Global environmental change: Local perceptions, understandings, and explanations

Aili Pyhälä, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Hertta Lehvävirta, Anja Byg, Isabel Ruiz-Mallén, Matthieu Salpeteur, Thomas F. Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2016 by the author(s). Global environmental change (GEC) is an increasingly discussed phenomenon in the scientific literature as evidence of its presence and impacts continues to grow. Yet, while the documentation of GEC is becoming more readily available, local perceptions of GEC— particularly in small-scale societies—and preferences about how to deal with it, are still largely overlooked. Local knowledge and perceptions of GEC are important in that agents make decisions (including on natural resource management) based on individual perceptions. We carried out a systematic literature review that aims to provide an exhaustive state-of-the-art of the degree to and manner in which the study of local perceptions of change are being addressed in GEC research. We reviewed 126 articles found in peer-reviewed journals (between 1998 and 2014) that address local perceptions of GEC. We used three particular lenses of analysis that are known to influence local perceptions, namely (i) cognition, (ii) culture and knowledge, and (iii) possibilities for adaptation. We present our findings on the geographical distribution of the current research, the most common changes reported, perceived drivers and impacts of change, and local explanations and evaluations of change and impacts. Overall, we found the studies to be geographically biased, lacking methodological reporting, mostly theory based with little primary data, and lacking of indepth analysis of the psychological and ontological influences in perception and implications for adaptation. We provide recommendations for future GEC research and propose the development of a “meta-language” around adaptation, perception, and mediation to encourage a greater appreciation and understanding of the diversity around these phenomena across multiple scales, and improved codesign and facilitation of locally relevant adaptation and mitigation strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalEcology and Society
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • Adaptive strategies
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Local knowledge
  • Ontologies
  • Small-scale societies

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