Category Archives: climate change

Article acceptance and navigating new publishing territory

I had an article accepted last week with Current Climate Change Reports.  It is part of a special social science issue on the relationship between climate change and conflict.  The journal is fairly new and has mainly published literature reviews of biophysical science research related to climate change.   I had fun researching and writing up this piece.  Some of the work I read was a little outside my wheelhouse, but in the end I think that it helped.  It meant I couldn’t get all jargony and convoluted in explaining the sorts of evidence and approaches anthropologists use to identify acts of violence, and sort out how they could be connected to larger environmental changes like shifts in climate.

I was tasked with reviewing the anthropological literature to see what could be said regarding the relationship between climate change and violence.  My editor asked that I define violence as physical and fatal.  I took that to mean one-on-one interpersonal violence, small scale conflict, and war.  That was helpful given that violence doesn’t always end in death, and also includes psychological violence, sexual violence, structural violence, and neglect.

conflict-tensions2

Exploring Evidence for the Climate Change & Conflict Connection. (Climate Change and Migration Coalition)

Given my previous work on climate adaptation and vulnerability in social-environmental systems, I used this framework to think about why people would choose violence and others not.  Many arguments take on an environmentally deterministic tinge when assessing the correlations between climate change and violence, but there is no direct linear relationship.  Governance, social inequality, and environmental degradation can all influence choices people make in the wake of a climate event or during a longer-term change.  Additionally, both cooperation and structural violence emerged as concepts I could not ignore given their influence on human agency.

ABSTRACT
Purpose of Review: This review explores the complex climate change-violence relationship through an anthropological lens, focusing on the interacting social and environmental conditions that constrain individual choices for violence. Evidence and methods used by anthropologists to identify violent events, as well as anthropological theories regarding why individuals choose violence, are discussed. A general social-environmental model is presented and explored through four case studies, two archaeological and two ethnographic.
Recent Findings: Recent research with historic and contemporary case studies suggests that resource uncertainty interacts with a complex array of pre-existing social and environmental conditions, including environmental degradation, poor governance, and social inequality, to promote violent responses both before and following climatic changes. Individuals may choose to avoid violence where supporting, cooperative mechanisms exist.
Summary: Given that individuals make choices to respond violently or not based on their perceptions of these complex, interacting social and environmental conditions, violence in response to global climate change is not inevitable.

Shaffer, LJ (2017). An anthropological perspective on climate change and conflict relationship. Current Climate Change Reports. PRE-PRINT

The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40641-017-0076-8

The full, published article is now available online at: http://rdcu.be/wO52

*This last bit of legalese allows researchers to post up their work for access by others while recognizing the rights of the publisher to the final work.  My article is still working its way through the system to get it into form for online publication.  I’ve uploaded the pre-print version for self-archiving here, and will update the final link once it is made available online.

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Climate Change & My Weekly Hot Mess

Every week I get a summary of climate news, funding, short courses, and available jobs from DISCCRS, the DISsertations initiative for the advancement of Climate Change ReSearch (pronounced discourse).  The summary includes both science media and popular media sources.  They are funded by NASA and the NSF, and co-directed by oceanographer Susan Weiler and political scientist Ron Mitchell.  I joined the listserv as a postdoc back in 2011 after attending a climate research training course at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.  It made sense.  My postdoc focused on climate change adaptive learning and my doctoral dissertation had included a climate adaptation component.

So where’s the hot mess in all of this?  The global climate.   The local climate.  The short-sighted financial interests, political ideologies, and deliberate ignorance informing current US federal climate policy.  The fact that I’m drafting a review article on the relationship between climate change and physical violence (one-on-one aggression, small scale conflict, and war), and all signs point to poor governance, structural inequality, environmental degradation, large scale structural shifts in society, and resource scarcity as key ingredients needed for the mix.  Oh, and perhaps a pinch of identity issues thrown in too for extra flavor. The weekly DISCCRS summary has always included some bad news, like ice shelves the size of Rhode Island calving off Antarctic type bad news, but 2017 seems even worse than 2016 from a climate news perspective.  There have been bright spots.  The EU and China are moving full steam ahead on the 2015 Paris Agreement and China just ran a whole province for a week on 100% alternative, renewable energy production.  US cities and states have joined them trumping the federal government’s inadequacy in addressing probably the greatest challenge our world currently faces.  That’s great news!  No denial from me on that.  But here are this week’s emailed headlines…

I debate whether or not to click and read any of this hot mess knowing that it will feed the twin monsters of depression and demoralization.  I click and read anyway, knowing that hiding my head in the sand doesn’t solve the problem.  The evidence is all around us that change is happening and I have to stay informed.

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If you are interested in receiving your own weekly climate hot mess summary: http://disccrs.org/subscribe