Wallowing in adaptation while neck deep in vulnerability: Toward structural climate responses
In anticipation of climate change, Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPAs) are being developed across Africa. LAPAs outline strategies to shield people from future climate events (often by ‘climate proofing’), as if climate, independent of vulnerabilities on the ground, causes crises. LAPAs also presume climate proofing to be a priority for communities. Yet, crises, even those that follow storms or droughts, have multiple causes and these communities face many other pressing challenges. Even The World Bank is now seeking broader approaches for their Country Climate and Development Reports. Given structural and historical myopias, analyses of the causes of crises that follow extreme weather tend to ignore vulnerabilities, placing cause up in the sky. Mike Hulme called this ‘climate reductionism’, a focus that obscures the more complex causes of climate-associated problems. Hiding non-climate causes of these problems, such as commons grabbing, usurious credit, extractive pricing, etc., clouds out the full repertoire of solutions that might be required and desired. No wonder climate-adaptation resistance is building. In this keynote I explore why shallow analytics persist. Earth to climate ‘adaptation’ analysts, vulnerabilities do not fall from the sky. They are already on the ground when storms and droughts arrive. Just look down, think, analyze the historic structural cause of precarity. How analysts – of commons or elsewhere – frame and analyze the causes of crises associated with climate events matters deeply. Root-cause social and political-economic vulnerability analytics point to blame, responsibility and liability. So, they are contentious and thus avoided, generating a violent silence obscuring many solutions. The Commons ‘we’ (me, you, s/he, they, commoners?) ‘want’ are likely secure – but we must shift our analytics from Historically Shallow Adaptation toward explaining the political-economic Legacy called Vulnerability.