Adaptation—Genuine and Spurious: Demystifying Adaptation Processes in Relation to Climate Change

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Abstract:

In climate change discourse and policy, adaptation has become a critical byword and frame of reference. An implicit assumption in much of the strategizing is the notion that adaptation can be rationally planned, funded, and governed largely through existing frameworks. But can adaptation really be managed or engineered, especially given the significant unpredictability and severe impacts that are forecast in a range of climate scenarios? Over millennia, successful societies have adapted to climate shifts, but evidence suggests that this was often accomplished only through wide-ranging reorganization or the institution of new measures in the face of extreme environmental stress. This essay critically examines the concept of human adaptation by dividing it into eight fundamental processes and viewing each in a broad cultural, ecological, and evolutionary context. We focus our assessment especially on northern indigenous peoples, who exist at the edges of present-day climate governance frameworks but at the center of increasingly acute climate stress.

Keywords: ADAPTATION; ARCTIC; CLIMATE CHANGE; CULTURE; DEVELOPMENT; INDIGENOUS PEOPLES; VULNERABILITY

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/ares.2010.010107

Publication date: January 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • The field of research on environment and society is growing rapidly and becoming of ever-greater importance not only in academia but also in policy circles and for the public at large. This growth reflects the urgency of debate and the pace and scale of change with respect to the water crisis, deforestation, biodiversity loss, the looming energy crisis, nascent resource wars, environmental refugees, climate change, and environmental justice, which are just some of the many compelling challenges facing society today and in the future. It also reflects the richness and insights of scholarship exploring diverse cultural forms, social phenomena, and political-economic formations in which society and nature are intricately intertwined, if not indistinguishable.
    As a forum to address these issues, we are delighted to present an important new peer-reviewed annual: Environment and Society: Advances in Research. Through this journal we hope to stimulate advanced research and action on these and other critical issues and encourage international communication and exchange among all relevant disciplines.
    Environment and Society publishes critical reviews of the latest research literature on environmental studies, including subjects of theoretical, methodological, substantive, and applied significance. Articles also survey the literature regionally and thematically and reflect the work of anthropologists, geographers, environmental scientists, and human ecologists from all parts of the world in order to internationalize the conversations within environmental anthropology, environmental geography, and other environmentally oriented social sciences. The publication will appeal to academic, research, and policy-making audiences alike.

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