Climate Change, Culture, and Economics: Anthropological Investigations: Volume 35

Cover of Climate Change, Culture, and Economics: Anthropological Investigations
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Table of contents

(19 chapters)
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Introduction

Pages xiii-xix
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Part I: Local Cultural Adaptations/Adjustments

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to show the complexity in dealing with climate change adaptation at the local level, and to show how social and institutional factors in addition to the ecological challenges contribute to that complexity.

Methodology/approach

This paper examines four institutional climate change activities and reveals how institutions currently address climate change, and how the Sherpas are involved in the process. It draws on three sorts of material: the interviews and observations conducted during my field research in 2010 and 2011; my personal experiences as a Sherpa woman; my recent participation in Sherpa face-to-face and online communities.

Findings

Organizing institutional climate change activities to draw international attention alone are not sufficient to address climate change adaptation issues. Communities at the local level cannot be assumed to be homogeneous entities. Institutional climate change adaptation efforts cannot assume that by reaching out to a few individuals in the region they will benefit the whole. Institutional activities have increased receptivity to scientific climate change knowledge, but it has also increased fear of an impending doom, and anger over the continuous discussion of climate change without concrete actions.

Research implications

Future research in the Everest region should include residents from all ethnic groups considering their historical contacts and interactions.

Originality/value

It is crucial that not only the Sherpa agency (or lack of agency) or understandings are examined but the institutional engagements and delivery are also assessed to practically, effectively, and sustainably address the challenges of climate change adaptation.

Purpose

In France, as in other countries, the idea of installing rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels in private homes is based on an incentive scheme (tax advantages, feed-in tariffs, etc.) inspired by neoclassical economic theory. In the case of electricity producers in Reunion Island, unlike economists, we argue that producers’ calculations involve decision-making criteria which go further than any simple evaluation of economic costs and benefits.

Methodology/approach

Our approach is based on concepts of economic anthropology and on observations and semi-structured interviews conducted in the homes of the producers.

Findings

This ethnographic method allowed us to examine economic rationalities which revealed the anticipation of an energy landscape that will be subject to issues relating to the environment, access to electricity, evolution in the local electricity market, and household budget management. In this context, producers’ representations of solar power and of processes for commoditizing and decommoditizing the electricity produced (sold on the network/“free” when consumed) make compatible preservation of the environment and social norms of consumption.

Implications

This paper focuses on PV energy producers (who have been the object of very little research) and thus provides input for existing reflection on the diversity of economic rationalities. Such insight is important for understanding how people respond to policy appeals for PV panels. Anthropology therefore has an important role to play in the debate on energy transition. This conclusion paves the way for similar research in other contexts (of a non-insular nature in particular) which would allow for a promising comparative anthropological approach.

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze how the culture in the logging industry in the East Kootenay/Columbia region in British Columbia, Canada, is changing as warm winters resulting from climate change drive expansion of a native tree-killing pest, the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae).

Methodology/approach

The paper is derived from historical records and 11 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted from July 2010 to May 2011.

Findings

This analysis found that the insect outbreaks are generating a heightened sense of economic and physical vulnerability in the logging industry, undermining previous assumptions of sufficiency and confidence.

Research limitations/implications

This paper presents results from a study of a specific region, and caution should be used when comparing these results with similar phenomena in other contexts.

Social implications

The forest industry is an important employer throughout the British Columbia interior; the cultural changes documented here indicate that climate change, manifested in insect outbreaks, is generating cultural dislocation that can have negative consequences beyond the immediate economic impacts.

Originality/value

This paper provides a detailed analysis of how an unanticipated consequence of climate change is driving adjustments in a subculture in a technologically advanced society.

Part II: Food Production/Procurement

Purpose

To critically assess the contribution of community-based logging, low-carbon emission non-timber activities, and direct payment for environmental services in building sustainable rural livelihoods in the Amazon.

Methodology/approach

Fieldwork undertaken in 2008, 2010, and 2013 on sources of income for 110 interviewed families living in and around three different types of conservation units located on the advancing frontier in western Pará State.

Findings

Three scenarios identified with very different socio-environmental outcomes, (1) the multi-functional combination of agricultural and non-agricultural activities replaces frontier farming, reduces deforestation and carbon emissions, increases income, and promotes social inclusion, (2) the mere juxtaposition of green alternative activities alongside unsustainable frontier farming has limited regional impact, and (3) environmental restrictions interfere with rural livelihoods to the point that people to leave the countryside.

Social implications

Evaluation of the effectiveness of GO and NGO policies in one of the poorest and environmentally problematic regions of Brazil.

Originality/value

First-hand information at the family farmer level concerning sources of income from conventional and green land use systems which is essential for formulating viable socio-environmental policy capable of reducing deforestation and carbon emissions which negatively impact global climate change.

Purpose

This paper describes the different ways in which people in the highlands of Papua New Guinea are talking about climate change. It demonstrates that people locate themselves in this process of change in terms of food production and exchange, and that some of the changes being witnessed are also related to the impacts of a growing cash economy on social relations.

Methodology/approach

This ethnography involved 12 months fieldwork including participant observation and interviews.

Research limitations/implications

This is a qualitative study that recognises the perspective of local people for understanding culturally mediated experiences of climate change. However, data regarding rainfall and temperatures over time would be a useful addition for thinking about the extent to which the climate has in fact changed in recent years.

Practical implications

The implications of this paper are that the predictions made in 1990 about increases in production as a result of climate change are apparently coming true, with benefits for some food and coffee producers. But that there are complex social processes occurring at the same time as climate change that mean people’s ability to adapt is dependent on other social conditions. Maintaining ecologically sustainable methods of production and local cultural practices may enable more resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Originality/value

The experiences of people living in the Eastern Highlands and the ways in which people use the discourse of climate change are yet to be acknowledged in policy circles or socio-cultural anthropology literature. This paper presents a partial account of how people in Papua New Guinea are experiencing and talking about change.

Purpose

This paper examines localized conditions and responses to what people see as ordinary variations in the weather, drawing on their own archive of knowledge and practice for “coping” with it, as distinct from year-to-year climate patterns that may entail “adaptation.”

Design

This paper draws on ethnographic field research and rainfall statistics collected in 1968–1969 and 1987–1988, in a rural area of Western Nigeria where guinea-savannah small-scale farmers now grow increasingly for the market. Research in the 1980s was designed to track all changes since the 1960s. It is revisited here to draw out the rainfall variable.

Findings

In the 1980s, farmers noted a decline in the first rains of the early growing season, and a change in the short dry season, over a period of three years, in a way that differed from the expected patterns of twenty years previously. The shift is confirmed by rainfall statistics. Their crop repertoire choices are noted.

Limitations and research implications

The paper’s themes are culled from a broader range of observations over the 20 years. The interweaving of the variables in complex change over several decades is noted as a research challenge.

Originality

Local time series, interpreted through the local archive of social and technical practice, offers a rich entry point into what the recent AAA climate change review refers to as coping and adaptation, with respect to what I call “weather” and “climate.”

Purpose

The paper analyzes the adaptive behavior of farmers in the Yunnan province of China, where drought is occurring more frequently. We focus on the experiences with adaptation to climate change by farmers in the rural areas of China.

Methodology/approach

The research is based on a survey and a number of in-depth interviews of key stakeholders in a drought-stricken region.

Findings

Where the government is not always coming forward, the farmers take initiatives to adapt to the new situation of drought. Different mechanisms are being used, some linked to government policies and subsidies, other initiatives are initiated by the farmers themselves, individually or in small groups.

Research implications

More research on the livelihood strategies is necessary to better understand what these strategies mean for the household income and hence for the survival chances of poor households.

Practical implications

Climate change encourages local actors to play a role in drought adaptation, developing policies for mitigating the consequences of drought, trying to create water markets and involving local companies and water user associations. The research suggests stimulating the initiatives of the farmers and to create an enabling environment for them.

Social implications

Without government policies we will see growing inequalities in the rural areas of China.

Originality/value

We studied how in the case of drought farmers react to adapt to the new reality. Different adaptation strategies are distinguished and their relation to different government policies is established. We observed that farmers find their own solutions and create their own governance structures to assure for example supply of additional water to their fields.

Purpose

The study assesses the significance of environmental uncertainty and its effects on fishing strategies of small-scale fishermen in Ende, Flores, Indonesia. Periodic environmental cycles such as the moon phase can have important effects on fishing strategies by regulating the behavior of stocks and tides. Traditional lunar calendars are used by subsistence fishermen to decide when and where to go fishing. Environmental uncertainty, specifically unprecedented changes in oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, is threatening the predictability of traditional systems of ecological knowledge.

Methodology/approach

Methods included ethnographic and observational techniques. Interviews (n = 58) and surveys (n = 132) are qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed. A combination of standard statistical tests, multilevel models, and cluster analysis is applied to long-term repeated observations of fishing events (n = 2,633).

Findings

Endenese fishermen emphasized the importance of the traditional lunar calendar to allocate their effort in interviews and surveys. This belief does not coincide with observed behavior. Contrary to expectations from the traditional calendar, the lowest probability of fishing happens in the intermediate phases, with fishing also occurring during the full moon. Differences between individuals play an important role in explaining variability in returns. Finally, based on the consideration of variability, three different fishing strategies are identified that suggest an effect of environmental uncertainty in effort regulation.

Research implications

The paper underlines the importance of studies of variability to identify behavioral flexibility and adaptation. Results emphasize the value of considering individual traits in the analysis of subsistence practices.

Part III: Urban Situations

Purpose

This paper examines the conditions under which ancient peoples might have developed a concept of “sustainability,” and concludes that long-term resource management practices would not have been articulated prior to the development of the first cities starting c. 6,000 years ago.

Methodology/approach

Using biological concepts of population density and niche-construction theory, cities are identified as the first places where pressures on resources might have triggered concerns for sustainability. Nonetheless, urban centers also provided ample opportunities for individuals and households to continue the same ad hoc foraging strategies that had facilitated human survival in prior eras.

Social implications

The implementation of a sustainability concept requires two things: individual and institutional motivations to mitigate collective risk over the long term, and accurate measurement devices that can discern subtle changes over time. Neither condition was applicable to the ancient world. Premodern cities provided the first expression of large population sizes in which there were niches of economic and social mutualism, yet individuals and households persisted in age-old approaches to provisioning by opportunistically using urban networks rather than focusing on a collective future.

Originality/value

Archaeological and historical analysis indicates that a focus on “sustainability” is not an innate human behavioral capacity but must be specifically articulated and taught.

Purpose

This paper addresses how local retailers remain resilient in negotiating the lead up to and immediate aftermath of two major disasters (Typhoons Nesat and Nalgae) within a developing urban context (Dagupan City, Pangasinan). It highlights the specific mechanisms by which urban traders engage the Philippines’ more pervasive and highly resilient “culture of disaster” vis-à-vis conditions of chronic natural hazard.

Methodology/approach

This study relies predominately on the traditional anthropological techniques of participant observation and informal/semi-structured interviews to gather relevant project data. Supplementing these two core methods are findings derived from secondary sources like local and provincial newspapers, government records, public and university libraries, and census findings.

Findings

Findings suggest that a continual cycle of disaster impact and response does not overtly affect small retailers’ entrepreneurial initiative. It becomes clear that a persistent threat of natural hazards fosters a rather fatalistic sense of self-reliance.

Research limitations/implications

Study was designed and funded as a quick-response study; therefore, the research timeframe was rather compressed and the informant pool somewhat limited.

Social implications

The Philippines is widely recognized as a “culture of disaster” given its volatile position along the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire” and “Typhoon Alley.” This distinction assumes added dimension as the effects of global climate change become increasingly pervasive at the local level.

Originality/value

This paper adds ethnographic detail to a growing body of data on small business resilience within disaster prone areas of the Global South amid intensifying global climate change.

Findings

The forests of eastern Paraguayan have been cleared, forcing the indigenous Mbyá-Guaraní to take refuge in cities. Rather than assimilate into the city’s underclass as other indigenous people do, Mbyá remain on the margins of the national society and protest their land loss in increasingly public demonstrations against the government. This research points to the historical struggle that the Mbyá-Guaraní of eastern Paraguay have waged against the state to explain Mbyá identity and action in the urban environment.

Research limitations/implications

Recent work with indigenous refugees shows that dislocation entails not only a disruption of social ties, but efforts to reestablish identities and relations in their new conditions. This research explores the interplay of urban conditions and historic struggles in the development of these new indigenous identities for the Mbyá-Guarani.

Practical implications

Indigenous refugees in extreme poverty are a growing problem in urban Latin America. Once residents of the forest, these groups squat in vacant lots and scavenge for a living, ravaged by disease, drugs, alcohol, and sex work. This work seeks to identify the factors that lead some indigenous people to integrate into urban society, while others assert themselves against that system.

About the Authors

Pages 293-297
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Cover of Climate Change, Culture, and Economics: Anthropological Investigations
DOI
10.1108/S0190-1281201535
Publication date
2015-09-22
Book series
Research in Economic Anthropology
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78560-361-7
eISBN
978-1-78560-360-0
Book series ISSN
0190-1281