The AdaptationCONNECTS project addresses question of how to successfully adapt to climate change, and it does so by focusing on the relationship between climate change adaptation and transformations to sustainability. The project responds to an urgent need for more integrated and holistic perspectives on both adaptation and transformation, recognizing that the challenge for the 21st century is to hold global average temperature increases to below 1.5°C, while also adapting to the current and anticipated impacts of climate variability and change. This also involves reducing risks associated with other environmental and social stressors, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Adaptation is typically approached as a technical problem that can be solved through improved technologies, behavioral change, and better policies and management, with little attention to the role of beliefs, values, worldviews and paradigms. Yet subjective factors always influence interests, priorities, and political decisions about how systems are organized and managed. The research focuses on four characteristics of adaptation that are likely to contribute to transformative change: collaboration, flexibility, creativity, and empowerment.
The project uses innovative methods to explore the relationship between adaptation and transformation in four sub-projects: Coffee Connects, Travel Connects, Art Connects and Education Connects. The research has focused on connecting climate change with what matters to people, and it emphasizes the relationship between values, actions, and outcomes. It has also explored the relationship between individual change, collective change, and systems change. This includes studying how mindsets and paradigms influence not only whether but also how people adapt or transform. Coffee Connects has done research on the perspectives of coffee producers in Guatemala about climate change, and how meaning making influences adaptation processes. Travel Connects has studied the relationship between individuals and collective leadership in an indigenous community in Alaska facing multiple social-ecological challenges. Education Connects emphasizes an integrative approach to teaching about climate change and sustainability issues and has explored how such approaches to climate change can contribute to transformative learning. A textbook on Climate and Society: Transforming the Future, was written and published in 2019, and updates for a second edition are currently underway. Art Connects has focused on the relationship between climate and art, including the role of artivism in the Extinction Rebellion, using photography as a means of documentation. Art Connects has supported a book project, You Matter More than you Think: Quantum Social Change for a Thriving World, in collaboration with Norwegian artist Tone Bjordam. The text, accompanied by original drawings, integrates the research results from AdaptationCONNECTS while encouraging readers to reflect and think about the relationship between climate change and social change from a relational perspective. The book was launched in 2021 to generate conversations about new ways of thinking about social change. This book complements an earlier Art Connects output, Our Entangled Future: Short Stories to Empower Quantum Social Change, and a description of the process is currently being written up as a research paper.
The results from the AdaptationCONNECTS project draw attention to how transformations can be carried out in an integrative manner, and they highlight the importance of relational perspectives that emphasize values and meaning-making. There is both a theoretical and practical focus on collaborative power in the project, therefore aligning efforts with other projects and initiatives is an important motivation for the research. The project has led to new collaborations with numerous research groups and diverse societal actors, both nationally and internationally. Through events such as the Transformations 2021 conference in Spain (online), a co-edited special feature of Sustainability Science, and other publications, lectures, webinars, podcasts, and keynote talks, the project has disseminated results that promote a more integrative approaches to research.
AdaptationCONNECTS is an innovative research project that will make connections across theories, methodologies, institutions, and disciplines to co-design and co-produce new knowledge on adaptation to climate change. The project focuses on the question of what it means to successfully adapt to climate change, hypothesizing that this occurs through processes of transformation. Adaptation will be approached through practical, political and personal spheres of transformation. This project challenges conventional discourses on adaptation and aims to broaden understandings of successful responses to climate change.
The project addresses 8 research questions organized around 4 characteristics of adaptation that have transformative potential:
1) Collaboration: How do and can individuals and groups engage with adaptation work more effectively to influence systems and structures? What types of processes and tools can be used to collaborate better across different values, belief systems and paradigms?
2) Flexibility: What types of flexibility in planning, management, and operations promote adaptability and resilience? How does the flexibility of adaptation narratives influence adaptive capacity and the ability to transform?
3) Creativity: What role does creativity play in adaptation processes, and how can it contribute to new types, tools and approaches to adaptation responses? What lessons can be learned from art that can contribute to responses that reduce vulnerability and risk?
4) Empowerment: How can new understandings of the dynamic relationship between individual and collective human agency be integrated into adaptation policies and actions? How can education be transformed to empower individual/collective action?
The relationship between adaptation and transformation will be explored using innovative methodologies within four sub-projects: Coffee Connects; Travel Connects, Art Connects, and Education Connects.