© 2020

Changing Climate, Changing Worlds

Local Knowledge and the Challenges of Social and Ecological Change

  • Meredith Welch-Devine
  • Anne Sourdril
  • Brian J. Burke


  • Crucial comparisons of climate changes perceptions from the North and the South, from rural areas and urban areas.

  • Unpublished works presentation of case studies about local knowledge on and adaptations to environmental changes

  • Fundamental insights for researchers and experts in the field of adaptation to environmental changes


Part of the Ethnobiology book series (EBL)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Anne Sourdril, Emilie Andrieu, Cécile Barnaud, Louise Clochey, Marc Deconchat
    Pages 71-98
  3. Christine Raimond, Markus Bakaira, Sylvain Aoudou Doua, Eric Garine
    Pages 99-122
  4. Esther Katz, Annamária Lammel, Marie-Paule Bonnet
    Pages 123-144
  5. Victoria Reyes-García, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, David García-del-Amo, Mar Cabeza
    Pages 183-197
  6. Brian J. Burke, Meredith Welch-Devine, Stephanie Rzonca, Chad Steacy
    Pages 199-220
  7. Kathleen A. Galvin, Trevor Even, Robin S. Reid, Jesse Njoka, Joana Roque de Pinho, Philip Thornton et al.
    Pages 221-242
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 259-266

About this book


This book explores how individuals and communities perceive and understand climate change using their observations of change in the world around them. Because processes of climatic change operate at spatial and temporal scales that differ from those of everyday practice, the phenomenon can be difficult to understand. However, flora and fauna, which are important natural and cultural resources for human communities, do respond to the pressures of environmental change. Humans, in turn, observe and adapt to those responses, even when they may not understand their causes. Much of the discussion about human experiences of our changing climate centers on disasters and extreme events, but we argue that a focus on the everyday, on the microexperiences of change, has the advantage of revealing how people see, feel, and make sense of climate change in their own lives. The chapters of this book are drawn from Asia, Europe, Africa, and South and North America. They use ethnographic inquiry to understand local knowledge and perceptions of climate change and the social and ecological changes inextricably intertwined with it. Together, they illustrate the complex process of coming to know climate change, show some of the many ways that climate change and our responses to it inflict violence, and point to promising avenues for moving toward just and authentic collaborative responses.


Climate Biodiversity Culture Traditional knowledge Perceptions Amazon Cameroon Appalachia Zimbabwe Maasai

Editors and affiliations

  • Meredith Welch-Devine
    • 1
  • Anne Sourdril
    • 2
  • Brian J. Burke
    • 3
  1. 1.The Graduate SchoolUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR 7533 LadyssNanterreFrance
  3. 3.Department of Sustainable DevelopmentAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA

About the editors

Meredith Welch-Devine is Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs at the UGA Graduate School and an adjunct faculty member in the department of Anthropology. Dr. Welch-Devine’s primary research interests include climate change perceptions and adaptation, impacts of sea level rise and extreme weather events on coastal populations, collective management of common-pool resources, and policy and practice related to conservation and sustainability. Her dissertation research – set in the Basque region of France – centered on the implementation of the European Union's Habitats Directive in an agricultural area with a strong common property regime. This directive created a pan-European network of conservation sites, called Natura 2000, and was the subject of intense resistance by the local population. Since that time, she has continued to collaborate with Basque farmers on research related to sustainable agriculture. Closer to home, she has been associated with the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research program since 2003, where she has sought to understand how people observe and make sense of changes in their environment, including climate change. Most recently, she has worked on the Georgia coast to understand how people view their adaptation options, including migration away from the coast, in the face of increasing storm severity. This work also provides a starting point for a collaboration with faculty in history and in design that will use augmented and virtual realities to explore environmental pasts, presents, and futures with research participants.


Anne Sourdril is a social anthropologist, research fellow at the CNRS and member of the Laboratoire Dynamiques Sociales et Recomposition des Espaces (UMR 7533 Ladyss). Her researches focus on the dynamics of socio-ecological systems in the context of long-term environmental change. She is working on the processes of spatial greening, the multiplication of measures to protect and conserve nature or biodiversity and the reconfiguration of landscapes. She is interested in the dynamics of everyday biodiversity and its associated knowledge and representations. Her latest work focuses on the sounds of nature and soundscapes seen as indicators of environmental change and notably climate changes. She addresses these issues in interdisciplinary and comparative research programs. Her research sites are located in southwestern France, western North Carolina and more recently southern Arizona.


Brian J. Burke is an associate professor in the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University. Dr. Burke’s research examines popular understandings of environmental and economic issues, as well as grassroots mobilization to address these issues. Since 2012, he has focused largely on local environmental knowledge and strategies for scientist/non-scientist collaboration in Southern Appalachia, including via work with the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research Program, the Coweeta Listening Project, the PIAF Project, and collaborative research with Meredith Welch-Devine. His research has also included a variety of short- and long-term ethnographic engagements examining sustainable development, environmental health activism, ecovillages, and non-capitalist/solidarity economies (alternative currencies, barter systems, fair trade, and cooperatives) in Latin America.

Bibliographic information