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Coping with Climate Change: Geographies, Politics and the need for Socio-cultural Change; the case of multi-sited living
Jørgen Ole Bærenholdt

Last modified: 2010-04-16


This paper starts from meta-considerations on the actual, but also the obvious lack of, contributions from geographers in addressing global climate change. It continues into reflections on the crises in global climate politics, following the failure of COP15, and it is shown how critical geography (or the Nordic samfundsgeografi) is well equipped to explain how the failures of global politics is grounded in un-even development far from environmental justice on earth (inspirations from among others David Harvey and Ari Lehtinen). Having thus celebrated our abilities to explain failures and critique the state of the world, the paper suggests moving into serious engagements with socio-cultural, socio-spatial and social-material, re-designs in need to cope with climate change. The second part of the paper departs from recent discussions in social science in relation to climate change (among others John Urry, Elisabeth Shove and Ottar Brox), where researchers directly engage with policies, new technologies and new ways of life, for example practical changing mobility practices, thus superseding usual distinctions between theory and practice, culture and environment, policies and every day life, and the like. This paper then suggests multi-sited living as a potential case of coping strategies in relation to climate change. Whereas much environmental politics takes localised communities for granted, many people in the high greenhouse gas emission world live in several places and along routes between these places, for example having summer houses at the sea and in the South, having second homes in the country they migrated from, and so on. This is a condition, a challenge and maybe also a possibility to cope with climate change: Would more sustainable mobility systems, including less frequent trips and sophisticated 'governmobility', facilitate multi-sited living as a coping strategy; a new kind of system of transhumance allowing people to live in seasonal cycles that are both more healthy to themselves and significantly reduce the need of heating (or air condition)? Such practices would combine adapting to and mitigating climate change, but they also raises issues such as travelling light, zero-energy pausing/hibernating of dwellings, tempo-spatial organisation of work, university terms and other questions of absence-presences. A research design for how such already existing practices can be analysed and further developed is outlined.

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