20 - Whether our levers are long enough and the fulcrum strong? Exploring the soft underbelly of adaptation decisions and actions  pp. 313-334

Whether our levers are long enough and the fulcrum strong? Exploring the soft underbelly of adaptation decisions and actions

By Susanne C. Moser

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Give me a lever long enough,

and a fulcrum on which to place it,

and I shall move the world.

Archimedes (287 BC – c. 212 BC)


Much of the focus in social science adaptation research in the climate and global change arena to date has focused on the international policy framework, national-level to place-based strategies in general, technological options and specific adaptation actions that can be employed by actors at any level of decision-making. By far the strongest emphasis has been on what potentially could be done, whether the necessary capacity for adaptation is in place, and – if wanting – how to enhance it (Smit et al., 2001; Adger et al., 2007). A much smaller number of investigators has looked at historical examples of successful or failed adaptation (from the cultural to local levels). Only in the last few years has there been a growing interest in the degree to which adaptation to anthropogenic climate change is already occurring, and if not, why not (see Adger et al., 2007). This line of work in particular, together with critical analyses of the socio-economic and political power dynamics and inequity issues underlying vulnerability and adaptive capacity (for example Adger et al., 2001, 2006) has brought us to the serious investigation of barriers and limits to adaptation that is the focus of this book and the conference preceding it.

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