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Waterworlds: Natural environmental disasters and social resilience in anthropological perspective (WATERWORLDS)
Start date: 01 Jan 2009, End date: 30 Jun 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The present times are haunted by a sense of vulnerability in the face of major environmental disasters and global climate change. Whatever course and speed the current changes may accrue, their effects on the human world are already manifest. People suffer from a loss of habitual natural resources, from fear of an increasingly unpredictable nature, and from social disruptions as natural habitats are destroyed. Water is the most vital natural resource; it is the sine qua non of human life, and the idea of the present project is to study local, social responses to environmental disasters related to water. They are the melting of ice in the Arctic and in other glacier areas, the rising of seas that flood islands and coastal communities, and the drying of lands accelerating desertification in large parts of Africa and elsewhere. The ambition is to contribute to a renewed theory of social resilience that builds on the actualities of social life in distinct localities, and on human agency as the basis for people s quest for certainty. The proposed research is groundbreaking empirically as well as theoretically. Empirically it contributes a substantial ethnographic supplement to the sweeping diagnoses of the global malaises captured in notions like global warming . Theoretically, the project will allow for a new, general understanding of the effects of environmental disaster on social life, and of the responsibility that people take locally to ensure the survival of their community. New concepts will be developed to facilitate interdisciplinary research and worldwide dialogue. The larger vision is to rethink the human implications of climate change in the wider world, including Europe, by way of an explication of what is and what can be done on the ground. Technologies are useful, but the human and social potential is vital in long-term adaptation to new environmental realities. Frontier research as proposed here will show how.
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