D. J. Davidson, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada


When it comes to climate change, the question is increasingly becoming not ‘if’ but ‘when.’ Appropriately, a growing level of social scientific attention has been directed in recent years toward studies of vulnerability and adaptation in the face of a multitude of forecasted negative consequences. Sociologists have been notably absent in this new field, however, with geographers and others playing a far more prominent role. As is true of any new field of inquiry, particularly one with a strong applied imperative, the conceptual frameworks of vulnerability and resilience guiding the research to date have much room for improvement, particularly in the area of catastrophe anticipation and planning. One potential advance could be achieved through closer engagement with sociological theories of reflexivity, particularly the work of Margaret Archer, who asks just how individuals come to give attention to certain problems, and formulate responses to them. In the case of climate change, individuals vary significantly in regard to their understanding of and concern for climate change and its impacts, and these standpoints in turn influence not just commitment to mitigation, but also propensity to plan for the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change. Identifying pathways toward increased individual reflexivity in relation to climate change can make a valuable contribution to our understanding of collective responses to climate change risks, or the lack of them. In this presentation, I will make an initial exploration of climate change vulnerability from the lens of reflexivity, including an analysis of a comparative study of the residents of four small, forest-based communities in Western Canada, all of which are situated in eco-regions at risk of drought, catastrophic forest fires, and the loss of their community economic base.

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