9 Changing Climates, Changing Spaces, Changing Times: Adaptation and Conflict on the West Frisian Island of Ameland

in Climate Change and Cultural Transition in Europe
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Under the premise “Working Together with Water” the national management of water in the Netherlands is going through a fundamental process of change. Water is supposed to be more tightly integrated with spatial structures, no longer using exclusively technological measures, but ones that are sustainable, too. The political sphere’s attempts to counter climate change with changes in spatial structure raise questions about processes surrounding legitimation. As the successful application of adaptation strategies is dependent upon a certain level of consensus at the local level, my work concerns the sphere of governance processes relating to space. This article presents the results of ethnographical field research that I conducted on the West Frisian island of Ameland. Based on an example of spatial adaptation that the local population resisted, I examine the significance for actors and people affected by strategies that involve taking measures to adjust spatially and allow natural dynamics a greater degree of influence. The field research showed that the resistance of some inhabitants of Ameland against spatial adaptation to the effects of climate change touched upon competing understandings of space and time, and also of reality. Physical changes in the material surroundings go hand in hand with a change in existing social power relations, against which one defends oneself. Furthermore, the case study of Ameland makes clear that the situation concerning on Ameland was glocal in nature: There was an overlapping of discourses, actors and power relations that relate to various spatial levels.

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