Swimming alone? : the role of social capital in enhancing local resilience to climate stress : a case study of southwest Bangladesh
Jordan, Joanne Catherine
PublisherQueen's University Belfast
MetadataShow full item record
Climate change is now recognised as one of the greatest challenges facing humanity and has attracted concerted, but inadequate attention from the international community. This thesis' overarching aim is to contribute to the understanding of how individuals, households and communities cope and adapt to climate variability and future climate change. The concept of resilience is used to examine the layers of responses to past and present climate variability, in order to provide insights into the factors and circumstances that may hinder or enhance resilience to climate variability and future climate change. Specifically, it tests the value of social capital in influencing resilience in the face of global climate change. While there are many examples where social capital influences resilience to climate variability, there is limited in-depth research on the specific role of social capital. This study involved in-depth examination of scholarly research on resilience and social capital and related concepts and case studies of specific communities in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh, which is one of the most vulnerable countries to both current variations in climate and future climate change. This empirical research was based on examining the resilience of two case study villages to past and present climate processes (salinity) and climate hazards (cyclones). These case studies followed an interpretative and qualitative approach, primarily carrying out focus groups and semi-structured interviews with village inhabitants and key informants. To supplement this research, a range of semi-structured interviews and focus groups were carried out with multi and bilateral agencies, government, research based organisations and national and international NGOs. The results indicate that enhancing resilience under current climate conditions and in high poverty contexts is by no means straightforward and is likely to become more unsustainable in the context of future climate change. This research crucially highlights the moral and ethical importance of reconceptualising resilience with an emphasis on the most vulnerable, as resilience approaches that fail to recognise the differentiated nature of resilience, risk reinforcing vulnerability. Moreover, situated responses that take account of resources, gender histories, power and cultural dynamics and the capacity to develop economic and physical capital rather than social capital per se, appear to be at the heart of the notion of resilience. Westernised concepts have important benefits but crucial limitations when applied to the particular conditions, value sets and modes of community working in the south. The uncritical importation of social capital and its liberal political basis needs to be treated with caution especially in the context of climate adaptation.