Living with Environmental Change

Waterworlds

by Kirsten Hastrup, Cecilie Rubow

Climate change is a lived experience of changes in the environment, often destroying conventional forms of subsistence and production, creating new patterns of movement and connection, and transforming people’s imagined future.

This book explores how people across the world think about environmental change and how they act upon the perception of past, present and future opportunities. Drawing on the ethnographic fieldwork of expert authors, it sheds new light on the human experience of and social response to climate change by taking us from the Arctic to the Pacific, from the Southeast Indian Coastal zone to the West-African dry-lands and deserts, as well as to Peruvian mountain communities and cities.

Divided into four thematic parts - Water, Landscape, Technology, Time – this book uses rich photographic material to accompany the short texts and reflections in order to bring to life the human ingenuity and social responsibility of people in the face of new uncertainties. In an era of melting glaciers, drying lands, and rising seas, it shows how it is part and parcel of human life to take responsibility for the social community and take creative action on the basis of a localized understanding of the environment.

This highly original contribution to the anthropological study of climate change is a must-read for all those wanting to understand better what climate change means on the ground and interested in a sustainable future for the Earth.


  • Taylor and Francis; March 2014
  • ISBN: 9781317753629
  • Edition: 1
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: Living with Environmental Change
  • Author: Kirsten Hastrup (ed.); Cecilie Rubow (ed.)
  • Imprint: Routledge

In The Press

Is it possible to understand climate change through scientific theories, data and models?  Hastrup and Rubow in this important book show why the answer is a decisive ‘no’.  Drawing upon a rich and diverse array of sites around the world, Living with Environmental Change: Waterworlds offers dozens of compelling portraits of what climate change means to different people living in different places.  This impressive collection of short essays shows why the anthropological study of climate change is at least as important as its scientific study.  Rather than something to be feared, climate change is becoming part of the way in which humans and their cultures continually respond to the future and thereby re-shape it.

–Mike Hulme, King’s College London, UK

A unique contribution to the understanding of climate change as it appears to people all over the world. Using the framework of water, landscape, technology and climate it is a bold attempt to summarise a lot of human interest, experience and theory. It should be appreciated by anyone interested in the topic and not just by specialists.

–Jonathan Paul Marshall, University Technology Sydney, Australia

The Waterworlds team has produced a book that ‘shows rather than tells’ how communities experience climate change at a local level. By highlighting narratives from different parts of the world, they illuminate the complex pressures that emerge as shifts in climate initiate changes in social and material environments, as well as the creative adaptations that people are making in confronting these challenges.

–Veronica Strang, Durham University, UK

Like a splash of cold water on the face of someone who has grown drowsy, this book awakens the reader to the urgency of water issues in every corner of our world. Like a glass of cool water on a hot dry day, it slakes the reader’s thirst for a full understanding of the issues that will permit the construction of a sustainable future.

–Ben Orlove, Columbia University, USA

Of the many ways of considering climate change, this large format and lavishly illustrated book uses the lens of anthropology: what climate change means to different people living in a diversity of sites ranging from Greenland to Burkina Faso, Ghana, India, Mauritania and Peru to the Cook Islands and Kiribati.

Spore Magazine

Supported by its colourful and personal presentation, both in text and appearance, this a great contribution to easily accessible knowledge and therefore makes it a highly valuable read for all audiences. It opens avenues for further enquiry and calls for further contributions of this type on local and regional life with environmental change.

Nikolas Sellheim, University of Lapland, Finland


About The Author

Kirsten Hastrup is Professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Cecilie Rubow is Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.