Understanding personal dimensions of change and persistence in transitions to “climate-smart” regenerative agriculture

Authors: Hannah Gosnell*, Oregon State University, Nicholas Gill, University of Wollongong
Topics: Sustainability Science, Human-Environment Geography, Land Use
Keywords: adaptation, biophilia, carbon farming, climate change, mitigation, transformation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The last decade has seen growing interest in the global change research community in incorporating insights from the environmental humanities and social sciences (EHSS) into understanding of transformations to sustainability. Research to date has considered the role of technologies, institutions, social movements, and financial systems in sustainability transitions, with less attention paid to subjective, nonmaterial dimensions associated with beliefs, values, emotions, worldviews, structures of meaning-making, and consciousness more generally. The type of integrative, transdisciplinary research envisioned demands a more robust inventory of EHSS concepts that can elucidate processes of social-ecological transformation, and a new kind of evidence base including subjective as well as objective forms of knowledge. We contribute to this conversation by documenting and analysing the experiences of farmers in Australia who have undertaken and sustained transitions from conventional to regenerative agriculture that support climate change mitigation as well as adaptation involving both cognitive and behavioural change driven by embodied, experiential learning. We draw on theories and insights from EHSS to examine the processes by which farmers enter into, navigate, and sustain paradigm shifts in their approach to managing their properties, farm businesses, and personal lives, and present a framework that illustrates these processes. Our findings illustrate the ways in which deeply held values and emotions influence and interact with mental models, worldviews, and cultural norms as a result of transformational learning experiences; and how behavioural change is sustained through the establishment of new positive feedbacks involving biophilic emotions, a sense of well-being, and an ever-expanding worldview.

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