Unlike the alarmist mainstream media coverage of climate change, ICCCAD research looks at climate change and development practically. We don’t think of those affected by extreme floods and rising sea levels as climate change “victims,” but as climate change “warriors.” Alongside the empowerment this change of wording gives to those affected, we acknowledge that there is much to be learned from the resilience and adaptability climate change warriors have shown under changing circumstances.
As a visiting researcher at ICCCAD, I’ve undertaken an independent research project on community-based adaptations to environmental health risks in urban slums for my undergraduate thesis at Wesleyan University. Many slum dwellers in certain areas of Dhaka are climate-induced migrants, who have migrated from coastal areas because of extreme flooding and increased salinity in crop fields. However, they face a slew of new environmental problems in the urban slum, such as waterlogging, sanitation issues, and lack of social and economic empowerment. By looking at community-based adaptation in these areas, I hope to find the ways in which climate change warriors have maintained resilience and social capital through their local networks and present urban and health infrastructures.
Although I’ve spoken to public health and urban planning experts for my research, it’s been most helpful to just talk to my colleagues about their research projects. They are all working on such interesting, important projects that highlight how interrelated the environmental and development projects in Bangladesh are. All of the topics my colleagues are interested in, such as climate-induced migration, urban decentralization, embankment development, and oral narratives of climate migrants are consistent with ICCCAD’s approach to humanize and make relatable the issue of climate change.
Ultimately I’ve learned that climate change research requires many different approaches and disciplines to be effective. In a place like Bangladesh, where there are many stakeholders in climate change and development, both in the non-profit sector and government, as well as various social and ethnic classes, climate change knowledge along with the social anxieties created by research buzzwords can give mixed messages about what climate change is in the first place. Research and policy recommendations through organizations like ICCCAD can help steer the climate change conversation to a more realistic, action-based approach.
Written by: Samira Siddique, Visiting Researcher, ICCCAD August Newsletter 2014