DSA2016: Politics in Development
The panel presents 'political ecology' analyses of power and politics at play in contexts of 'eco-system based adaptation' programs in Mexico, large dam construction in Asia and Africa, and practices of agro-biodiversity among indigenous smallholders in the Bolivian altiplano.
This panel presents political ecology critiques of policies currently popular in the pursuit of sustainable development in three different national settings. The papers explore relationships between political, economic and social factors in relation to environmental issues and changes, analyse 'what people do' and 'why' in relation to natural resources, and highlight issues of 'power' in setting agendas and producing ecological outcomes. Newsham examines 'eco-system based adaptation' programs undertaken by multilateral agencies and international NGOs involved in conservation and development in three field sites in Mexico, and questions the rosy 'win-win-win' picture of these interventions. He argues that EBA obscures local alternatives, that population matters in shaping benefits of these programs, and that neoliberal dynamics shape and limit what these initiatives can achieve. Urban and Siciliano question the current favourable light in which hydropower is regarded as a less-harmful energy source, and based on the comparative analysis of 4 dams in Asia and Africa, they examine the role of Chinese dam builders, and of national host governments in determining how large dams and their environmental and social impacts are being governed and managed. They show how scale plays out in the distribution of costs and benefits and suggest some measures to balance out this distribution. Finally, Baldinelli examines how agro-biodiversity practiced by indigenous smallholders in the Bolivian altiplano maintains 'traditional practices', and how these practices have responded to new stimuli and priorities. In particular, she explores the role of migrants in generating and maintaining practices of agro-biodiversity.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Ecosystems-based adaptation: are we being conned? Insights from political ecology
Ecosystems based adaptation (EbA) promises much but appears to have learned little from previous experience. Field research from Mexico, guided by a political ecology approach, flag the trade-offs which the EbA approaches need to, but as yet do not, address fundamentally.
Using biodiversity and/or ecosystems to help people adapt to climate change (Ecosystems-based adaptation, or EBA) has, in recent years, received significant attention, having been championed by a range of international conservation and development actors. One of the more prominent framings of EBA emphasises its potential to bring about win-win-win-win outcomes. As such, this framing attempts to imbue EBA with the same kind of intuitive appeal held by a related, predecessor term, namely, sustainable development.
However, it is perhaps precisely the terms that claim to hold such intuitive appeal which require the most scrutiny. Whilst hypothetical benefits are overrepresented in the literature on EBA, there is little coverage of the costs and, crucially, the trade-offs that can be entailed. This paper will present the results of fieldwork from 3 fieldsites in the states of San Luís Potosí and Querétaro, Mexico, which explore ecosystems-based adaptation in the context of protected areas. Our results suggest that whilst EBA-relevant interventions delivered significant benefits in contexts when applied at a very small scale (less than 200 people), trade-offs were evident in fieldsites which were more populous. The risk with more prominent EBA framings, therefore, is that they a) overlook the (often painful) lessons of integrated conservation and development projects; and b) can obscure more effective or locally desired adaptation measures. Finally, we suggest that what is still missing in the ecosystems-based adaptation literature is a sense of the implications for its objectives of a globally predominant neoliberal political economy.
Climate Change and Vulnerable Coastal Communities in Ghana.
The paper presents a political ecology analyses of the factors that influence local adaptation strategies of fishers in Ghana. It also examines the power relationships that shape climate change policies/initiatives and their impact on local issues of vulnerability and adaptive capacity.
Fisher folks living in coastal communities are highly vulnerable to climate change and climatic variability. In recent years climate change and other factors like overfishing have contributed to a depletion in fish stocks and other natural resources. This has an adverse impact on livelihoods and general well-being of fisher folks.
Fishers have by themselves taken initiatives to adapt to climatic changes however the rate of adaptation does not seem to keep pace with the magnitude of changes, hence the need for institutional support. Power asymmetries tend to limit opportunities for them to participate in decision making processes at the formal level, consequently their concerns are often not incorporated into national priorities, leading to a mismatch between local adaptation strategies and formal climate policies/initiatives.
The paper discusses results from a case study of a fishing community in Ghana. Data was gathered using participatory tools, focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews at the household, community and institutional level. The paper explores the linkages between vulnerability, access to capital assets, asset functions, livelihood strategies and outcomes at the local level. The paper presents a political ecology analyses of the political and socio-economic factors that influence access to assets, analysing how individuals combine different assets and their functions to achieve the livelihood and adaptation strategies they use in responding to climate variability and change. It also examines the political processes that shape climate policies/initiatives looking at the intersection between narratives, actors-networks, politics-interests and their impact on local issues of vulnerability and adaptive capacity.
Climate change mitigation and large Chinese hydropower dams: a political ecology of the Asian drivers' perspective
This paper investigates the political ecology of large hydropower dams as an option for climate change mitigation, with particular reference to the role of Chinese dam-builders in Asia and Africa.
Hydropower development is currently experiencing a global renaissance, fuelled by climate change concerns, and led by Chinese dam-builders and financiers. Large dams are a key energy priority in many low and middle income countries and they are considered a means to increase energy access, achieve development goals and contribute to climate change mitigation. However large hydropower dam projects have devastating, irreversible environmental impacts and can also negatively impact people's livelihoods and lives by reducing access to local natural resources such as land, water and food, as well as involving involuntary resettlement. This paper investigates China's role as the world's largest builder and investor of large dams, using a 'political ecology of the Asian drivers' perspective. It addresses the role Chinese actors play in large dam-building as well as the social, environmental, economic and political implications by drawing on four selected case studies: Kamchay dam in Cambodia, Bakun dam in Malaysia, Bui dam in Ghana and Zamafara dam in Nigeria. The paper concludes first that while the role of Chinese dam builders is important the role of national host governments is often determining how large dams and their impacts are being governed and managed, second, the paper indicates that the divergence between national priorities and local development needs can result in the unequal distribution of costs and benefits, third, the paper makes recommendations for more sustainable hydropower development. Finally, the paper stresses the importance of linking climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as exploring the energy-water-food nexus.
Effects of Climate Change on City's Liveability and Livelihood Options in Ethiopia
Using GIS the paper analyses urban land and land cover change and air quality index to investigate the effects of climate change on city’s liveability and livelihood options in Ethiopia
About 50 per cent of the world's population lives in cities and majority of the cities are located in the developing countries. Urban expansion and environmental pollution are some of the key factors that state authorities and local agencies have to consider in the decision making process for sustainable development. Urban climatic condition has been changing over the years as a result of population increase, rapid urban expansion and environmental degradation. The effects of climate change manifest in form of increasing temperature (urban heat island) and precipitation (Flood or draught), changing humidity, urban ventilation and air quality. This paper utilises GIS to analyse urban land and land cover change and air quality index in examining the potential effects of climate change on liveability and livelihood options in selected cities in Ethiopia. In view of the physical planning regulations and housing design in Ethiopian cities, the results will highlight specific areas where urban planning intervention would be particularly useful to improve local climates and build resilience to future climate impacts.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.