Embracing uncertainty: a discursive approach to understanding pathways for climate adaptation in Senegal

Ayeb-Karlsson, Sonja, Fox, Gino and Kniveton, Dominic (2019) Embracing uncertainty: a discursive approach to understanding pathways for climate adaptation in Senegal. Regional Environmental Change. ISSN 1436-3798

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Abstract

Climate change threatens to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods. There are large uncertainties related to unknowns around the future and society’s responses to these threats. ‘Uncertainty’ as other words with the prefix ‘un’ (unknown, untold, unrest) often has negative connotations. Yet uncertainty is manifested in virtually everything we do. To many in science, uncertainty is akin to error that should be minimized, a lack of knowledge that needs to be rectified. We argue that uncertainty rather should be embraced as a starting point for discussing pathways to climate adaptation. Here we follow a definition of ‘pathways to adaptation’ as representing a set of proactive changes in the present that move people from a climatically unsafe place, to positions of safety (self defined as representing freedom from harm or adverse effect). This article applies an inter-discursive analytical approach where (un)certainty and (un)safety are used to deepen the understanding around the positions of people in Senegal, and their livelihoods, with respect to climate hazards. We examine the discursive socio-cultural values active in the climate adaptive space. Our findings show, that people’s adaptive decisions often were not based on climate information, but on discursive values and emotions that guided them in the direction of responses that felt right. We conclude that acknowledging different understandings and perceptions of uncertainty, and the goal of achieving safety, allows issues of power to be discussed. We contend that this process helps illuminate how to navigate pathways of adaptation to the impacts of climate variability and change.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Keywords: climate change; discourse; family therapy; safe uncertainty; Senegal; socio-cultural perceptions
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Global Health and Infection
School of Global Studies > Geography
School of Global Studies > International Development
Research Centres and Groups: Brighton and Sussex Centre for Global Health Research
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Depositing User: Deborah Miller
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2019 08:51
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2019 10:51
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/83155

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
AMMA 2050 NEC05274G1689NERC-NATURAL ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH COUNCILNE/M02024X/1