Adaptation to climate change in Costa Rica

Research in Seminar by Maria Fernanda Morales Camacho
PhD student
Thursday 6 Oct 2022, 13:00 - 14:00
Spoken Language
International Institute of Social Studies
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Maria Fernanda Morales Camacho

In this seminar, Maria Fernanda Morales Camacho examines adaptation to climate change through the lives of Costa Rican fishers and their communities.

Costa Rica is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its geographical location in Central America. In this country, coastal regions are facing the consequences of climate change and economic and social historical marginalization, particularly artisanal fishers and their communities. Despite being a small country, having two coasts - one in the Pacific Ocean and another one in the Caribbean Sea- contributes to Costa Rica’s diversity in artisanal fisheries and, as a result, a cultural, social, historic, geographical, and biodiverse richness. Artisanal fishers in Costa Rica are directly facing the multiple effects of climate change, alongside institutional exclusion and pressure from conservation and tourism activities.

In her study,  Global-local interactions: Adaptation to climate change in Costa Rican artisanal fisheries and their communities, Maria Fernanda Morales Camacho aims to understand adaptation to climate change through the lives of the fishers, including examining perceptions and meanings regarding the socioeconomic scope of climate change, vulnerabilities, and resilience.

For her research she conducted in-depth interviewing artisanal fishers and key informants in four Costa Rican fishing communities to analyze what climate change means for them. This approach was critical to this research, as adaptation to climate change is a 'taken for granted' phenomenon (everybody must adapt!), with a prevalence of technocratic and top-down approaches and solutions.

Studying the experiences and meanings of climate change and adaptation to it from the perspective of the fishers and their communities allows for critical reflections regarding whether, why and how adaptation occurs.

Preliminary findings

Preliminary findings show a noticeable gap between the official discourse and positions on climate change adaptation in Costa Rica and what is truly taking place in these fishing communities, where climate change as a concept is less clear.

And, despite effects that can be linked to climate change, such as weather events or changes in marine ecosystems, climate change is not a priority when social and economic issues are the fishers’ main concerns for assuring their livelihoods in the short term.

As a result, climate change and climate change adaptation prevail as articulated discourses from political and academic fields, whereas those most exposed to its immediate effects largely focus on 'ordinary life' concerns.  

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About the Research in Progress Seminar series

The Research in Progress seminars provide an informal venue for presentations of ongoing research by ISS scholars and other scholars from the wider development studies community.

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