Kupang: Social Adaptability and Vulnerability across an urban rural continuum in West Timor




Liu, Saryaskus Paulus

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To date, research on the vulnerability of human systems has tended to focus on the physical impacts of climate change and variability, rather than on social impacts. Emphasis has also been directed to these impacts at the national, regional or sectoral level, rather than at the community level. While these valuable contributions have provided useful assessments of the impacts of climate change, they have provided only a limited understanding of how societies or communities are susceptible to climate change. Such research also fails to take into account the forces contributing to the vulnerability of human systems other than the bio-physical. This research addresses an apparent gap by examining social adaptability and vulnerability to the problems of climate variability in Indonesia. Taking two districts in East Nusa Tenggara Province in Indonesia as case studies, this research concludes that social vulnerability to climate variability and change in the study areas encompasses disruption to livelihoods and a decline in social entitlement, reflected in economic failure, food shortage and hunger. Such vulnerability is shaped by environmental degradation, poverty and access to key resources. Erratic rainfall, persistent drought, El Niño and La Niña episodes are the most common types of climate-induced events that pose significant risks in the research study sites. Disruption of livelihoods, in particular loss of crops and harvest failures, leading to food production decline, are the most common physical impacts of these events. These events have social consequences for human welfare, especially food insecurity and hunger (ordinary and extra ordinary), and manifest themselves in terms of a widespread uptake of coping strategies. This thesis contributes to theory by advancing our understanding of vulnerability to climate change through shedding light on the present problems of climate variability and its significant social consequences. This study suggests that building adaptive capacity is imperative to address people’s vulnerability to climate variability. However, the nuances of local vulnerability and capability must be understood clearly. Measures have to be put in place carefully if adaptation policies are to be effective. Another significant contribution of the study is through its use of an integrative approach that builds on an inter- disciplinary perspective; this is considered an appropriate approach to discover a wide range of determining factors that explain how local communities and individuals are vulnerable and how they cope with the impacts of climate variability and change. The main implications of the research findings for policy focus on the importance placed on directing the people’s adaptive responses to the root causes of vulnerability rather than solely to the physical impacts of the climate induced events. It is only through responding to these causes that vulnerability can be addressed.



Climate Variability and Change, Social Vulnerability, Adaptation and Livelihoods




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