Transition, adaptation, metamorphosis: framing climate change and regional response

This is the third and final in a series of posts by AUSCCER’s Chris Gibson on climate change and regions, building on papers presented in recent weeks at the 4th International Conference on Sustainability Transitions at ETH Zurich, the annual Institute of Australian Geographers conference at the University of Western Australia, and the 2013 National Climate Change Adaptation (NCCARF) conference in Sydney.

In this final post in my series of post-conference debriefs, I wish to explore further what conceptions of transformation might be required to respond to climate change, and what kinds of perceptions of time are involved.

In this I duly acknowledge on-going conversations with my AUSCCER colleagues and especially Lesley Head, who has written extensively on the topic. In her 2010 PiHG essay Lesley reminded us that ‘adaptation’ was a core concept of twentieth-century cultural ecology, applied in much earlier frames in the context of cultural evolution, ‘traditional’ societies and environmental determinism to describe a combination of general flexibility within new environments, and ‘specific reconfigurations of genetic material’. The term ‘adaptation’ now finds itself reinvented in the context of climate change in ways that retain some of that term’s baggage and limitations. As Lesley warns, ‘there is a risk of discredited dualisms becoming re-embedded in patterns of thinking and proposed solutions to problems’. Continue reading