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Author: Lea Schmitt


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.

In: Climate Change and Cultural Transition in Europe


We are living in an age of uncertainty: the dynamics of modern societies and their impacts on the global environment—anthropogenic climate change in particular—have changed our relationship with the future and the conditions for planning it. Uncertainty has undermined traditional prognostics based on the future of the past, with “nature” as the static scenery, towards which the drama of history was unfolding. The history of scenario planning after World War II indicates that the age of uncertainty began some time around 1970. It is a symptom of the Great Acceleration. This context helps us see the broader picture behind the new challenges climate change poses to the insurance business in Europe and elsewhere. Expanding insurance globally has been recommended as a crucial strategy of climate change adaptation. However, the Euro­pean case shows that climate change poses unprecedented adaptive challenges to the insurance business itself in a part of the world, where it has been well established for a long time. The frequency and severity of meteorological and climatological hazards are changing. Thus, the uncertainties of climate change create new uncertainties for insurance, as the example of crop insurance in Switzerland will illustrate.

In: Climate Change and Cultural Transition in Europe
Volume Editors: Claus Leggewie and Franz Mauelshagen
Climate Change and Cultural Transition in Europe is an account of Europe’s share in the making of global warming, which considers the past and future of climate-society interactions.
Contributors include: Clara Brandi, Rüdiger Glaser, Iso Himmelsbach, Claudia Kemfert, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Claus Leggewie, Franz Mauelshagen, Geoffrey Parker, Christian Pfister, Dirk Riemann, Lea Schmitt, Jörn Sieglerschmidt, Markus Vogt, and Steffen Vogt.
Volume Editor: Carmen Meinert
Since in the current global environmental and climate crisis East Asia will play a major role in negotiating solutions, it is vital to understand East Asian cultural variations in approaching and solving environmental challenges in the past, present, and future. The interdisciplinary volume Nature, Environment and Culture in East Asia. The Challenge of Climate Change, edited by Carmen Meinert, explores how cultural patterns and ideas have shaped a specific understanding of nature, how local and regional cultures develop(ed) coping strategies to adapt to environmental and climatic changes in the past and in the present and how various institutions and representatives might introduce their ideas and agendas in future environmental and climate policies on national levels and in international negotiating systems.
Volume Editors: Ingo Haltermann and Julia Tischler
The volume Environmental Change and African Societies contributes to current debates on global climate change from the perspectives of the social sciences and the humanities. It charts past and present environmental change in different African settings and also discusses policies and scenarios for the future. The first section, “Ideas”, enquires into local perceptions of the environment, followed by contributions on historical cases of environmental change and state regulation. The section “Present” addresses decision-making and agenda-setting processes related to current representations and/or predicted effects of climate change. The section “Prospects” is concerned with contemporary African megatrends. The authors move across different scales of investigation, from locally-grounded ethnographic analyses to discussions on continental trends and international policy.
Contributors are: Daniel Callo-Concha, Joy Clancy, Manfred Denich, Sara de Wit, Ton Dietz, Irit Eguavoen, Ben Fanstone, Ingo Haltermann, Laura Jeffrey, Emmanuel Kreike, Vimbai Kwashirai, James C. McCann, Bertrand F. Nero, Jonas Ø. Nielsen, Erick G. Tambo, Julia Tischler.
Volume Editor: Bernd Sommer
Global warming interacts in multiple ways with ecological and social systems in Northern America. While the US and Canada belong to the world’s largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, the Arctic north of the continent as well as the Deep South are already affected by a changing climate. In Cultural Dynamics of Climate Change and the Environment in Northern America academics from various fields such as anthropology, art history, educational studies, cultural studies, environmental science, history, political science, and sociology explore society–nature interactions in – culturally as well as ecologically – one of the most diverse regions of the world.
Contributors include: Omer Aijazi, Roland Benedikter, Maxwell T. Boykoff, Eugene Cordero, Martin David, Demetrius Eudell, Michael K. Goodman, Frederic Hanusch, Naotaka Hayashi, Jürgen Heinrichs, Grit Martinez, Antonia Mehnert, Angela G. Mertig, Michael J. Paolisso, Eleonora Rohland, Karin Schürmann, Bernd Sommer, Kenneth M. Sylvester, Anne Marie Todd, Richard Tucker, and Sam White.


This chapter explores the question what the first generation of French settlers of the Louisiana Gulf Coast and New Orleans knew about hurricanes, and how they and later generations of creoles and newcomers adapted to the recurring hurricane hazard. The article starts out with a snapshot of French Louisiana’s first group of settlers in order to establish the state of early hurricane knowledge in the colony. The hurricane and flood hazards, which both affect the city—the former less frequently than the latter—are juxtaposed and adaptation measures compared before diving into three hurricane case studies spanning the French (1718–1762) as well as the Spanish colonial period (1762–1803) of New Orleans. The case studies show that the city’s societies remained vulnerable to hurricane impacts throughout the eighteenth century and that disaster migration—permanent migration in the aftermath of disasters—was resorted to in particular after back-to-back hurricane events.

In: Cultural Dynamics of Climate Change and the Environment in Northern America


This contribution explores the role of culture in relation to local knowledge and values as displayed in the interpretations and actions of distinct groups of residents, concerning adapting to climate change in Dorchester County. Situated in the Mid-Atlantic area on the East Coast of the US, Dorchester County is at risk due to projected high sea level rise, flooding, salinisation and increased erosion. The research is based on a theoretical position that interpretation of risks and responses by distinct groups are shaped by frames or systems of cultural knowledge and values. For our study region, we were interested in which ways local knowledge and values of major cultural groups (e.g. watermen, farmers, winemakers, trappers), shape their understanding and perceptions of climate change risks, and in turn the consequences of that cultural knowledge in terms of vulnerability, adaptation and resilience. Our research also includes perspectives of under-represented, poor African Americans for whom threats posed by natural hazards and anthropogenic changes are disproportionately proximate. Fur­ther­more, we incorporate perspectives of employees from the local zoning and planning department, views that allow us to better understand the policy contexts of our study groups’ different cultural perspectives. Methodologically speaking, our findings are based on ethnographic methods (including qualitative interviews with key cultural groups in Dorchester County, and a quantitative survey from a workshop with coastal authorities from several Chesapeake Bay counties) as well as document analysis. In particular, we focus on images of nature, sense of place and change, risk perception and barriers. In addition, we also consider socio-economic factors such as economic development and public and private (coastal) property issues. We found that the beliefs and values of a distinct group of people in a given region shape their perceptions of climate change and hence their responses to changes in the environment and their communities.

In: Cultural Dynamics of Climate Change and the Environment in Northern America
Territory, Border and Infrastructure in Africa
The edited collection Spatial Practices: Territory, Border and Infrastructure in Africa presents research findings from the German Research Council’s Priority Programme 1448 “Adaptation and Change in Africa” (2011-2018). At the heart of the volume are important new spatial practices that have emerged after the end of the Cold War in the fields of conflict, climate change, migration and urban development, to name but a few, and their ordering effects with regard to social relations. These findings bear particular relevance for the co-production of territorialities and sovereignties, for borders and migrations, as well as infrastructures and orders.

Contributors are: Sabine Baumgart, Andrea Behrends, Marc Boeckler, Martin Doevenspeck, Ulf Engel, Claudia Gebauer, Karsten Giese, Katharina Heitz Tokpa, Shahadat Hossain, Anna Hüncke, Gabriel Klaeger, Kelly Si Miao Liang, Andreas Mehler, Felix Müller, Detlef Müller-Mahn, Wolfgang Scholz, Sophie Schramm, Jannik Schritt, Michael Stasik, Florian Weisser, Julia Willers, and Franzisca Zanker.