Anthropology, Weather & Climate Change

Traditional knowledge, infrastructure and climate change
Location Senate House - Holden Room
Date and Start Time 27 May, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 2


  • Marc Brightman (Università di Bologna) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Marc Brightman (UCL)
Discussant Jerome Lewis (UCL), Tom Griffiths (Forest Peoples Programme), Conrad Feather (Forest Peoples Programme)

Short Abstract

Traditional peoples broadly represent one vision of sustainable livelihood. Large-scale 'sustainable' infrastructure projects (real and virtual/market) represent another, preserving consumer society. What happens when these visions confront each other in the same landscape? Are they compatible?

Long Abstract

Traditional peoples depend on local landscapes for the maintenance of their traditional knowledge practices. Such practices are often integral to their identity, wellbeing and livelihoods. The lands of traditional peoples are affected by accelerating changes: changing climate and weather, and also measures that are being taken in the name of adapting to or mitigating climate change, e.g. hydroelectric dams; solar farms; REDD and other carbon trading initiatives, railways and roads to access sites of 'sustainable' development.

In the face of such changes, what are the prospects for preserving traditional knowledge? Can technological, financial and physical infrastructural projects provide additional sources of prosperity and better conditions for traditional knowledge to thrive? Does the small scale on which traditional practices exist merely allow them to continue to operate between the cracks of the gigantic scale infrastructure operations around them? Can partnerships with non-governmental and research organisations help traditional peoples maintain their livelihoods as well as adapt to radical changes in their landscape? Are outcomes always predictably confrontational or exploitative?

This panel seeks to understand a range of situations in which these two scales of development confront or intersect with one another. We would like contributions describing encounters and engagements between community led practices of sustainability, and state and business led infrastructural, digital or engineered sustainability projects. We encourage innovative or alternative modes of presentation, and especially welcome contributions from individuals or organisations practically involved in sustainable infrastructure projects.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Ecologising Infrastructure? Rethinking the city in a time of climate change.

Author: Hannah Knox (University College London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper considers the interplay between ecological and infrastructural ways of relating to the environment in the context of urban responses to climate change.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the interplay between ecological and infrastructural relational imaginaries as they are playing out in urban responses to climate change in the UK. Rather than opposing a modern 'infrastructural' imaginary, with traditional 'ecological' understandings of humans and their environments, this paper aims to collapse this opposition by understanding the systemic promise of both contemporary infrastructural and ecological understandings. In the paper I describe how the problem of anthropogenic climate change as it is understood in a UK local government setting has begun to co-articulate what might otherwise be understood as two very different forms of systems analysis. On the one hand, scientific data on anthropogenic climate change, its causes, and potential solutions, appear to be undoing or disrupting a logic of modernist planning, shifting infrastructure planning from a focus on how to engineer closed systems, to the issue of how to manage emergent and distributed forms of change. This sensibility towards relations of emergence has in turn begun to open the way for ecological approaches -captured in ideas like permaculture, re-wilding and the Bolivian concept of 'Buen Vivir' - to be operationalized as experimental concepts for rethinking and reimagining what the future of urban planning should look like. Rather than considering then, how infrastructure projects disrupt or undermine traditional, ecological knowledge, this paper focuses on how traditional or embodied forms of environmental relating are being brought to bear on practices of modern urban development, and with what effects.

"Everyone will see what President Morales is doing." Amazonian people's utilization of international cooperations as allies against their pro-indigenous government

Author: Esther Lopez (University of London, School of Advanced Studies, Institute of Latin American Studies)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at Amazonian people’s mechanisms to improve their livelihood in light of a pro-indigenous government from whom they feel threatened. By agreeing to international infrastructure projects, Bolivian Amazonian groups hope to both expose government exploitation and improve their livelihood.

Long Abstract

This presentation looks at Amazonian people's struggles to maintain their livelihood in light of, not as one might think, foreign projects offeringdevelop ment, but instead their own pro-indigenous government from which they see their autonomy and indigeneity appropriated. Bolivian Amazonian groups hope to both improve their livelihood, but also to defend it by exposing what they consider government wrong-doings implemented in the name of decolonization and Andean indigenous cosmologies as Sumak Kawsay. Indeed, Bolivia's President Evo Morales has been accused of hypocrisy by NGOs and indigenous organisations at the recent climate summit in Bolivia for passing energy decrees which open national parks for resource exploitation and for infringing on indigenous communal lands. Tacana and Tsiman/Moseten groups from the Bolivian Amazon experience the government operating in their legal territory without consultation extracting lumber, planning dams and a highway-bridge over the Beni River. As a result they encourage cooperation with international agencies, "so the world can see what he (President Morales) is doing". They see this as an opportunity for improving their livelihoods and maintaining direct control over their natural surroundings. However, this is not necessarily equated with its preservation as defined by the ethno-ecological NGOs and as has been projected onto them with the image of the "ecological Indian". Rather, landscapes are regarded as a compilation of powerful entities represented in cosmological myths of which some are indestructible and others need to be kept in check.

Tradition and Change in Local Communities along the Railroad (mobility, resources and identity politics in the BAM Region).

Author: Olga Povoroznyuk (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the notion of tradition in relation to changing practices of mobility, resource use, and identity construction in indigenous and mixed communities lying along the Baikal-Amur Mainline in northern Zabaikal’skiy Kray, East Siberia and Amurskaya Oblast’, Russian Far East.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the notions of tradition and change in indigenous and mixed communities in northern Zabaikal'skiy Kray, East Siberia and Amurskaya Oblast', Russian Far East, brought about by the construction and functinoning of the Baikal-Amur Mainline. Originally designed to serve resoure extraction industry, the BAM has significantly altered traditional land use practices and mobility regimes of indigneous (Evenki) and local population, who moslty susbsisted on hunting and herding, leading (semi)nomadic life, or lived off small-scale farming in villages. Presently, administrations and extractive companies often use this fact to support their essentialistic concepts of traditionality in promoting industrial projects and contesting indigenous rights to natural resources.

Analysing the railroad's role for local communities, I will set the following questions. How has the entangelement of local population with the railroad changed their land use practices and mobility regimes? Which networks currently connect taiga reindeer herders' camps and villages with BAM hub towns? How do different stakaholders apply the concepts of traditional land use and traidtional lifestyle in competition for natural resources and in local identity politics? And what are the visions and projects of sustainable development, involving indigenous, local and newcomer populations, associated with tradition in this resource curse situation?

State, business and changing local livelihood strategies in Southwest Bangladesh

Authors: Bob Pokrant (Curtin University)  email

Short Abstract

What has been the impact of historical and contemporary state and business-based drivers of socio-ecological change on rural Bangladeshi livelihood practices and the forms of knowledge they embody?

Long Abstract

Since the 1960s, the landscapes and waterscapes of Southwest Bangladesh have been affected by four major state and business-directed drivers: the construction of coastal dykes aimed to protect farming land from coastal flooding, resulting in increased siltation, waterlogging, loss of arable land and local riverine navigation; loss of up-stream water from infrastructural changes to the Ganges-Padma river system resulting in reduction in freshwater flows, landward intrusion of saline water and loss of land-water productivity and biodiversity; changing land use from rice to brackish water shrimp culture that increased soil salinity, degraded local biodiversity and created greater landlessness and poverty; and more recently state policies on climate change adaptation and energy security.

This paper has three aims:

1. To describe the drivers of these changes, their material and discursive underpinnings, and their differential impacts on local communities and ecologies;

2. To examine the ways in which practitioners of selected livelihood strategies (fishers, farmers and resource extractors) have understood and responded to these changes;

3. To discuss the implications of these changes and responses for the theoretical utility and policy relevance of the concepts of 'traditional' and local knowledges and practices.

The presentation draws on primary research in two villages in Southwest Bangladesh complemented by secondary sources from other rural sites in the country.

An Analysis Of Canadian Green Bond P3s For The Purpose Of Sustainability

Author: Callum Haslam (Canadian Council For Public Private Partnerships)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on the relationship between financial/infrastructure frameworks and increased sustainability. This paper presents an analysis of (1) future steps for world governments (2) the future role of P3s in sustainable infrastructure development and (3) an analysis of current frameworks.

Long Abstract

This paper addresses the following question: is there sufficient evidence to suggest that the P3 procurement method of infrastructure development could prove instrumental in providing specific solutions in the fight against adverse effects of climate change? This paper examines current infrastructure frameworks and financing methods to determine best practices of green infrastructure financing, and analyzes findings to determine best practices that can be applied to alternative projects. This paper utilizes extensive qualitative data from various sources, and examines quantitative methods of infrastructure financing that could be integrated into future policy. The results are presented as political recommendations that could act as next steps for governments. The Canadian market is examined in order to draw attention to infrastructure frameworks and projects that have proven successful in the fight against climate change. A report from the IISD is examined to present an overview of the role of P3s in sustainable development. Documents from the World Bank present information on the financing of sustainable P3 projects. From this data next steps for government are presented. First, that market monitoring legislation should be established to identify best practices. Second, knowledge transmission standards should be developed to foster transparency. Third, regulation standards and reporting standards should be developed for green bonds. Fourth, specific legislation is needed to ensure third party assurance for sustainability reporting. Fifth, a clear political definition of "green" should be founded to guide policy development. Sixth, governments should integrate financial viability gap modeling into all future green infrastructure project development.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.