Sense of Place and Climate Change. Urban Poor Adaptation in the Dominican Republic

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Holly Schofield

Abstract

Adaptation has increasingly come to be recognised as an urgent and necessary response to climate change. The ability of a system to carryout adaptation is dependent on its adaptive capacity. To date, the majority of research relating to adaptation has focused on the objective and material determinants of a system's capacity to adapt to severe and extreme weather impacts. Whereas the role that subjective factors, such as people's perceptions, beliefs and values play in that same process, has received comparatively less attention.Despite being a global phenomenon, climate change is being experienced and responded to in local places. More than just physical locations, places are often imbued with meaning by the people associated with them. This thesis argues that these meanings have implications for the ways in which people adapt, or fail to adapt, to climate change impacts. It uses the concept 'sense of place', as a means of capturing this place meaning and as a lens for exploring adaptive behaviours in three low-income urban communities in the Dominican Republic. In particular it examines the specific roles of residents' place attachment, dependence and identity in motivating and constraining adaptive behaviours.Based on qualitative research with ethnographic underpinnings, the thesis shows that the urban poor sense of place is shaped by interconnected relationships between residents and; their homes, the physical and social aspects of their communities and a range of non-community actors. These relationships are shaped by physical and social interactions with and within places, but also through the discursive construction of the locations and the inhabitants of them in public opinion. Residents continuously seek out ways to enhance their sense of place, at times as an improvement in the built environment as a means of preventing or ameliorating environmental threats and events. However, often it is enhancement, in an aesthetic sense, which is envisaged as being of equal and sometimes greater importance. Although aesthetic improvements sometimes have the resultant impact of enabling adaptation, this tends to be incidental, rather than purposeful. Despite the importance placed by the urban poor on their sense of place, these subjective determinants and adaptation in the urban environment, remain unrecognised as well as absent from local institutional and policy radars. Overall the research suggests the need for a more comprehensive approach to understanding adaptive capacities. It requires an approach which continues to measure the objective determinants but which also recognises the role of people's relationships to places in converting or failing to convert objective capacity into climate change action and in dictating the type activities that are valued and prioritised by urban poor residents themselves.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2017