Adaptation, Optimality, and Risk Management: What Do the Human Evolutionary Sciences and the Climate Sciences Have to Offer Each Other?

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Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Anne Pisor, Washington State University
James Holland Jones, Stanford University
Associated Program: 


The human evolutionary science (HES) and socio-environmental climate science (SECS) communities both study adaptation but mean different things by it. To HESers, adaptations are solutions to persistent environmental challenges our species has always faced; HESers usually study adaptations among subsistence populations, who are among the most vulnerable to climate change. For SECSers, adaptations are prescriptive accommodations to new challenges facing interconnected social and ecological systems. While SECSers are starting conversations about climate change adaptation and making the phrase a “household name,” HESers have contributed little to these conversations. Can HESers’ theoretical approach, investigating contemporary adaptations as products of the past, and study of adaptation among subsistence peoples inform SECSers’ conceptualization of adaptation? Can HESers learn from SECSers how to better reach a large audience and contribute to applied work and policy conversations about climate change adaptation? This workshop will bring together HESers and SECSers, as well as governmental and non-governmental-organization stakeholders, with the goals of (1) jump-starting actionable climate-related research in the HES community, especially the longitudinal study of livelihood adaptation, (2) better defining the concept of adaptation in the SECS community, and (3) facilitating interchange between the two. Products of this workshop will include a call-to-arms paper that identifies what HES and SECS have to offer each other, including a glossary of commonly misunderstood terms and data each community already has that would interest the other, and a grant application to fund the longitudinal study of climate change adaptation in a global sample of vulnerable subsistence populations.



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