environment as well as contributing to thinking on global problems but must also be treating those global problems locally.

He then took an example of the transformation of fossil energy and plastic waste that started from our kitchen. To treat the deficit in response capacity to the impacts of climate change, it must begin with the transformation of individuals, families, neighbourhoods, hamlets, villages, sub-districts, cities to the state. This perspective sees the totality of the resilience and preparedness of a country as the aggregation of actions at the level of smaller units. For now, there is still a kind of 'bubble' in assessing the resilience of a country. For example, the central government can easily claim that we have succeeded in making our schools, houses, industries, and infrastructure disaster safe. But in reality, there only less than 5 per cent of schools have been facilitated for disaster management in 12 years.

Then for the last question is the suggestion for RDI. The role of RDI is to help identify gaps in disaster, energy, urban planning policies etc., for a more resilient earth society, including Indonesia.

Dr Lassa advised that there is a need for RDI to have self-reflection and self-critics.

He added: "Having series of webinars is a great start. Still, RDI needs more public engagement with civil society too. RDI staff needs to play roles as public intellectuals and write more opinions in the local and national newspapers. "It is time to see increase their writings in newspapers, blogs/microblogs and be more involved in 'street conversations' to connect with the online grassroots"

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