Understanding our responses to environmental change

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I’ve started work on a fantastic new international research project, collaborating with researchers from France, South Africa and US that has been funded by Belmont Forum. The project – Multi-scale Adaptations to Global Change at the Coast (MAGIC)  – takes a social learning approach to work alongside coastal planners and decision makers to understand how coastal adaptation plans are made and implemented. It uses two theoretical frameworks – the robustness-vulnerability framework to assess interactions between resources users, resources, public infrastructure and public infrastructure providers; and the model of individual cognitive perceptions of risk and vulnerability to assess the links between perceived risk, actual risk, vulnerability and actions. The methods will involve stakeholder workshops, citizens’ science, participatory modeling and scenario development. We are interested in the changes, or transitions, that occur when stakeholders are involved in dialogue, critical thinking and reflection. We view adaptation as a key driver, not just an outcome, of vulnerability. We are thus interested in the feedbacks between global change, cognitive processes around risk and adaptive capacity, capacity-enhancing resources, adaptation outcomes and situated social learning. The research questions are:

  • How do climate change risks, human perceptions of risk, and capacity to adapt influence the adaptive strategies and actions of decision-makers?
  • How do these adaptations affect the vulnerability of external places, groups or ecosystems?
  • Which feedbacks occur when people engage in dialogue, social learning and critical inquiry?
  • How do perceptions change when decision makers are actively involved in, learn and reflect, in a process of situated social learning?

Our case studies include two sites in North Cornwall in UK, the Camarge in southern France, and the Garden Route in South Africa.

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