Obviously, everybody agrees on adaptation. Already in 2001, Sarewitz and Pielke jr. suggested that focusing on vulnerability helps to 'Breaking the global warming gridlock' in climate debate; the same seems to be true for this climate blog, almost ten years later. Warmists, deniers, moderates, skeptics, neutrals - all good people seem to agree that it is necessary to adapt. Adaptation as common ground. I do agree, too. This is a good reason to have a closer look at the concept of adaptation. What exactly are we talking about?
Adaptation as common ground. I looked up wikipedia and found an entry that defines adaptation as an evolutionary process; species adapt to their changing environments in order to survive. Of course, they do so unconsciously.
I guess this is not the meaning we would give to adaptation. Of course, humans have to adapt consciously, they have choices. There is no God, no uni-linear evolution, no outside force that can guide us (as far as I know). So where do we know from what we have to adapt to and how? Climate science? Scientists tell us that we have to adapt to nature, to extreme weather events, to flooding, heat waves etc. But where do they know from? The predictions or scenarios are the result of downscaling from global models - will you climate guys not end up in the very same trouble, with some being alarmists and others skeptics? As much as I know, downscaling is even more difficult than making global climate statements. Will there be an 'adaptation gridlock', to paraphrase Sarewitz / Pielke jr?
Furthermore, are human beings really opposed to nature? They live in constructed environments, along channeled rivers or protected coastlines, in swamps, deserts, cities or in other 'artificial' worlds. Even regional climates are influenced by human intervention (acc. to Pielke sen., for example); where to draw the line between nature and culture, between inside and outside? Where is the boundary between artificial and natural? Does this distinction still make sense? If not, what does this mean for the concept of adaptation?
Furthermore, in adaptation there is of course a good potential for a new environmental determinism. Scientists define the extreme weather events etc people have to expect, and politics have to plan accordingly. Climate effects legitimize politics - a bad idea, I guess. History knows lots of bad examples (eugenics, just to name one). In reality, things are indeed much more complex, of course.
For example, I have read that for the people in Bangladesh rising sea levels are not their major concern. Instead, they have economic, religious, ethnic, demographic and social problems (some of them as deadly as natural events, I guess). What role does adaptation to rising sea levels play here? And how to integrate it into this complex society with its manifold problems? What does this mean for climate science? And for the concept of adaptation?
In contemporary biology and ecosystem studies, some say that organisms do not exactly adapt, but they create actively the environment they inhabit. This seems to fit better for human beings, I guess. To live with the effects of climate change, that is, with extreme weather events, is a problem of design, of construction. To paraphrase Al Gore, who is so concerned about Creation: Creation with a capital C is indeed a problem of creativity, of creating an environment that is sustainable. How to construct or design an environment that is less vulnerable? Design or construction are more active than the concept of adaptation, maybe. Contemporary urban / rural / spatial design has to consider climate effects and to integrate them into its planning concepts, alongside all the other problems conditioning life in the respective society. Sustainable design - does this describe what we mean by adaptation?
These are just a few questions and considerations that come to my mind. What does adaptation mean? I am looking forward to learning more about this concept and how to put it into practice from your contributions.