Rural areas in Japan are facing a critical challenge to their sustainability due to aging and depopulation. These demographic changes have been causing drastic declines in the quality of the living environment, resource management, and social vitality of rural communities. The aims of the present chapter are (i) to discuss the sustainability of rural areas by analyzing the depopulation process of rural communities with respect to their community-functions, and (ii) to address the methodological challenge to examine the sustainability of the target system by applying the community marginalization framework. In this study, the sustainability of a rural area is set as the totality of the self-managing capability of individual communities. To discuss the sustainability of the target system, the methodology employed should be able to examine the changes that occur over time within the system. This chapter showcases how to apply the community marginalization framework in a sustainability science field study, which allows the illustration of qualitative changes in rural communities as they experience population declines over a period of time. The case study was composed of a questionnaire survey to all households in the village. The data collected were analyzed based on five community groups, which were defined by their population sizes. Findings suggested that there is a clear divergence in the process of functional declines among community groups. Especially, communities with less than 40 residents are significantly restricted, regarding their access to basic services, income satisfaction, and the formation of local groups. Moreover, the methodology applied depicted continuing future declining demographic trajectories for the communities with greater than 40 residents, highlighting the severe problems that are being faced by the entire study area.
Kudo, S. (2016). Sustainability field exercises in rural areas: Applying the community marginalization framework to examine qualitative changes in rural communities. In Sustainability Science: Field Methods and Exercises (pp. 153–176). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-32930-7_8