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On viability: climate change and the science of possible futures

Paprocki, Kasia ORCID: 0000-0001-5202-351X (2022) On viability: climate change and the science of possible futures. Global Environmental Change, 73. ISSN 0959-3780

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2022.102487


Growing attention to the impacts of climate change around the world has been accompanied by the profusion of discourses about the lives, livelihoods, and geographies that are “viable” and those that are not in the time of climate change. These discourses of viability often invoke concrete physical limits and tipping points suggesting a transcendent natural order. Conversely, I demonstrate how viability is co-produced through political economic structures that exercise power at multiple scales in shaping the environment and understandings of how it is changing. I describe three dialectics of this co-production: epistemic/material (between ideas about viability and their biophysical and political economic conditions), epistemic/normative (between how the world is understood to be and ideas about how we should live in it), and inter-scalar (between geographic scales, where action at one scale shapes both ecologies and understandings of possible action at another). Each of these dialectics shapes the knowledge regimes that govern the ambiguous social and biophysical process of disappearance and foreclosure of livelihood possibilities in the time of climate change. I examine these discourses of viability through narratives of unviable agrarian livelihoods in coastal Bangladesh, as a lens through which to examine the dialectics of viability more broadly. I situate these discourses concretely in relation to an analysis of interdisciplinary social and natural scientific research on ecological and agrarian viability in coastal Bangladesh now and in the future. Across a broad interdisciplinary spectrum, I find that scientific attention to political economy shapes the politics of possibility. Finally, I demonstrate how discourses of viability limit alternative possible economic and ecological futures. I do this through a concrete examination of the co-production of viable agrarian futures within communities in coastal Bangladesh. These alternative visions indicate that the viability of agriculture is shaped by historical and ongoing decisions in the present about cultivation, water management, and development intervention.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2022 10:30
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2024 23:45

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