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Urban climate change, livelihood vulnerability and narratives of generational responsibility in Jinja, Uganda

  • Katie McQuaid, Robert M. Vanderbeck, Gill Valentine, Chen Liu, Lily Chen, Mei Zhang and Kristina Diprose...


There is an urgent need to understand lived experiences of climate change in the context of African cities, where even small climate shocks can have significant implications for the livelihoods of the urban poor. This article examines narratives of climate and livelihood changes within Jinja Municipality, Uganda, emphasizing how Jinja's residents make sense of climate change through their own narrative frames rather than through the lens of global climate change discourses. We demonstrate how the onset of climate change in Jinja is widely attributed to perceived moral and environmental failings on the part of a present generation that is viewed as both more destructive than previous generations and unable to preserve land, trees and other resources for future generations. A focus on local ontologies of climate change highlights how the multiple, intersecting vulnerabilities of contemporary urban life in Jinja serve to obfuscate not only the conditions of possibility of an immediate future, but the longer-term horizons for future generations, as changing weather patterns exacerbate existing challenges people face in adapting to wider socio-economic changes and rising livelihood vulnerability. This form of analysis situates changing climate and environments within the context of everyday urban struggles and emphasizes the need for civic participation in developing climate change strategies that avoid the pitfalls of climate reductionism. The article draws on more than 150 qualitative interviews, generational dialogue groups, and creative methods based on research-led community theatre.

Il est urgent de comprendre les expériences vécues du changement climatique dans le contexte de villes africaines, où même de faibles chocs climatiques peuvent avoir d'importantes implications pour l'économie locale, et celle des pauvres urbains en particulier. Cet article examine des récits de changement climatique et de changement de moyens de subsistance dans la municipalité de Jinja (Ouganda), en soulignant comment les résidents de Jinja donnent un sens au changement climatique à travers leurs propres cadres narratifs plutôt qu’à travers le prisme du discours global sur le changement climatique. Les auteurs démontrent comment l'apparition du changement climatique à Jinja est largement attribuée à ce qui est perçu comme des défaillances morales et environnementales de la part d'une génération actuelle considérée plus destructive que la génération précédente et incapable de préserver les terres, les arbres et autres ressources pour les générations futures. Un examen des ontologies locales du changement climatique révèle comment les multiples vulnérabilités croisées de la vie urbaine contemporaine à Jinja servent à obscurcir non seulement les conditions de possibilité d'un futur immédiat, mais également les horizons à plus long terme de générations futures, étant donné que les régimes météorologiques changeants exacerbent les difficultés que rencontrent actuellement les populations à s'adapter aux changements socioéconomiques plus larges et à la vulnérabilité croissante des moyens de subsistance. Cette forme d'analyse situe l’évolution du climat et de l'environnement dans le contexte des difficultés urbaines quotidiennes et souligne le besoin, pour les citoyens, de participer à l’élaboration de stratégies de changement climatique qui évitent les écueils du réductionnisme climatique. L'article s'appuie sur plus de 150 entretiens qualitatifs, des groupes de dialogue générationnel et des méthodes créatives basées sur du théâtre communautaire de recherche.

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