Climate Adaptation: Accounts of Resilience, Self-Sufficiency and Systems Change by Arkbound
'We need to change how we act, but just as importantly we need to change how we think.'
For Glasgow and the world, climate was at the forefront of our minds last year with the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, and as we move into 2022 it is vital that the momentum for change is sustained. Yet sustainability itself can feel like an overwhelming field, which is why I was so glad to benefit from the knowledge of a diverse range of voices from the frontlines of ecological change in the Arkbound Foundation's Climate Adaptation: Accounts of Resilience, Self-Sufficiency and Systems Change.
In my last review of an Arkbound book - click here to find out more if you're yet to read! - I admired how their Writing Our Space anthology's form was consistent with and actually reinforced its themes, and this is also a particular strength of Climate Adaptation. Whether discussing oceans, deserts or everything in between, all the authors who have contributed show a welcome awareness that the climate crisis has not occurred in isolation. Rather, it is the consequence of, and all too often exacerbated by, historically-rooted power imbalances that disproportionately disadvantage women and girls, disabled people, and people living in the Global South.
'Climate change is often described as the next big problem facing the world...' notes Dr Andy Suggitt, but 'the unfortunate fact is that many of its impacts on our planet are being felt in the here and now.'
'Begin with the story of climate emergency and sinking islands in the Pacific, and you are starting 'secondly',' adds Dr Janis Steele. 'Yet these are the stories that dominate media in an era of climate crisis. Drowning islands feature prominently, and Pacific Islanders too often appear as voiceless, hapless victims... the roots of the current crisis, located in the frameworks of modernity/coloniality, of invasion, predation and dislocation, are obscured.'
Nevertheless, just as negative cycles can be perpetuated, positive steps can literally turn the tide: helping to make the world not 'only' greener but also fairer, a planet where genuine equality of opportunity as well as immeasurably rich flora and fauna can grow. The book is also bold in highlighting a concept that, despite doing my best to stay informed about environmental concerns, I had personally never come across before: Transformative Adaptation (TrAd). A 'systems-changing' agenda that advocates 'mitigat[ing] the effects of dangerous climate change' while 'working with nature, not against her', TrAd seeks to embrace how this process generates changes in civilisation that are in many ways badly needed.
Distinct from 'shallow adaptation', which sadly seems to be all that many world leaders care about, the concept of transformative adaptation is explored within the book through a series of thought-provoking international case studies where, as pointed out by contributor Dr Morgan Phillips, communities are already leading the way 'steeped in feminism, ecological intelligence and deliberative democracy'. To me, this shift in narrative alone is a welcome one: challenging Western dominance of the climate change agenda, centring the stories of women whose expertise continues to be underestimated, and calling on readers to embrace a radical humility that requires us to reconstitute how we inhabit our world in every sense. For anyone enthusiastic to learn more, I'd also highly recommend a Glasgow Women's Library blog post by postgraduate researcher Sophie Robinson 'Where are all the women?' Perhaps a new world in more ways than one is precisely what we are searching for!
Whatever your area of interest - from feminism to food production, education to saving species from extinction - you're bound to feel as hopeful and heartened as I did after reading this collection. It envisages a world where, as the conclusion states, 'humanity becomes a force of good', and it highlights the hard work of those determined to make that dream a reality.