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Trying to understand vulnerability to environmental change using historic case studies. Evan Fraser Sustainability Research Institute,

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Presentation on theme: "Trying to understand vulnerability to environmental change using historic case studies. Evan Fraser Sustainability Research Institute,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Trying to understand vulnerability to environmental change using historic case studies. Evan Fraser Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds

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5 Schroter, D., et al Ecosystem service supply and vulnerability to global change in Europe. Science, 310,

6 Entitlements and Livelihoods Bebbington, A. (1999) Capitals and capabilities: A framework for analyzing peasant viability, rural livelihoods and poverty. World Development, 27,

7 Turner, B. et al A framework for vulnerability analysis in sustainability science. PNAS. 100 (4)

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9 Diversity in ecosystem High (less vulnerable) Low (more vulnerable) Connectivity of ecosystem Low (less vulnerable) High (more vulnerable) Low (less vulnerable) High (more vulnerable) Biomass in ecosystem Gunderson, L. and Holling, C. (2002) Panarchy. Washington D.C.: Island Press

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11 StrengthsGaps GCM ModelsPredictive powerHow to capture adaptation? LivelihoodsCaptures adaptation through local context Environmental sensitivity? Vulnerability Framework Establishes scalesHow usable? Landscape ecologyEnvironmental variables and changes through time Doesn’t really work for human systems

12 Can we identify common characteristics of food systems that are “sensitive to changes in the environment” by studying past cases where environmental change led to famine?

13 Severity of “environmental change” (e.g. drought) Impact of environmental change (e.g. yield) Resilient Vulnerable Harvest Impacts Economic Impacts Health impacts

14 Case I: The Irish Potato Famine

15 1 million died, 1 million emigrated (1/4 of population) when the potato crop failed due to a fungal blight. Blights struck earlier in Irish History. The blight is still the most significant pest affecting potato crops world wide.

16 Therefore, what was different about Ireland in 1845 that made it more vulnerable?

17 Case II: The “Late-Victorian Famines” Photo from cover of: Davis, M. (2001) Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino famines and the making of the third world, London, Verso.

18 Between 1875 and 1902 El Nino induced droughts killed an upwards of 45 million people in the monsoon region. Historically, droughts in this region are common. Famine (at least on this scale) is not. Why was this region so vulnerable in the late nineteenth century?

19 Case III: Ethiopia

20 Ethiopian droughts, their location within the country, and the number of people killed during each drought since Source: (World Health Organization and Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, 2006)

21 Drought years were identified by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. Rainfall data was supplied by Dr Mike Hulme at the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia. Crop data was from FAOSTAT. Harvest Losses

22 Drought years were identified by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. Rainfall data was supplied by Dr Mike Hulme at the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia. Crop data was from FAOSTAT. P<0.01, R2 = 0.81, n=15

23 No institutional safety nets.

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25 “Every benevolent attempt made to mitigate the effects of famine…serve but to enhance the evils resulting from overpopulation” –Sir Evelyn Baring (then England’s finance minister referring to the famine in India In the colonies…

26 In Ethiopia During crisis pro Soviet Junta called the Derge hid news of famine, only distributed food relief to political allies, and forcibly moved people from their homes. Comenetz, J. & Caviedes, C. (2002) Climate variability, political crises, and historical population displacements in Ethiopia. Global Environmental Change Part B: Environmental Hazards, 4,

27 People had few livelihood options.

28 In Ireland…

29 In the colonies… Transition from traditional economies to part of colonial empires meant poor people became labourers on large plantations. When crops failed, there were no alternatives. –Davis, M. Late Victorian Famines. London: Verso. –Billig, M. (1992) The rationality of growing sugar in Negros. Philippine Studies, 40, –Polany, K. (1944) The great transformation, Boston, Beacon Press.

30 In Ethiopia… In Wallo, agriculture employs over 90%. Policy of “villagization” undermined traditional communities. –Unruh, J. (2001) The dilemma of African agrobiodiversity: Ethiopia and the role of food insecurity in conservation. Proceedings of the International Symposium Managing Biodiversity in Agricultural Ecosystems. Montreal, Canada, People, Land Management and Environmental Change (UNU/PLEC) The United Nations University. –Meze-Hausken, E. (2000) Migration caused by climate change: How vulnerable are people in dryland areas. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 5:

31 Changes in agro- ecosystems.

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33 Do institutions have the capacity to respond to a crisis? Severity of Drought Impact of Drought Are there other livelihoods or do people have access to capital? Are agro- ecosystems resilient? Harvest Impacts Economic Impacts Health impacts

34 Do institutions have the capacity to respond to a crisis? Severity of Drought Impact of Drought Are there other livelihoods or do people have access to capital? Are agro- ecosystems resilient? A vulnerable system…? Harvest Impacts Economic Impacts Health impacts

35 Do institutions have the capacity to respond to a crisis? Severity of Drought Impact of Drought Are there other livelihoods / access to capital available? Are agro- ecosystems resilient? A resilient system…? Harvest Impacts Economic Impacts Health impacts

36 Agro-ecosystems Fragile Robust Livelihoods Few options Many options Institution capacity to respond to crisis Low High Movement in this direction indicates increasing vulnerability to environmental changes Movement in this direction indicates increasing resilience to environmental changes

37 Evan Fraser University of Leeds Copies of papers available at: /default.htm

38 Robustness of agro-ecosystem High (less vulnerable) Low (more vulnerable) Institutional capacity High (less vulnerable) Low (more vulnerable) High (less vulnerable) Low (more vulnerable) Range of livelihood options/access to capital


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