Adapting To Climate and Biodiversity Change: The Case Of Large Canadian Cities

Friday, July 18, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Louis GUAY , Laval University, Quebec, QC, Canada
Adaptation is generally thought of as a successful response to a changing situation. For the social sciences, adaptation is the outcome of a long series of deliberations, decisions and negotiations. One cannot take for granted that adaptation will normally follow changing conditions. Adaptation must be seen as a social process whose outcome is not known before hand by the actors and institutions. The paper starts with a critical examination of what adaptation is for sociology. A multidimensional model is proposed wherein adaptation is conceptualized as a process which is both controversial and cooperative and is the result of interacting actors and institutions which come to a common understanding of a problematic situation and of its solutions. To understand this process a combination of different theoretical approaches are necessary. The overlapping elements are the following: 1) governance process where ecological uncertainty is pervasive, and where structural and social diversity has deep implications for decision-making; 2) controversy analysis, which focuses on debate on common understanding and on the choice of courses of action; 3) cultural theory to explain how people perceive and organize the changing world (natural as well as social) they live in; 4) since some, if not all, adaptation measures are likely to be innovative solutions, an understanding of how innovations are produced, diffused and adopted, even co-produced, is also important; 5), finally, one may ask to what extent models and instruments of environmental governance are sensitive to social and ecological justice. This approach will be applied to problem-definition and policy-making in adaptation to climate and biodiversity change in a selection of large Canadian cities.