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Climate change adaptation: Social and cultural dimensions

Climate change is a global phenomenon, with the impacts of climate change being felt by communities around the world in a diversity of ways. Responses to environmental changes are highly contextual, being spatially, temporally, and socially located.  Social norms, and values, socio-cultural and economic structures, and governance arrangements  shaped how communities perceive, engage with and respond to environmental conditions, including changing climate conditions. My research examines the ways in which particular knowledges, values, and worldviews serve to enable the capacity of systems,  institutions, communities and individuals to adapt or can lead to maladaptive behaviours and pathways. This includes: a focus on climate adaptation within settler and post-colonial societies; how different social identities (gender, class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and so forth) intersects to make certain social groups more vulnerable to the negative outcomes as a result of both the impacts of climate change and maladaptive policies and actions; the adaptive capacity of marginalised social groups. 

One major focus of my research is how past experiences of climate variability, extreme weather events, and radical human-induced environmental changes offer insights into how we can respond to current and future changes in climate. I examine how different communities in Aotearoa New Zealand historically understood and responded to changes within their social, cultural, and economic, and biophysical environments, which includes extreme weather events, and the long-term legacies of particular ways of imagining and managing environmental risks that are shown through in particular governance structures and management approaches. Such longitudinal studies highlight the factors that contribute to path dependency and maladaptive pathways, and the critical enablers of transitions to more sustainable adaptive pathways. 

Research projects include:


  • Indigenous Knowledge, including Matauranga Māori, and climate change adaptation

  • Intersectionality approaches to climate adaptation in the Asia-Pacific region

  • Co-production of knowledge for sustainable adaptation

  • Past experiences of climate extremes and changes  

  • Individual and community perceptions of climate risks and changes

  • Flood risk management, path dependency, and maladaptation in Aotearoa New Zealand 

  • Climate adaptation, health and wellbeing 

  • How whanau (families) and social networks influence the capacities of individuals, households, businesses and communities to respond to extreme weather events

  • Climate change impacts and urban indigenous peoples

  • Adaptive capacities and traditional governance structures in the Pacific 

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