Panel 14: Climate change

Charlotte Maybom, University of Copenhagen, (chair)

Abstract: How international non-state actors’ depoliticized intervention practices repoliticize the emerging field of adaptation governance

International non-state actors, such as civil society organizations, private corporations, and multinational hybrid organizations, increasingly undertake the roles as forerunners in implementing global climate change adaptation policies. Scholars and practitioners tend to perceive non-state actors as “the good guys” expecting them to fill in governance gaps in the Global South by providing the regulation and services necessary for adaptation, and by representing and empowering local communities. However, little is known about how these “depoliticized” adaptation interventions may, in reality, validate existing global and national policy agendas on behalf of local agendas, or what consequences they may have to the socio-political dynamics in the local communities in which they are implemented. The main aim of this paper is to lay out the theoretical and conceptual framework for a fieldwork on the role of non-state actors’ adaptation interventions in rural Kenya. The fieldwork will be carried out in an area severely impacted by climate change, intense land competition, and changing land rights. The various adaptation initiatives undertaken by non-state actors thus take place in a context of historical and contemporary claims, contestations, and negotiations over land and rights. The recognition of the rights of certain groups can exclude other groups competing for access to land for adaptation, and create new social and political contracts. The paper takes outset in political ecology’s framing of the mainstream concept of adaptation as universalizing, depoliticizing, and technocratic, and in critical scholars’ argument that it sidesteps issues related to power, access, and inequality. The paper takes a step further than this critique by examining how international non-state actors and their intervention practices impact socio-political dynamics, structures and politics, and thereby contribute to repoliticizing the emerging field of adaptation governance.

Tuva Volden, University of Copenhagen,


My research explores interplays between climate change, adaptation and governance. I focus on experiences of these among residents in the Native Village of Selawik, Alaska. Three weeks of anthropological fieldwork in the village inform my arguments. Selawik, as many Alaska Native villages, exists on the periphery of the American nation-state but at the forefront of global climate change. This makes it an interesting context for exploring broader debates like how climate change influences government-citizen relations, and limits to indigenous recognition and inclusion within late liberal democracy (Povinelli 1998; 2011). I argue that local experiences of climate change, adaptation and the government’s role in these processes need to be understood within a broader historical, cultural and political context. While many informants wanted more government assistance in adaptation, there was a dominant emphasis on self-reliance. I highlight two aspects which can help explain this independence-in- adaptation focus. First, government help with climate issues was frequently associated with government economic assistance, which was said to cause socioeconomic issues and make many residents government dependants. Second, informants displayed feelings of historical and present government disconnectedness. Many seemed to lack faith in the government, and in their own power to influence the political agenda. Informants’ emphases on self-reliance in adaptation should, I propose, be seen in relation to negative experiences with government assistance and feelings of political disconnectedness. Aligned with critiques of contemporary climate change discourse, I argue for the need to view climate change and adaptation as political (Basset & Fogelman 2013; Lindegaard 2018; MacKinnon & Derickson 2012). I propose that these issues are political at the nation-state level, and that Selawik residents’ views are also shaped by politics. In turn, a shift in policy addressing climate change is promoted, making the government more responsive to environmental issues’ interlinkages to historical, cultural and political factors.

Andrea Nightingale, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,

Abstract: Frontiers of Climate Change: unruly landscapes of a future Himalaya

Attempts at governing ecological crises are just that: attempts. Life is far too unruly to quietly acquiesce to control and management raising uncomfortable questions about how to govern the new resource and territorial frontiers emerging from climate change. Not only are new lands being created by melting glaciers, catastrophic floods, and shifting temperature regimes, attempts at governing climate are creating new resources such as carbon and climate conservation areas. By starting from the unruliness and uncontrollability of life, this paper explores the continuous (re)configurations of humans and non-humans required to accomplish governing climate, in order to create new insights into the complex, often unpredictable political, social, cultural and ecological terrains that result. Drawing from scholars of science and political ecologists who have long pointed out that knowing is not somehow separate from the worlds we create, and feminist work on power and recognition, the paper looks at how climate change programs are caught up in the riotous, inadvertent contradictions of environmental governance.Action, imagination, naming, and everyday practices create lasting connections; they bring the world into being in a continuous and dynamic manner demanding that we develop a more than human ethics. Using a case study of Nepal, the paper works through the entanglements of forests, user-groups, geopolitics and efforts at responding to predictions of calamitous change to show how they are complicit in producing the dilemmas we face.

Nora Haukali, University of Bergen,


With climate change as an ongoing reality the Fijian government is highlighting a new sustainable development regime with much attention on individual, economic growth. Though money has been in circulation for a long time in village life, there is now a stronger top down pressure to earn and save money. Those living on rural islands are encouraged to sell fish and agriculture produce at the market in the capital, with economic gain as the main motivation. Commodification of rural produce is further encouraged through an official system of registration, where people register how much they produce and sell, and how much they earn, and remuneration is given to those showing good results. This new emphasis on the accumulation of wealth is challenging the core social structures in the village and at times the core of what it means to be a Fijian. Through ethnography from a rural island in Fiji, this paper will investigate how commodification of resources affects the local concepts of kerekere(lit. begging/asking for help) and loloma(love). For villagers, money is something good that people want and need on the one hand, and the devil breaking up the love between kin on the other. So, how do people experience the state’s emphasis on accumulation and resource management? Moreover, what is the consequence of the new importance of money, promoted by the government, to kinship relations? In short, the paper will explore the relationship between material wealth and the inner, spiritual life.