Adaptation governance in rural Austria and New York

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Bachinger, Leo Matteo
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Electronic thesis
Science and technology studies
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The objective of this study is to analyze planned adaptation as it is localized in agricultural communities as “political all the way through.” It argues that adaptation is not only shaped by political orders as it is implemented but is itself an inherently political tool for governing social systems. As adaptation policy becomes established and localized across scales and as local actors themselves begin to adapt, key decisions are made about the very foundation of societal order. What deserves protecting and what does not? What is maintained and what is changed? Who is considered vulnerable, and who falls outside consideration? As the climatological basis of life changes on a global scale, adaptation decisions consider (by definition) what should and could weather the changes, what should be maintained — and what not? By making determinations about adaptation — through policy and practice — specific answers to these questions materialize, thus underscoring adaptation governance as inherently political. In other words, I make the argument that adaptation governance is not only the governance of adaptation, but the governance through adaptation.
This is a comparative case study of two rural, agricultural communities as they participate in government programs for adaptation localizing. The Unteres Traisental region is one of the Austrian KLAR! adaptation model regions, and Madison County a participating region in the New York State Climate Smart Communities program. How is adaptation of the agricultural sector governed across scales, and to what consequence? This research addresses uses a mixed-method case study approach, including policy document analysis, semi-structured expert and participant interviews, and participant ethnographic observations at case-study sites.
We need to not only recognize that adaptation is socially constructed, rather that these constructions and their processes are political, and that this involves different epistemologies and politics (as political economists argue) — but that it is necessary to understand adaptation as a political tool for governance in a double-sense: the governance of what adaptation should be (in its means, ends and subjects) and as a mechanism to govern societal orders.
August 2020
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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