Fielding climate change: The role of anthropology

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Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, Inc.


Cultural anthropologists have become engaged in climate change research. Three conditions have led to this development including: the transformations that climate change is bringing to people, the recognition of the importance of research on the human dimensions of climate change, and the growing opportunities for anthropologists to participate in interdisciplinary climate adaptation research. Anthropology's study of climate change will help research the cultural meanings and social practices which cannot be captured by other disciplines. This chapter presents a number of anthropological studies, with identified epistemological and methodological approaches, that have led to particularly valuable insights. Four over-lapping axioms help explain how people comprehend climate change: how people perceive climate change through cultural lenses; how people comprehend what they see based on their mental models and social locations; how they give value to what they know in terms of shared meanings; and how they respond, individually and collectively, on the basis of these meanings and values. It is argued that anthropologists researching climate change are both challenged to broaden their field horizons and stand firm in their tradition of committed localism.


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Culture, Environmental impacts, Stakeholders, Social impacts, Climate change, Cultural anthropologists, Governance