Links on climate change: First half of 2015

In this post I curate a few links related to climate change research, that in some way relate to the focus of our research project on diverse knowledges on the relations between changing climate and water.

For a history of climate change science (until 2009), look at the OSS Foundation’s site.

On Wednesday the blog GlacierHub, about research and information on glaciers around the world, will be one year old – congrats, and thanks for sharing!

Interactions of drought and climate adaptation for urban water is the website of a project about drought management strategies to support urban water systems.

Read John Dryzek, Richard Norgaard and David Schlosberg’s book Climate-challenged society. The publisher writes about the book: “This book is an original, accessible, and thought-provoking introduction to the severe and broad-ranging challenges that climate change presents and how societies can respond. It synthesises and deploys cutting-edge scholarship on the range of social, economic, political, and philosophical issues surrounding climate change. The treatment is introductory, but the book is written ‘with attitude’, for nobody has yet charted in coherent, integrative, and effective fashion a way to move societies beyond their current paralysis as they face the challenges of climate change. The coverage begins with an examination of science, public opinion, and policy making, with special attention to organised climate change denial. The book then moves to economic analysis and its limits; different kinds of policies; climate justice; governance at all levels from the local to the global; and the challenge of an emerging ‘Anthropocene’ in which the mostly unintended consequences of human action drive the earth system into a more chaotic and unstable era. The conclusion considers the prospects for fundamental transition in ideas, movements, economics, and governance.”

There’s also Mike Hulme’s 2014 book, Exploring climate change through science and in society. It is an anthology of his essays, interviews and speeches from the late 1980s. His other books on climate change are Can science fix climate change: A case against climate engineering, and Why we disagree about climate change: Understanding controversy, inaction and opportunity

Another book is by Candis Callison, How climate change comes to matter: The communal life of facts. The publisher describes the book as: “During the past decade, skepticism about climate change has frustrated those seeking to engage broad publics and motivate them to take action on the issue. In this innovative ethnography, Candis Callison examines the initiatives of social and professional groups as they encourage diverse American publics to care about climate change. She explores the efforts of science journalists, scientists who have become expert voices for and about climate change, American evangelicals, Indigenous leaders, and advocates for corporate social responsibility. The disparate efforts of these groups illuminate the challenge of maintaining fidelity to scientific facts while transforming them into ethical and moral calls to action. Callison investigates the different vernaculars through which we understand and articulate our worlds, as well as the nuanced and pluralistic understandings of climate change evident in different forms of advocacy. As she demonstrates, climate change offers an opportunity to look deeply at how issues and problems that begin in a scientific context come to matter to wide publics, and to rethink emerging interactions among different kinds of knowledge and experience, evolving media landscapes, and claims to authority and expertise.”

For reviews of Naomi Klein’s book on climate change, This changes everything, read John Gray, or read Elizabeth Kolbert’s review, and Naomi’s response in The New York Review of Books.



The Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup of the USA’s Third National Climate Assessment in 2014 released Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives.

Have a look at the presentation of the key findings related to Africa of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report: What’s in it for Africa?

One of the research projects of the Centre for Science & Technology is about Knowledge, power and the coproduction of climate information for adaptation to climate change in Tanzania. The website describes the projects as follows: “Lisa Dilling, Meaghan Daly, Mara Goldman and Eric Lovell are conducting a project that aims to improve understanding of processes to effectively link climate information and adaptation at national and local scales in Tanzania. The approach is to explicitly recognise and examine the ways in which the varying epistemological traditions and relations of power among vulnerable communities, disaster management professionals, and climate experts influence the perceived value of climate information for improved early warning and climate adaptation. The primary research question is ‘what processes or institutions can support improved application of technical climate information to facilitate successful adaptation to climate related disasters?’ This research draws upon theoretical contributions from the fields of science policy, disaster research, science and technology studies, and political ecology to support a mixed-methods research approach to explore practices and modes of engagement that may best facilitate the production of usable science that can be successfully integrated within adaptation decision-making and policy development processes.”

Specific to South Africa, Gina Ziervogel and colleagues from mainly UCT has an article in WIREs Climate Change on Climate change impacts and adaptation in South Africa. The abstract of their paper states: “In this paper we review current approaches and recent advances in research on climate impacts and adaptation in South Africa. South Africa has a well-developed earth system science research program that underpins the climate change scenarios developed for the southern African region. Established research on the biophysical impacts of climate change on key sectors (water, agriculture, and biodiversity) integrates the climate change scenarios but further research is needed in a number of areas, such as the climate impacts on cities and the built environment. National government has developed a National Climate Change Response White Paper, but this has yet to translate into policy that mainstreams adaptation in everyday practice and longer-term planning in all spheres and levels of government. A national process to scope long-term adaptation scenarios is underway, focusing on cross-sectoral linkages in adaptation responses at a national level. Adaptation responses are emerging in certain sectors. Some notable city-scale and project-based adaptation responses have been implemented, but institutional challenges persist. In addition, a number of knowledge gaps remain in relation to the biophysical and socio-economic impacts of climate change. A particular need is to develop South Africa’s capacity to undertake integrated assessments of climate change that can support climate-resilient development planning.”

In the South African Journal of Science, there is an article on Observed and modelled trends in rainfall and temperature for South Africa: 1960–2010.

Have a look at the 2010 book by PG Alcock, called Rainbows in the mist: indigenous weather knowledge, beliefs and folklore in South Africa.


Interesting links: June 2015

Regarding climate change, June 2015 is about Pope Francis’ encyclical – see articles in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and Huffington Post.

Next week, 7-10 July, there will be an international scientific conference in Paris, called Our common future under climate change. Follow the conference twitter account @ClimatParis2015 and look at the hashtag #CFCC15.

Watch this short video on Meltwater Pulse 2B, by Peter Sinclair on recent research about Antarctic glacial melting.

Here’s another video, this time a talk by Charles Vörösmarty on Water in the 21st century: Sources of pessimism, sources of optimism (link seen on Jeremy Schmidt’s The Anthropo.Scene).

And then there is a video of a conversation between Ulrich Beck and Bruno Latour on cosmopolitics and re-thinking the nation-state. Beck starts by explaining his idea of metamorphosis, which is the topic of his new book The metamorphosis of the world: How climate change is transforming our concept of the world, to be released in January 2016.

See the call for papers for an international conference on political ecology, called Undisciplined Environments, on 20-23 March 2016. The deadline for submissions is 30 September 2015.

Prof Anna Tsing has a new book out in September, called The mushroom at the end of the world: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. The write-up on the publisher’s website states: “Matsutake is the most valuable mushroom in the world—and a weed that grows in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere. Through its ability to nurture trees, matsutake helps forests to grow in daunting places. It is also an edible delicacy in Japan, where it sometimes commands astronomical prices. In all its contradictions, matsutake offers insights into areas far beyond just mushrooms and addresses a crucial question: what manages to live in the ruins we have made? A tale of diversity within our damaged landscapes, The Mushroom at the End of the World follows one of the strangest commodity chains of our times to explore the unexpected corners of capitalism. Here, we witness the varied and peculiar worlds of matsutake commerce: the worlds of Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, industrial forests, Yi Chinese goat herders, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions also lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human destruction. By investigating one of the world’s most sought-after fungi, The Mushroom at the End of the World presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.”

The South African Department of Home Affairs has released a study on the local knowledge associated with the rooibos and honeybush species in South Africa. “The study has revealed that there is no evidence to dispute the claim by the San and the Khoi people of South Africa that they are the rightful holders of traditional knowledge associated with rooibos and honeybush. In light of the finding, the department therefore urges any individual or organisation involved in bioprospecting or biotrade using rooibos and honeybush species to engage with the Khoi and San communities or people to negotiate a benefit sharing agreement in terms of NEMBA and the BABS Regulations.”

Interesting links: First half of 2014 (1) – Climate change, water and evidence

The year has sped by, and I have not been able to get to the blog 😦 But I have a week of recess before the new teaching term starts, so thought I should update the blog with the interesting links and articles I have been bookmarking during the first half of the year. So here goes the first set of links related to climate change, water, and evidence. In a second post related to the interesting sources I found during the first half of 2014, I will post about the ontological turn in anthropology and sources related to the Anthropocene.

Weather and climate change

The last two of 5th assessment reports of the IPPC was released in the first half of 2014, namely Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Mitigation of climate change.

I am enrolled for the MOOC offered by UC San Diego on Climate change in four dimensions (#climatechange4D). The short description of the course is that it “views climate change from a variety of perspectives at the intersection of the natural sciences, technology, and the social sciences and humanities” – it runs from 1 July until 1 September.

The anthropologists Ben Orlove chats about why he studies El Nino (video) [read his co-published article on El Nino’s impacts on water, agriculture and health], and Gavin Schmidt did a TED talk on the emergent patterns of climate change (video).

The journal Environment and Urbanization has made a list (and made free access) all the articles published in the journal on cities and climate change since 2007. And the ICLEI at the Cambridge University did a great job of summarising the key findings of the IPPC Fifth Assessment Report as it relates climate change and cities.

The CODESRIA Bulletin 1 of 2014 has an article by James Murombedzi about accumulation by dispossession: Climate change & natural resource management in Africa (see pages 38-40). Also watch this short film produced at the first southern African adaptation colloquium.

Although published a while ago (in 2006 in Anthropology in Action), the article by Mariella Marzano about changes in the weather: A Sri Lankan village case study does seem useful to the research project on this blog. The abstract states: “As the impacts of climate change are expected to increase, there is growing concern in development contexts over how best to assist the poor and vulnerable to adapt to such changes whilst ensuring environmental and livelihood security. Climate variability is a persistent and progressively more worrying feature in the everyday lives of individuals and communities in rural areas around the world, and there is a pressing need for comprehensive knowledge of the complex relationships between humans, and between them and their environment. Thus there is a growing movement towards bridging the gap between top-down decision-making and more grassroots approaches that encompass local knowledge and experiences. Drawing upon fieldwork in Sri Lanka, this article examines the potential of taking an indigenous knowledge research (IKR) approach to understanding local adaptation to climate change, specifically how local people are adapting their livelihood strategies to what they perceive to be increasing variability in weather patterns. It also explores the prospect of indigenous knowledge networks as vehicles for rapidly sharing information and building links between policy making and local reality.”

For a laugh (on a serious matter), watch John Oliver on Tonight talking about the climate change debate in the US (video).


Watch this talk by Cynthia Barnett on a water ethic for America (video), and don’t miss one of my favourite water researchers, Erik Swyngedouw, talking about Urban water: Urban environmental justice or political ecology?  There is also a short film about the threats of 12 mega-dams to the people and rainforest of Sarawak in Malaysia, called Damming our future (video).

Cameron Harrington published an article in the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal – Toward a critical water security: Hydrosolidarity and emancipation. The abstract sounds enticing: “Traditional approaches to water security presume that water will be a primary vehicle that will drive conflict in the future, and may in fact lead to war between states or armed intra-state groups. This article begins by pointing out the limitations of the connections between water scarcity and traditional security and examines the role of emancipation as an aim for the study and practice of water security. It aims to uncover the complex relationships individuals and political communities have with scarce water sources; relationships that defy simple classification as competitive and protectionist, as traditional security views might have us believe. An individual’s connection with water is characterised by a wide and shifting confluence of personal and social needs and identities. Thus, this article seeks to reveal the wide range of approaches used by individuals and political communities to manage their relationships with water, and more broadly, with each other. In particular, the concept of “hydrosolidarity” is studied as a potential emancipatory alternative to hostility, strategy, and conflict in water relations.”

Evidence and systematic reviews

Noah Feldman talks about the Nature of evidence (video), Yves Gingras talks about Transformations in the relations between science, policy and citizens (video), and Stathis Psillos discusses From the bankruptcy of science to the death of evidence.

Recently Jon Turney wrote a post about whether conversation can turn research into action, and Duncan Green asks whether politics and evidence are compatible. And on the BBC website you’ll find an article highlighting the difference between correlation and causation – it shows the spurious correlation between consumption of margarine and divorce rates in Maine, and shows why we cannot claim that eating margarine will cause your marriage to fail.

Be sure to follow the blog of Kirsty Newman, the head of DFID’s Evidence into Action team – all her posting will have you thinking and questioning. I loved these two on bringing research rigour and context together and where evidence fits in between top-down and bottom-up development approaches. Sarah Morton blogs about her talk in Canada on evidence-based service delivery and development – she addresses three issues: what do we mean by research-utilisation; what is evidence for service and practice; and key ways of improving research use.

The annual conference of the Campbell Collaboration took place in June in Belfast. Whilst I did not attend, I had colleagues attending and presenting, and I tried to keep abreast by following the tweets from #c2Belfast. One of the outcomes is that the Campbell Collaboration has adopted MECIR standards as guidance for its systematic reviews.

My colleagues at the Centre for Anthropological Research (CfAR) at the University of Johannesburg launched UJ-BCURE – see the video of the launch. BCURE  is a DFID-funded project to build capacity to use research evidence.

The website of the Africa Evidence Network was launched recently – be sure to visit regularly, join as a member, and attend the November colloquium meeting of this network in Johannesburg.

My colleagues Laurenz Langer and Ruth Stewart of the CfAR have an article out in Journal of Development Effectiveness – What have we learned from the application of systematic review methodology in international development – a thematic overview. Ruth’s article, Changing the world one systematic review at a time, also appeared in Development Southern Africa.

Birte Snilstveit and colleagues published a working paper with the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, called Evidence gap maps: A tool for promoting evidence-informed policy and prioritising future research. The abstracts reads: “Evidence-gap maps present a new addition to the tools available to support evidence-informed policy making. Evidence-gap maps are thematic evidence collections covering a range of issues such as maternal health, HIV/AIDS, and agriculture. They present a visual overview of existing systematic reviews or impact evaluations in a sector or subsector, schematically representing the types of interventions evaluated and outcomes reported. Gap maps enable policy makers and practitioners to explore the findings and quality of the existing evidence and facilitate informed judgment and evidence-based decision making in international development policy and practice. The gap map also identifies key ‘gaps’ where little or no evidence from impact evaluations and systematic reviews is available and where future research should be focused. Thus, gap maps can be a useful tool for developing a strategic approach to building the evidence base in a particular sector. This paper provides an introduction to evidence-gap maps, outlines the gap-map methodology, and presents some examples.”

Elaine Barnett-Page and James Thomas wrote an article in 2009 (Methods for the synthesis of qualitative research: A critical review) in BMC Medical Research Methodology – useful.

Thomas Winderl wrote a guest post on the blog Better Evaluation on innovation in development evaluation.

I love this tweet by Irene Guijt (on 13 March) about evidence!

CEGSS from evidence to convince authorities to evidence to mobilise citizens.

My second blog post on interesting sources I found in the first half of 2014 will follow – it will contain links re the ontological turn in anthropology and sources related to the Anthropocene.

Interesting links: November and December 2013

A visit last night by a virtual connection turned real friend inspired me (without any conversation about blogging per se) to book time this weekend to finish some of the half-done postings I have worked on over the December holidays. So, I’ll start with the numerous links I saved over November and December – such links posted on this blog serves as bookmarking of sources and ideas for those working on this project; hopefully others will also find them useful.

On climate change

Towards the end of November 2013, the IPCC released it Fifth Assessment Report on physical sciences; see the whole report in 19 illustrated haiku – clear and to the point. The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and Globaia produced a video visualising and summarising the findings of the 5ht IPCC physical sciences report – see Climate change and and the state of the science. Joseph Stromberg helps with clarity by writing on the Smithsonian blog about Six things we learned about our changing climate in 2013. In early December 2013 David Keith and Mike Hulme debated on another at Oxford on climate geo-engineering – watch the video of this debate. WIREs Climate Change is an open-access cross-disciplinary journal on climate change, and WIREs Water – coming in 2014, will be the same on the topic of water.

At the American Anthropological Association (AAA) conference in Chicago in 2013, Shirley Fiske and Tony Oliver-Smith, both members of the AAA Global Climate Change Task Force, spoke to Anthropology TV about the role of this task force. Another member of this task force, Sarah Strauss, in the December Anthropology News highlighted the work of Cindy Isenhour on climate change and consumer societies. And Jamie Clarke posted on the Global Policy blog that Values, not just science, need to be central to the climate change debate. In a short documentary, Maasai Voice on climate change group of young Maasai pastoralists from Kenya share their perspectives on climate change, whilst in a new book – Media and the politics of Arctic climate change – Annika Nilsson, Miyase Christensen and Nina Wormbs examine new narratives about the Arctic and climate change, indicating what is lost when simple story-lines dominate over the reality of complex, dynamic, interrelated issues. In the December 2013 issue of Anthropological Theory, Jerome Whitington has an article on Fingerprint, bellwether, model event: Climate change as speculative anthropologyYou can read a short excerpt from Rebecca Costa’s book The Watchman’s Rattle on the Mayan civilisation and drought. Lastly, watch the trailer of a new TV series called Years of living dangerously, which will start in April in the US on Showtime – it tells the stories of people touched by climate change.

Years of living dangerously


On systematic review methodology and evidence-based policy
There’s a quick guidebook out by Gough, Oliver and Thomas, called Learning from research: Systematic reviews for informing policy decisions. The same authors published a useful article in Systematic Reviews in 2012 on Clarifying differences between review designs and methods. And then there’s a new book edited by Boland, Cherry and Dickson (all from the University of Liverpool): Doing a systematic review – A student’s guide. In a critical engagement with systematic review methodology, Loevinsohn and colleagues from the IDS did a review of a systematic review of the impact of water, sanitation and hygiene interventions have on child diarrhoea morbidity . Their findings raise questions about the impact pathways used in the systematic review, and contributes to the debate about appropriate methods to evaluate and synthesise evidence on complex interventions.
I’ve come across numerous articles engaging the debate on the nature and usefulness of of evidence-based policy. One is by Nina Vohnsen in Anthropology Today on Evidence-based policy: Some pitfalls in the meeting of scientific research politics. Another is Brain Head’s article, Evidence-based policymaking – Speaking truth to power?, in the November 2013 edition of the Australian Journal of Public Administration, highlighting the relationships between evidence and policy. Oliver and colleagues wrote up A systematic review of barriers to and facilitators of the use of evidence by policymakers in BMC Health Services Research.  And Ben Taylor has a working paper out on Evidence-based policy and systemic change: Conflicting trends? The abstract states: “Two concurrent but incompatible trends have emerged in development in recent years. Firstly, evidence-based policy and the results agenda have come become ubiquitous amongst government policy-makers in recent years including in development. Secondly, there has been a realisation of the utility of systemic approaches to development policy and programming in order to bring about sustainable change for larger numbers of people. This paper highlights the negative impacts of this former trend on development and, more acutely, its incompatibility with the latter trend. The paper then highlights positive signs of a change in thinking in development that have begun to emerge to lead to a more pragmatic and contextually nuanced approach to measuring progress and identifies the need for further research in this area, calling for evaluation of approaches rather than searching for a silver bullet.” Lastly is Ruth Levitt’s The challenges of evidence.

I did not attend the  2013 conference of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), but did scan #AAA2013 for tweets from there. I was struck by two words: ontology and anthropocene. Below a few links that indicate some of the discussions regarding these ideas, not only at AAA2013 but also wider.


In Cultural Anthropology there is a set of position papers on The politics of ontology. It is from the roundtable discussion at the 2013 AAA meeting in Chicago which explored theoretical positions and methodological projects on the political implications of the ontological ‘turn’ in anthropology. Also read the posting (and the comments) on Savage Minds on Ontology as the major theme of AAA 2013. This debate is not new though – see Ontology is just another word for culture, a debate on a motion table at the 2008 meeting of the Group for Debates in Anthropological Theory. Also read  Relativism and the ontological turn within Anthropology  by Martin Paleček and Mark Risjord, and Common sense: A review of certain recent reviews of the ‘ontological turn’, by Morten Axel Pedersen. Not on this debate, but related, is Daniel Little writing on his blog Understanding Society about ANT and the philosophy of science.

Be sure you sign in to Bruno Latour and colleagues’s project, An inquiry into modes of existence. Over the next few months I will be reading and engaging with their project, which will frame some of our research project’s questions about the nature of evidence, for whom, for what. You can also register for Latour’s open online course on Scientific Humanities, which starts the 10th of February 2014.

Bruno Latour

Bruno Latour (Source:

And what about listening to Tom Ingold’s lecture, entitled Towards an ecology of materials. The abstract for the lecture is as follows: “Both material culture studies and ecological anthropology are concerned with the material conditions of social and cultural life. Yet despite advances in each of these fields which have eroded traditional divisions between humanistic and science-based approaches, their respective practitioners continue to talk past one another in largely incommensurate theoretical languages. Through a review of recent trends in the study of material culture, the reasons for this are found to lie in: (1) a conception of the material world and the non-human that leaves no space for living organisms; (2) an emphasis on materiality that prioritises finished artefacts over the properties of materials, and (3) a conflation of things with objects that stops up the flows of energy and circulations of materials on which life depends. To overcome these limitations, an ecology of materials is proposed that focuses on their enrolment in form-making processes. The paper concludes with some observations on materials, mind and time.”

On the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene refers to the idea of a new geological era for earth, one formed due to the influence of humans – see the video Welcome to the Anthropocene. Debates on ontology and the Anthropocene is brought together in a conversation between Phillipe Descola and Bruno Latour about approaches to the Anthropocene – see the video of this discussion. And read Descola’s Beyond nature and culture (a review by Des Fitzgerald is here).

Anna Tsing, author of Friction: An ethnography of global connection, has started a new research programme with Niels Bohr, called ‘Living in the Anthropocene’; the website for this project is here. Melissa Leach, the new director of the IDS, gave a talk in Stockholm about Science-governance challenges in the Anthropocene, and you can listen to a keynote speech by Elizabeth A Povinelli on The Anthropocene ProjectA new journal was launched in December 2013, called Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. It publishes “original research reporting new knowledge of the Earth’s physical, chemical, and biological systems during this era of human impacts; feedbacks between human and natural systems; and steps that can be taken to mitigate and adapt to environmental change”; it’s an open-access journal. And lastly, Tony Turton wrote for Global Dialogue about Water wars in the Anthropocene: A South African perspective.

December being the month that my country’s first black president died, I end my post quoting from a poem by William Ernest Henley called Invictus, which was one of Nelson Mandela’s favourite poems:

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.



Interesting links: August – October 2013

I had high hopes of regular blogging when we started the journey of the Thuthuka-project. But the second part of the year got much more busy than I initially anticipated, and thus my postings on the blog dropped right off.  But now the teaching term has come to an end, students are preparing for exams, and I have moments for deeper breathing and looking up to the expansive blue sky for thinking inspiration. I’ll start my return to the blog in an easy way: sharing some of the resources and links I have saved over the last few months.

Climate-related links

The biggest news in this time period was the release of the Working Group 1 contribution, to the IPCC’s Fifth assessment report, on the physical science basis of climate change. Watch a short video, 5 things we learned about climate change, that highlights key findings.

For me another informative event is a Coursera course focused on the conversations on climate change; it’s called Climate literacy: Navigating climate change conversations, and is presented by Dr Sarah Burch and Dr Sara Harris. I enrolled for this course in September, but did not get far with it; hopefully I’ll pick-up speed in the next few weeks.

Climate Change Word CloudSource:

Another site I want to explore for its rich resources is the website ‘Dissertations initiative for the advancement of climate change research’; for short DISCCRS. DISCCRS is about fostering interdisciplinary work on climate change between new researchers. Its website offers a database of PhD dissertations, and various resources on funding, news and projects re climate change,

Margot Hill has got a book out, called Climate change and water governance: Adaptive capacity in Chile and Switzerland. The synopsis of the book states that the book “presents the results of several years’ research focusing on adaptive capacity and water governance in two widely-separated regions of the globe, namely the Swiss Alps and the Chilean Andes. The two regions share many similarities in hydrology and water resources: shifting precipitation patterns, highly variable winter snow pack and receding glaciers, resulting in changing seasonality and amounts of runoff that will subtly modify water availability and water use. As climate change is likely to amplify trends in surface run-off, the author investigates whether adaptive capacity in these two regions is sufficiently robust to respond to a situation which has never been experienced to date. … In order to understand and assess the interplay of complex and interlinked environmental and socio-economic issues, the author looks beyond the technology, modelling, engineering and infrastructure associated with water resources management and climate change adaptation, to assess the decision-making environment within which water and adaptation policy and practices are devised and executed. Using these insights, the author introduces, tests and enhances an indicator framework for the assessment of adaptive capacity. The aim is to help readers better understand the adaptive processes that allow the regimes governing water resources to respond to new shocks and changes in the hydrological system, in order to build more resilient water governance systems that can bend, but not break, in the face of new and unexpected challenges.” (Springer website).

Another book I hope to read soon is the edited collection ‘Water and climate change in Africa: Challenges and community initiatives in Durban, Maputo and Nairobi’. This book is edited Prof Patricia E Perkins, the principal investigator of a three year research project of the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) program, a joint initiative of Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the UK’s DFID. The book provides an overview of the ways in climate change is affecting the cities of Durban, Maputo and Nairobi. It takes an equity and climate justice approach, and discusses a range of initiatives at the grassroots level.

Water & climate change book

An article by Gary Gutting in the opinion pages of the New York Times calls on scientists to work with colleagues from the Humanities in an interdisciplinary approach to understand and address the issues related to climate change.

In South Africa Louis Scott of the University of the Free State is a leading scholar in the field of Palaeoecology. He recently retired, and to celebrate his career and contributions to palaeoscience a conference is being organised from 7 to 11 July 2014 at the University of the Free State. A call for papers to this conference – From past to present: Changing climates, ecosystems and environments of arid southern Africa – is out.

Methodology-related links

The Campbell Collaboration has an useful webpage indicating various open access evidence libraries on systematic reviews and impact evaluation studies.

The Collaboration for Environmental Evidence has a very useful page on their website about systematic maps.

Interesting links: July 2013

In the last few weeks of July I came across the following links that are relevant to our research project. (I got bogged down with admin, and didn’t get to publish this posting earlier.)

On RCTs in development, systematic reviews, evidence, and policy:

– In two blog postings in July, Kirsty discusses the anti-RCT sentiment in the development field by highlighting a few myths about RCTs, and she gives a number of tips for presenting synthesised evidence.

– On the IDS blog Stephan Whitfield reported back on the recent Science in Public conference.  Read about his highlights.

– My collaborator Ruth made us aware of a series of introductory training videos on systematic reviews that were recorded during the 2011 and 2013 Campbell Colloquiums. I haven’t watches them all yet, but they seem very useful.

On changing climate and climate change debates:

– Dennis Bray discusses the use of ‘projection’ and ‘prediction’ by climate scientists; he compares 2009 and 2013 surveys.

– Martin Mahony highlights the argument of his paper in Geoforum, ‘Boundary spaces: Science, politics and the epistemic geographies of climate change in Copenhagen 2009‘.

– The website of the ESRC-funded climate change leadership fellowship holds various useful resources related to the project called Transitions in practice: Climate change and everyday life.

– The Past Global Changes project published their work on reconstructing Africa’s climate history.

– In the blog posting ‘The role of climate on African stone age technology‘, Kambiz Kamrani discusses an article published in Nature Communications in  May that indicates the authors’ observations that very abrupt changes in rainfall in South Africa between 40 000 and 80 000 years ago, correlated with the development of new technologies. Wetter periods saw, for example, the making of tools from stone and bone, whilst drier climate correlated with the end of certain stone tool industries.

Water footprints at Nokeng

Interesting links: May and June 2013

In this posting I report briefly on a few interesting links I came across the last two months. This is partly to keep a record for myself of things I want to read again and spaces I want to visit again, but also to entice you to go read and visit.

If you do not yet, you should follow Judith Curry’s blog Climate Etc – I am learning much, and my mind is stimulated by the engaged comments on the blog postings. The blog really is providing a forum for discussions on topics related to climate science. Whilst as a social scientist I am not always able to make in-depth sense, I am intrigued and challenged to keep on reading and visiting. In late May and early June, for example, Judith posted Forget sustainability – it’s about resilience,  What exactly are we debating? (indicating matters of agreement and disagreement in climate science in an nuanced manner) and The inevitable climate catastrophe (excerpts from a book by Geoffrey Parker on what we can learn about our future climate catastrophe from the climate of the 17th century). More recently Tony Brown posted ‘Noticeable’ climate change (showing recent climate as less volatile than in the past).

In mid-April 2013 at an international conference at the University of York, Mike Hulme gave a talk on why humanities matter in climate science (in another post I will engage this more). Here I want to report a blog posting Hulme did on Metaphors: Taking responsibility for our choices, where he highlights the crucial influence of metaphors in how we understand and communicate environmental science, and also climate science.

Jerome Whitington wrote on his blog a posting called Speculation, quantification, anthropogenesis: The numerology of climate change. The abstract states: “One does not need to go far in the public discourse surrounding climate change to be inundated with the mystique of number. In the United States, where viewers of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth were treated to specific stunts of quantificatory pontification, just as in Singapore, where I teach climate change to nonspecialist undergraduates, the numberwork of graphs and charts has its own techie vitality. Drawing on my on-going research on the imaginative dimensions of carbon accounting, in this commentary I look toward key moments in the emergence of climate change science to identify why the numbers mystique holds such powerful sway over the possibilities for thinking climate change. Part of the story must include the promises of ‘big data’ and sheer computational prowess of the late-20th century. But what fascinates me are very early moments in climate science that seem to have secured the terms through which contemporary political thought takes place. Joseph Fourier, working in the first decade of the 19th century, secured the mathematical speculation at the heart of climate modeling and associated debates about uncertainty. Svante Arrhenius, often credited with articulating the first complete theory of climate change, published in 1896, decisively established the quantification of carbon dioxide as the key independent variable, and articulated this in the same form through which carbon quantification is dealt with today. Lastly, Dave Keeling’s monumental efforts to rigorously measure global CO2 levels have established the unity of climate change as a scientific and political issue based on its theoretical human etiology. When one imagines scary apocalyptic futures fraught with uncertainty but which hinge on that single variable, through these three elements—speculation, quantification and anthropogenesis—that imagination is possible.”

Turning towards links related to anthropology and climate change, in November 2012 Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, spoke at Swarthmore College about the anthropology of climate change. Listen to and read a transcription of her talk at

I am looking forward to reading with attention an article by Rebecca Cassidy in the 2012 Annual Review of Anthropology, Lives with others: Climate change and human-animal relations. The abstract of the article indicates: “This review assesses the contribution that a holistic, multisited, and multiscalar anthropology can make to the investigation of climate change and its impact on various human-animal assemblages. Anthropologists have a long-standing interest in animal management under changing environmental conditions. I focus on recent material that investigates the impact of anthropogenic climate change on human-animal relations using ethnography from Africa, Amazonia, and the circumpolar rim. I argue that the value of juxtaposing work in diverse settings and across various scales is to highlight the asymmetry of encounters between different perceptions of climate change and the responses they require. Anthropology’s critical, holistic approach is especially valuable in places where people, animals, landscapes, the weather, and indeed climate change itself are aspects of an undifferentiated, spiritually lively, animate environment.”

And lastly, a methodological link: Tricia Wang writes on the blog Ethnography matters on Big data needs thick data, wherein she argues that ethnographers are to engage with ‘big data’ through ‘thick data’ (ethnographic approaches to uncover the meanings behind big data). She writes: ” There’s a big difference between anecdotes and stories, however. Anecdotes are casually gathered stories that are casually shared. Within a research context, stories are intentionally gathered and systematically sampled, shared, debriefed, and analysed which produces insights (analysis in academia).  Great insights inspire design, strategy, and innovation.”



Arial view of the Hartbeespoort Dam (photo from Facebook)                                                                                  Close-up of water released through the sluices at the dam wall – Hartbeespoort Dam (own photo)