Assessing the Impacts of Local Knowledge and Technology on Climate Change Vulnerability in Remote Communities
Received: 27 January 2011 / Revised: 8 February 2011 / Accepted: 25 February 2011 / Published: 4 March 2011
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The introduction of new technologies into small remote communities can alter how individuals acquire knowledge about their surrounding environment. This is especially true when technologies that satisfy basic needs, such as freshwater use, create a distance (i.e., diminishing exposure) between individuals
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The introduction of new technologies into small remote communities can alter how individuals acquire knowledge about their surrounding environment. This is especially true when technologies that satisfy basic needs, such as freshwater use, create a distance (i.e.
, diminishing exposure) between individuals and their environment. However, such distancing can potentially be countered by the transfer of local knowledge between community members and from one generation to the next. The objective of this study is to simulate by way of agent-based modeling the tensions between technology-induced distancing and local knowledge that are exerted on community vulnerability to climate change. A model is developed that simulates how a collection of individual perceptions about changes to climatic-related variables manifest into community perceptions, how perceptions are influenced by the movement away from traditional resource use, and how the transmission of knowledge mitigates the potentially adverse effects of technology-induced distancing. The model is implemented utilizing climate and social data for two remote communities located on the Seward Peninsula in western Alaska. The agent-based model simulates a set of scenarios that depict different ways in which these communities may potentially engage with their natural resources, utilize knowledge transfer, and develop perceptions of how the local climate is different from previous years. A loosely-coupled pan-arctic climate model simulates changes monthly changes to climatic variables. The discrepancy between the perceptions derived from the agent-based model and the projections simulated by the climate model represent community vulnerability. The results demonstrate how demographics, the communication of knowledge and the types of ‘knowledge-providers’ influence community perception about changes to their local climate.