Tackling climax thinking: learning to layer lived landscapes for sustainability transitions

Authors: Kate Sherren*, Dalhousie University
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Landscape, Energy
Keywords: landscape change, public good, renewable energy, baselines, place
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Sheraton, 8th Floor


This presentation draws on the ecological concept of succession to present a new concept, climax thinking, uniting and adding to ideas related to public resistance to landscape change emerging from a range of disciplines. Public good landscape transitions such as those needed for renewable energy are hampered due to climax thinking, the erroneous perception that the landscape as currently experienced is in its peak and somehow intended or ‘fated’ state. Any perceived pinnacle of experience in a given place must necessarily be a false summit: land uses must continue to change and layer as new needs and priorities are encountered. This chapter describes instead that lived landscapes are layered landscapes. It distinguishes lived landscapes as the mundane places where we make our living and form attachments, from more relict or objectively valuable cultural landscapes. A multi-dimensional pathology of climax thinking is proposed that covers time and space, including hubris or ignorance as potential drivers. Three broad leverage points are proposed to help us ease transitions across those dimensions, including specific examples of technologies and processes that should be tested, and research questions that should be answered. This research and action agenda should only be a starting point as we learn how to adapt our shared landscapes in the face of significant local and global challenges. A non-equilibrium approach to managing change is needed to avoid casting landscape futures around old needs and old solutions while maintaining quality of life, identity and livelihoods.

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