Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

The Generation of Climate Knowledge
Location Senate House - Bedford Room
Date and Start Time 27 May, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 2


  • Sandra Piesik (Foster + Partners) email

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Short Abstract

This panel focuses on practical methods of anthropological research which communicate indigenous knowledge and technologies concerning weather and climate change to a wider multi-disciplinary global community ranging from applied science, civil society, policy makers and governments.

Long Abstract

Combating climate change is a complex issue involving many disciplines. Since the milestone Rio Earth Summit in 1992, many related global initiatives have taken place to address what is one of the most pressing issues of this century. More recently, a number of United Nations organisations and the three climate change conventions have recognised the role of indigenous knowledge and technologies in finding solutions to combat climate change, that would be implementable both locally on the ground and also translated into policies at regional government and global levels. The role of modern science and technology has also been acknowledged as an important catalyst in technology co-development. However, there is a gap in understanding how best a multi-disciplinary global community including representatives that contribute to the built environment, the natural sciences, civil society and public policy should engage with local people and gain a deeper understanding of their knowledge.

This panel therefore invites contribution focused on the three main conference themes: Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change that would provide case studies on:

1. Primary response: The Co-generation of Climate Knowledge: practical methods of anthropological research focused on communicating indigenous knowledge and technologies to a wider multi-disciplinary global community.

2. Primary response: Criteria that could be adopted by the climate change conventions as well as other UN and intergovernmental organizations focused on harvesting regional climate knowledge and technologies.

3. Secondary response: Evaluation of the subject in the context of recent and proposed legislation at the global governance level such as:

1. COP 21 - The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC

2. Sustainable Development Goals

3. Proceedings from the 3rd Scientific Conference of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) 9-12 March 2015

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Mechanism for Implementation Keynote

Author: Tomasz Chruszczow (UNFCCC)  email

Short Abstract

Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Long Abstract

None provided.

The Destruction and Preservation of Rainforest, a Culture, and its Vernacular Architecture: Desa Lingga, a Karo Village in North Central Sumatra

Author: Barbara Anello-Adnani (Dar al Hekma University)  email

Short Abstract

The preservation of intangible culture, architectural heritage, and the natural environment are linked in the restoration of traditional structures in Lingga, a Karo village in Sumatra. Managing the dynamics of change in a crisis environment requires multifaceted, local and international alliances.

Long Abstract

In North Central Sumatra issues of climate change, deforestation, habitat destruction, and species loss interface directly with the declining state of traditional built forms and intangible culture in a globalized present. Cultural, aesthetic, economic, and historical values coalesce around questions of heritage preservation, architectural and environmental protection, development, ownership, stewardship, and use of resources. This paper examines efforts to restore several traditional structures in a Karo village, Desa Lingga. To manage the dynamics of social, economic, and environmental change in a rapidly shifting, crisis environment alliances across borders, both local and global, individual and institutional, are required. Intangible culture, built form, and the natural environment are inextricably bound. The Sumatran rainforest cover, on UNESCO's list of World Heritage in Danger, has been reduced by about half in the past thirty years. With it is going the cultural identity, unique built forms, and the associated traditional knowledge of the region. Efforts to value, continue, transmit, and archive such knowledge are required to insure that future generations can not only preserve what was, but envision and create new, sustainable design solutions incorporating specialized, local, knowledge and resources. The case of Lingga brings together a range of disparate players including international non-governmental organizations, a university, and a web of actors and agencies from Lingga to New York, Amsterdam, and Medan, all collaborating to save the few remaining traditional structures in a village on the island home to one of the worlds largest surviving rainforests.

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Community based Monitoring of Microclimate in Agroecological Gardens at high altitudes as a measure taken to Adapt to Climate Change

Author: Paulina Rosero  email

Short Abstract

This research analyses an initiative carried out by 10 women labouring in subsistence agriculture. The measurement of 5 microclimatic variables correlated with the presence of agroforestry systems reveals how this agroecological practice can be implemented as an adaptation measure to climate change

Long Abstract

The following research was developed within one of the pilot initiatives of the Andean Community Project "Adaptation to the impact of the accelerated process of glacier retreat in the Andean Tropics". The objective was to monitor climate variables in agroecological gardens where an agroforestry system (SAF) was implemented for determining the variability of its microclimatic conditions. Community based Monitoring was chosen as an inclusive method which integrates local, experience based and background knowledge with scientific methods to produce it. Therefore, measurements were taken by a committee of 10 women who labour in subsistence agriculture in Papallacta, a rural settlement in Ecuador. Two types of cases are analysed: the presence and absence of agroforestry systems in high altitude gardens. Specific characteristics of each agroforestry system are compared with the measurement of 5 variables which define different microclimatic environments. The results approach to validate the agroforestry system as an effective practice for adaptation to Climate Change in mountainous regions. Additionally, the experience of women involved in the acquisition of technical and social skills throughout the whole process is highlighted. Complementary data about soil management, labour and social conditions of each family is presented to demonstrate the particularity of such means of subsistence that are permanently exposed to weather variability and extreme climatic events such as frosts. The paper concludes that gardens with SAFs are certainly more resilient than the ones who lack it, but that the main measure to manage weather uncertainty is diversity.

Dessication and rain rockets: Natural disasters and climate change in South Africa

Author: Deborah Whelan (Durban University of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will discuss how historical weather patterns have been addressed by farming communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It will address the effects of 'dessication', before employing historical anthropology to describe how climate was interpreted, addressed and accepted in the past.

Long Abstract

South Africa is currently experiencing a devastating drought. Some view it as the impact of El NiƱo, others see it as a result of decline in morality in a post apartheid, neo-liberal society. The drought has coincided with the first major recession since the appointment of the democratic dispensation in 1994 which has for many exacerbated the interpretation of drought. However, this is not a new phenomenon, being part of an historical cyclical wet / dry system. Furthermore, gradual change in climate appears to have been identified as early as the mid-19th century Cape Colony, with the trends being described as 'dessication' resulting in the writing into law the requirements for the retention of indigenous forests, legally circumscribed as 'Crown Forests' to preserve the environment. For South African farmers, subsistence and mechanical, drought and floods are not a new challenge. Cycles of feast and famine, wet and dry are abundant in the social records of the last century, showcasing the optimism and desperation of people working the land.

This paper will employ methodologies of historical anthropology to discuss climate variation and climate change in KwaZulu-Natal, Southern Africa. Archival records, documents produced by Farmer's Associations and the Natal Agricultural Union will be used to interrogate this subject, in addition to situating more recent assertions which attempt to explain the current crisis.

Vanguard and Vernacular: Green Construction from Local to International in the MENA Region

Author: Karen Rizvi (WCS)  email

Short Abstract

Buildings worldwide consume energy and add to greenhouse gas emissions. Innovative energy-efficient construction combined with traditional designs can create better buildings for local climates. Local and international partnerships are promoting such renewable energy strategies across the MENA region.

Long Abstract

The UNEP has estimated that buildings worldwide consume over 40% of global energy, including 60% of electricity, and 25% of water resources. The construction sector produces over 30% of greenhouse gases and is the largest contributor to global emissions. Electricity and fuel costs burden local communities while urban expansion imposes a strain on national energy grids and degrades the quality of regional air and water.

Fortunately, the building sector offers great potential for innovation in green technologies and high impact energy efficient construction. Significant cost savings can arise from easy fixes, such as adding insulation and low-emissive materials, to larger shifts in the industry toward renewable energy and reduced consumption.

In the MENA region this transition can include both high-tech solutions and traditional building practices that embrace local climates. A strategy that combines vernacular with vanguard techniques is also an opportunity to bridge local, regional and international levels in a larger dialogue. Vernacular design features such as clay brick and natural ventilation can exist alongside solar panels and efficient appliances. The resulting structures consume less energy and boost the employment of local artisans and builders.

In Egypt, local architects have worked on a prototype for a hybrid residential building with both traditional features and innovative renewable materials. Development organizations including GIZ, which represents the EU in spearheading energy-efficient construction across the MENA region, can nurture such projects that begin at the local level. Investment in green construction has great potential for both environmental and economical benefits on all levels.

Criteria for the Adaptation and Implementation of COP21 Paris Agreement in the Context of Technology Development and Transfer of Renewable Resources

Author: Sandra Piesik (Foster + Partners)  email

Short Abstract

Technology development, research and transfer are listed in the COP21 Paris Agreement amongst strategies that countries should adopt to combat climate change and to embrace sustainable economic growth.

Long Abstract

Nationally determined contributions are made in recognition of the individual countries' capabilities defined by their economic growth as well as technologies developed through evolutionary processes in response to different climate zones of the world.

This paper will examine interconnections between individual climate zones of the world, eco-systems, the availability of local resources and existing traditional technologies that are suitable for modern adaptation when considering economies of scale, appropriate traditional knowledge systems, innovation and contemporary research & development. The criteria for technology transfer of renewable resources, aimed at building resilience, will be proposed with a specific focus on the most vulnerable climates and communities.

Technology and knowledge transfer of the existing natural capital of the planet may prove to be one of the fastest and cheapest long-term solutions for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. The one dimensional concept of modernization as a symbol or criterion of growth needs to be challenged, but at the same time barriers against the authentic, integrated response to combat climate change must be identified in order to develop holistic and balanced solutions.

Tomorrow's 'climate knowledge' generation will have to embrace collaborative responses to local contexts by forming broader multi-disciplinary, global community teams using the specialist knowledge from indigenous peoples, applied science, civil society, local and national policy makers, governments and UN organisations.

1 UNFCCC FCCC/CP/2015/L9 12th December 2016 Article 7.2 p.24

Fornicating frogs: local Bangla knowledge of climate change?

Authors: Mahbub Alam (Indepedent University, Bangladesh)  email
Paul Sillitoe (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

A discussion of local climate change knowledge in NE Bangladesh and possible community adaptation options, drawing on the findings of a household survey and contrasting with national level policy debates and associated political constraints.

Long Abstract

If climate change impacts are of the order some forecast, Bangladesh is at particular risk, notably to sea level rises and catastrophic flooding -- situated on one of the world's largest deltas -- together with cyclones and drought. The threats have prompted a national policy debate about strategies to meet the challenges but limited actions. Local perceptions of climate-cum-environmental changes hardly feature, although these will inform people's responses to national strategies and local communities are likely to be largely liable for adaptation actions too. We discuss a survey conducted in the Hakaluki hoar (large lake system) region to assess local knowledge of climate change and capability to cope with predicted impacts. Although largely unaware of the debate itself, people have observed considerable changes in their region's weather patterns, with flash floods, for instance, and also the natural environment, with changes in lake flora and fauna. Regarding possible community coping strategies that draw on local resources and ingenuity, responses are markedly limited, possibly irrelevant, referring to the wrath of nature and praying for help, maybe even staging a 'frog marriage'. However inadequate they may seem, local adaptation options should figure in any reckoning because effective interventions need to jive with residents' experiences and ways, as negative outcomes of the 'Flood Action Plan' illustrate. These are equally political as environmental issues, as the survey responses indicate with a substantial number referring to political problems with respect to coping strategies, not natural changes, which poses some awkward questions for those in power.

Towards sustainable focus and action on projects in the built environment.

Author: Christopher Trott (Foster + Partners)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines practical sustainability knowledge from the perspective of a design practitioner in the built environment, and how to excite people to higher levels of sustainable performance. In so doing it will examine how different parties understand related sustainability principles.

Long Abstract

The struggle towards sustainable global governance has demonstrated the fundamental problems to bringing clarity to decisions and actions and to social, environmental and economic equity when the states of development of countries vary widely.

However post-industrial understanding around sustainability has increased idiosyncratically. Many people now possess fragments of expert knowledge; far fewer have expertise in application and delivery.

The built environment poses a significant problem, characterised by the delivery (initiation, design, construction, and operation) of highly diverse non-repetitive projects, with multiple individuals who rarely work together. Projects are delivered with finite time scales and budgets. Furthermore many practitioners have limited knowledge of the skills and processes that were successfully used for thousands of years in pre-industrial society; so cannot access the highly integrated and interdependent virtues of a circular economy, which are inevitably going to need reproduction in the future.

This paper will examine the practical acquisition and dissemination of sustainability knowledge from the perspective of a design practitioner in the built environment, and how to excite people to action and then higher levels of sustainable performance.

It will examine how different parties understand differing principles such as sustainability, environmentalism, the climate, the green agenda and the complexities they struggle with in making sense of these interrelated and interconnected issues.

In doing so the aim will be to offer practical advice and strategies that will give insight to regulators, project promoters, financially interested parties, socially interested parties, authorities with jurisdiction, designers such as architects and engineers, and advisors on projects.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.