Political pathways out of maladaptive space: Catalyzing the urgent need for transformative change towards a more just and sustainable planet

Authors: David Eisenhauer*, Rutgers
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Political Geography
Keywords: climate change adaptation, climate justice, politics of adaptation, transformative change, adaptation pathways, coastal policy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Washington 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Transformative change is urgently needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Yet, the questions of how, where, and when to switch from incremental to transformative change within broader pathways of adaptive actions remains vague. Recent research suggests that incremental adjustments run the risk of further entrenching maladaptive and unjust regimes through the creation of path dependencies—making transformative change both more critical and more difficult over time. This raises the possibility that, in some cases, transformative change is necessary before incremental adaptations become effective within sustainable pathways. Based upon fieldwork in the New Jersey shore region, this paper argues that there is a need to develop and enact tactics for sustainable and just transformative change in the here and now. By drawing upon scholarship on the politics of adaptation as well as recent theorizations of the meanings of justice, recognition, and belonging within the Anthropocene, I outline a politically attentive approach for crafting sustainable and just pathways towards more desirable futures that takes seriously questions of agency, power, difference, and conflict. Central to this approach is an open stance that cultivates care towards the myriad, diverse connections and relationships between people and the nonhuman world as well as the pursuit of answers to questions of justice and belonging that are disruptive, provisional, and contestable. Ultimately, the paper concludes with an argument for the possibility of achieving improbable, yet still plausible, futures in which social and ecological flourishing abound. Accomplishing such worlds simply requires transformative approaches and a great deal of care.

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