Skip to main content

The high level of uncertainty associated with the breakthrough nature of PREFER led the team to focus on communities with whom we have well established relationships based on trust and mutual respect. During this preparatory work, we assessed the salience of local terminal risk situations through dialogue. Starting with an initial sample of 18 local communities, we selected communities facing the combined pressure of ecosystem collapse due to externally driven changes and economic upheavals driven by external political forces. we chose communities operating in a diversity of contexts. PREFER case studies include communities that are currently economically dependent and communities that are not. The communities were also selected, and paired according to the nature of the terminality as identified by community members: dominance of environmental upheavals, dominance of sociopolitical drivers, and cultural erosion as a central source of concerns. This sampling aims at facilitating comparison, while fostering diversity of situations. This led to the identification of three distinct geographic and cultural areas: the Circumpolar Arctic, flood prone areas representative of the amphibian culture, Colombia, and the Mekong Delta. 6 communities have been selected in total, one for each dominant source of concerns, and thus paired these across geographic area.

The Circumpolar Arctic is facing accelerated environmental changes due to climate change that is amplified by the specific nature of the Arctic environment: dependency on sea ice, reliance on permafrost, for example (Reid, 2018; Stephen, 2018; Doloisio and Vanderlinden, 2020; Ramage et al. 2021). In Greenland, services to remote communities are being eroded in an effort, among other things, to concentrate the population in the country’s capital (see Baztan et al., 2017). Suffice to say that in each of these communities we heard statements expressing grave concerns regarding their future.

Colombia has long been considered one of the most “risky” countries in the world. First, several elements converge to make Colombia one of the most disaster-prone countries globally (Baena, 2011). Secondly, the country faces many anthropogenic threats, including high population growth and rapid and disorderly urbanization, corruption, high levels of poverty, inequality and marginalization of the country's population. This panorama is exacerbated in particular by the effects of the armed conflict, which forced around 8 millions of people to displace to areas at risk (Aguilar, Bedoya and Hermelin, 2008). Communities that have practiced the “amphibian culture” in low lying areas such as La Mojana, and along river banks, are confronting a local terminal risk associated with the accelerating collapse of their natural and cultural rhythms, which can signify the end of a historical and traditional way of amphibian life. In that context, their ability to adapt to extreme changing conditions has reached its limits - concerns over terminality are expressed.

Similarly, it is widely acknowledged that the Mekong Delta is under terminal threat from the combination of subsidence induced by human activities, sea level rise, modified hydrology, climate change and broader economic forces. Yet, and quite uniquely, the Mekong Delta is not currently supported by transfer payments or regional development policies. This contrasts with Greenland the circumpolar Arctic and Colombia where communities are actively supported.

[sites map will be available soon]