Dealing with climate change in the German Wadden Sea: Perceptions, measures, and contestation on Hallig Hooge
Ocean & Coastal Management
en ligne - p.
Adaptation to climate change, Perceptions, Political nature of adaptatio, Community-based adaptation
The Halligen in the German North Sea are a special type of island that are highly exposed to the adverse impacts of climate change. How do the Halligen adapt to these impacts, and what are the controversies and conflicts surrounding the adaptation process? In line with the recent “political turn” in critical adaptation research, we understand adaptation as a social and political—and therefore inherently contested—process. To uncover the contested nature of adaptation, we carried out a case study of Hallig Hooge, the largest inhabited Hallig, based on semi-structured interviews with Hallig residents. We first examine how the local population on Hallig Hooge perceives and responds to the impacts of climate change. In a second step, we then identify tensions or controversies that surround the adaptation process. The interviews reveal a high level of climate change awareness. The local population notices many different changes, but does not necessarily perceive these as threatening, not least because a range of adaptation measures is available and partly already being implemented. While the population approves of adaptation in principle, there are inherent tensions. Notably, we identify three partly overlapping controversies regarding, first, a general dichotomy of man vs. nature; second, the role of different actors and types of knowledge; and third, the objective of adaptation. Hence, the local population questions many regulations and restrictions associated with environmental protection; feels that their experience and local knowledge is not taken seriously enough; and worries that too many innovations may fundamentally change the character of the Hallig. Overall, the adaptive capacity of Hallig Hooge is high, but long-term climate change and adaptation to it raise the question of what it is that should be protected and preserved. This question is a political one, and it can only be answered through dialogue with the local population.