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  • Writer's pictureEtosha-Kunene Histories

Negotiating climate change in crisis?

Updated: Apr 23, 2022

All three Principal Investigators for Etosha-Kunene Histories have contributed to an Open Access volume called Negotiating Climate Change in Crisis (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers 2021), published in time for the 26th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) held in Glasgow in November 2021. The volume was co-edited by the project’s UK Principal Investigator (Sullivan) with the support of a research impact grant from Bath Spa University to support the production costs of the volume.

Negotiating Climate Change in Crisis brings together scholars and environmental activists from around the world to ask pressing questions about how the climate crisis is conceptualised and responded to. The book includes a Section on Namibia as a ‘climate change frontline country’, promoting the work of the three Principal Investigators and their collaborators. In total the three Principal Investigators for Etosha-Kunene Histories have contributed six chapters to the volume, drawing on different aspects of their Namibia research, as explained in the chapter abstracts included below.

The book and individual chapters have been downloaded in many countries around the world and was launched through an online international webinar, at which three University of Namibia authors presented their work, available to watch on youtube at

The book has been endorsed by the Hon. Heather Mwiza Sibungo, Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Namibia who writes:

The uncertainties of the impacts of climate change have created a dire need to ACT NOW than before. The Negotiating Climate Change in Crisis book is released at an opportune time of the COP26 international event. This book presents the perspectives from the Global South, highlighting voices from communities and sharing their daily lived experiences of climate change. These voices are often missing from international platforms such as COPs. The contributions included in the book are valuable for countries such as Namibia and others where the impacts of climate change are dire. Namibia strongly advocates for knowledge production regarding climate change and its impact on livelihoods, coping mechanism of vulnerable communities and their capacity to adapt. The book further contributes towards the attainment of sustainable development in line with Namibia’s Vision 2030 through highlighting the climate change strategies to be strengthened to reduce vulnerability and improve adaptive capacity, while at the same time working towards long-term development goals.

Dr Selma Lendelvo (centre), Dr Romie Nghitevelekwa (left) and Mechtilde Pinto (right) contributed a chapter entitled ‘Gendered Climate Change-Induced Human-Wildlife Conflicts (HWC) amidst COVID-19 in the Erongo Region, Namibia’. This was one of three chapters in a book section exploring climate change experience and understanding in Namibia, a country vulnerable to small shifts in rainfall and temperature.

ch. 12: Lendelvo, S., Nghitevelekwa, R. and Pinto, M. – Gendered climate change-induced human-wildlife conflicts (HWC) amidst COVID-19 in the Erongo Region, Namibia (pp. 159-172)

Abstract. The risks of climate change for drier countries have become more pronounced. Small increments in temperature changes are considered to pose serious consequences for dry countries such as Namibia and Botswana, both of which have also experienced significant drought in recent years. In this chapter, we discuss climate change-induced human-wildlife conflicts (HWC) as they relate to gender, for communities in Erongo Region, west Namibia. We draw attention to the experiences of women as a vulnerable social group that is bearing climate change-induced HWC, and foreground how they are adapting to these pressures.

ch. 13: Rohde, R., Hoffman, T. and Sullivan S. – Climate change complexity: repeat landscape photographs of the pro-Namib and Namib desert (pp. 173-188),

Abstract. This essay draws on repeat landscape photography to explore and juxtapose different cultural and scientific understandings of environmental change and sustainability in west Namibia. Change in the landscape ecology of western and central Namibia over the last 140 years has been investigated using archival landscape photographs located and re-photographed, or ‘matched’, with recent photographs. Each set of matched images for a site provides a powerful visual statement of change and/or stability that can assist with understanding present circumstances at specific places. The chapter shows in a practical way an innovative possibility for documenting and analysing environmental and social change, helping us to contextualise projected and predicted environmental futures, and sometimes offering complexity with regard to modelled climate change projections and scenarios.

Abstract. On behalf of a Danish organisation (Charapa Consult), in 2012 the Legal Assistance Centre in Windhoek undertook a research study on climate change and indigenous people in Namibia. Charapa Consult had itself been commissioned by the World Bank Trust Fund for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development to undertake a regional research project in Africa, and parallel studies for Asia and Latin America had also been commissioned. As a researcher involved in the Namibia study, in this essay I critically assess its methodological challenges and dilemmas in relation to the global framework within which it was conducted. I place special emphasis on the predicament of short-term ‘participatory’ research with indigenous communities on climate change. I also outline the challenges arising from the necessity of squeezing indigenous environmental knowledge and experience into internationally acknowledged scientific frameworks, an approach which implies a subordination of indigenous peoples’ ontologies to western ontologies. The compartmentalising necessitated by such a methodology risks the loss of the most important aspects of indigenous ecological knowledge related to climate change.

Intro: Böhm, S. and Sullivan, S. – Introduction: Climate crisis? What climate crisis? (pp. xxxiii-lxx),

ch 3: Sullivan S. – On climate change ontologies and the spirit(s) of oil (pp. 25-36),

Abstract. The last major UNFCCC COP Agreement—the so-called Paris Agreement of COP21 in 2015—emphasised international cooperation through market-based instruments. International carbon trading was insisted on, so as to (seemingly) allow mitigation, rather than reduction/cessation, of emissions from industrial production. Repeated utterances of the positive impacts of carbon markets in terms of reducing emissions and speeding the transition to a low-carbon economy, however, were also met with equally repetitive and forceful claims that carbon markets have failed. The polarised disagreement between these positions and the numbers supporting them demonstrates that climate management and carbon markets are not merely technical problems that can be fixed by measurement, modelling and technocratic solutions. They are political problems representing highly divergent values and worldviews. This essay asks questions about how anthropogenic climate change is understood, and which responses are promoted as appropriate for this systemic predicament. It argues that ontological dimensions are at play here, arising from different ways of seeing and knowing the world.

Abstract. In recent years I have returned to west Namibia to work with elders of families I have known for more than two decades. Oral histories, recorded as we find and revisit places my companions knew as home, have increasingly struck a chord as a record of lives lived largely untouched by fossil fuels. As the complexity of these pasts has come further into focus, it has become impossible to avoid the gulf between this kind of attunement to environmental contexts and my own life, especially the reality that I am completely dependent on fossil fuels and the products they make possible. This essay is an attempt to fully face this paradox of maintaining hope for binding international climate agreements that have teeth, whilst being aware of my dependence on the fossil fuel extracting and emissions-spewing juggernaut that permeates all our lives. Drawing critically on twelve-step thinking and psychoanalysis literatures I reflect on fossil fuel addiction, and the destructive paradox of not being able to live up to internalised but unreachable values regarding environmental care in a fossil-fuelled world.

University of Namibia chapter authors with UK Principal Investigator Sian Sullivan on delivering hard copies to the authors in February 2022.

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