Climate Adaptation: Accounts of Resilience, Self-Sufficiency and Systems Change

Submitted by Justin Stevens | published 22nd Sep 2021 | last updated 1st Dec 2021
The cover of the book is two hands planting trees over a polluted city scene.

The cover of the Climate Adaptation book. 

Introduction

With insufficient action being taken by governments and international agencies to prevent climate change, it is now falling on communities to start preparing and adapting on a grassroots level. This book presents accounts, case studies and models from over 18 leading authors around the world to show ways that we can face the climate emergency with a sense of realism and hope.

The case studies herein demonstrate how adaptations can be made in hostile environments – from fire ravaged regions to flood-prone settlements. Each also demonstrates how humans can return to living sustainably – not only surviving but developing and discovering. From more equitable economic models to systems that focus on enhancing wellbeing and long-term opportunities, the future can be very different if we set out to create it. Examples of those who have already had to adapt to climate change stand alongside new opportunities to how society can be restructured – moving away from a system of exploitation and greed towards one of cooperation and mutuality.

As the climate emergency intensifies, humanity stands at a juncture: fundamental socio-economic transition or collapse. For all the talk of reaching ‘net zero’ by 2050, renewable energy expansion and electric cars, this book shows clearly how the current trajectory points us firmly towards that of collapse. A systemic change is required; a revolution from the bottom-up instead of the top-down, with people gaining self-sufficiency and reconnection to the planet. At the same time, communities need to be empowered to adapt to climate change rather than look solely to the governments that consistently fail them.

Climate adaption is more than simply retrofitting homes and building better flood defences. As this book will show, to be truly effective we need to consider things on the deepest possible level, right down to how we perceive the world. Far from a shallow look at how individuals can make practical changes, each chapter explores the kind of fundamental shifts required, opening a window to the nuances and possibilities of what lies ahead.

*Download the full book from the right hand column. The key messages from the book are provided below. See the full text for more detail.

In This Book

The book collates accounts from 18 leading contributors from across the world, with wide expertise in areas, including:

  • climate disaster response
  • developing sustainable and resilient communities
  • climate adaptation case studies and models
  • economics and monetary systems
  • ecological community and intentional community management

Split into three sections, the book commences with a scientific analysis of the climate situation - setting out the need for adaptation. It then presents actual adaptive responses to climate change, followed by structural (systemic) shifts that are necessary in the long-term.

All authors contributed the book based on their experience across the totality of themes, with each chapter carefully edited and checked before final formatting and publication. As part of the selection for contribution, the editors were careful to include perspectives from the Global South and those who are under-represented in climate literature, especially women in the Global South.

Lessons Learnt

The book presents a series of important lessons, of which the most prominent include:

  • How individuals and communities can respond to climate change and build long-term resilience.
  • The state of the current climate system, rendering adaptation an essential foundation for continued human survival.
  • How structural, underlying shifts in our socio-economic model are pivotal to real adaptation, with such shifts being possible on a smaller ('grassroots') level. 
  • Through case studies, presenting a range of accounts from the Global South and those areas that have already been impacted by climate change.
  • The role of 'Transformative' and 'Deep' adaptation - how both represent pathways for both understanding, and adapting to, climate change.

 

Key areas for transformative change

Transformative change is vital for addressing the climate change and biodiversity crises, as noted by the United Nations:

‘Protecting life on Earth, including human life, requires actions that are significantly more effective than those taken thus far. Action to halt the loss of biodiversity and land degradation, avoid dangerous climate change and keep the effects of chemicals on the biosphere within tolerable limits must be coordinated to be effective. All these forms of degradation are primarily driven by the unsustainable level of consumption by the well-off, while the poor are left behind, characterizing contemporary civilization. Achieving transformative change requires that the fundamental drivers of overconsumption are addressed, through changes in personal values, norms, economic and social operating rules, technologies and regulations.’

The conclusion of this book highlights 8 key areas where transformative change is needed:

1. Paradigms and visions of a good life: move towards paradigms that emphasise relationships with people and nature over material consumption, including many existing visions of good lives as those lived in accordance with principles and virtues of responsibility to people and nature.

2. Consumption, population and waste: reduce the negative global effect of human needs and demand – a function of consumption and production rates, population size and waste – by reducing per capita consumption and production in some regions and human population growth in others.

3. Latent values of responsibility: unleash existing capabilities and relational values of responsibility to enable widespread human and organisational action.

4. Inequalities: Systematically reduce inequalities in income and other forms, including across gender, race and class.

5. Participation in governance of environmental action and resource use: practice justice for and inclusion in decision-making for those most affected by it, especially Indigenous peoples and local communities. 

6. Externalities: understand and internalise the distant, delayed and diffuse negative effects of actions, including economic activity.

7. Technology, innovation and investment: transform regimes of investment and technological and social innovation, such that technologies and their use produce net-positive impacts on people and nature (for example, by transitioning to a circular economy and eliminating waste).

8. Education and knowledge generation and sharing: promote the broad base of knowledge and capability that is fundamental to well-functioning and just societies,