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Climate Change and Pastoral Flexibility: A Norwegian Saami Case

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Abstract

The Scandinavian Sámi are one of more than twenty circumpolar ethnic groups that traditionally practice reindeer herding. Climate change will likely affect the practice of pastoralism in Sámi areas severely. Winter temperatures may increase significantly, while changes in precipitation and wind will affect snow patterns. Traditional Sámi pastoralism is well adapted to handling rapid change in extreme and often unpredictable environments, and past responses to climatic variability may offer clues as to how long-term and permanent climate change can be successfully managed. The paper argues that the key to successful management lies in maximizing herder flexibility in responding to changing conditions. Between the four nation-states that currently include Sámi pastoralism within their territories—Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia—have a surprising amount of variety in their systems of governance. Due to limitations of space, our discussion here fo-cuses specifically on the Norwegian case. We propose that in the face of climate change, timely adjustments are made to national governance structures , aimed specifically at maintaining and re-establishing conditions for pastoral flexibility. This will be key to ensuring the survival of Sámi reindeer herding—both as culture and as economic practice.

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... Meanwhile, reindeer herding is commonly considered highly adaptive and resilient, having survived centuries of large-scale social, economic, political and ecological change (Forbes 2008, Tyler, Turi et al. 2007Reinert, Mathiesen et al. 2010). This vulnerability-resilience paradox renders it pressing empirical questions whether and how climate change challenges Swedish reindeer husbandry, if adaptation is occurring, and how the space for adaptation is constructed and restricted. ...
... As with other pastoralists (e.g. Marin 2010; Upton 2012), the historical adaptability and resilience of reindeer herding have traditionally resided in mobility (seasonal and on-the-spot migration) and diversity (e.g. in land, pastures and herds) (Brännlund andAxelsson 2011, Tyler, Turi et al. 2007;Paine 1971, Reinert, Mathiesen et al. 2010. These adaptive responses result from accumulated experiences and learning embodied in so called traditional (ecological) or Indigenous knowledge. ...
... Whereas this study has been delimited to one RHD in Sweden, similar findings from other parts of the reindeer herding area indicate that the situation may be similar across the Fennoscandian region (see e.g. Tyler, Turi et al. 2007, Reinert andMathiesen 2010). ...
Article
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Based on recognized gaps in adaptation research the article begins by identifying the need to empirically investigate the ‘governance of adaptation’. Drawing on Kooiman's interactive governance framework, the study examines through collaborative methodology how adaptation agency and the space for adaptation is constructed and restricted in the case of an Indigenous reindeer herding community in Sweden. Findings demonstrate that climate change and variability is currently a matter of concern. The greatest problem, however, is the diminishing space for adaptation due to accumulated pressure of predation and competing land-uses in combination with herders’ lack of direct and indirect power to influence the actors and institutional factors currently limiting adaptation options. This study carries relevance not only for reindeer herding communities in Sweden, but also for the general adaptation literature in demonstrating that limits and barriers to adaptation can be essentially political; requiring the making of hard choices and hence active governmental intervention. It also shows that marginalized groups, even in contexts where adaptive capacity is considered high, are likely to remain highly vulnerable with restricted adaptation opportunities unless deliberate structural and institutional transformation are initiated.
... Resilience to such anthropogenic disturbances demands (and fosters) many of the same adaptive skills, knowledges and institutions that equip herders (and their herds) to manage their continuously variable and unpredictable environments, with flexibility as a particularly vital aspect: the ability of herders to self-organise, to manage labour within their working collective, to move pastures as required, to use diverse ecological niches, to adjust the size and composition of their herds (Magga, Corell, Mathiesen, & Oskal, 2011, pp. 37, 60;Reinert, Mathiesen, & Reinert, 2010). Access to and control over rangelands is a vital element of this flexibility, insofar as it determines the range of options available when herders -and their herds -confront unviable conditions on a given pasture (Reinert et al., 2009). ...
... In part, of course, this also concerns the relationship between (certain) scientific epistemologies and the logic of state power, quantification and legibility (Li, 2007;Scott, 1998). Between them, the two versions of resilience generate contradictory accounts of the current government programme to reduce the reindeer population: the programme is either an attempt to stabilise and restore to normal functioning a system brought into disequilibrium by earlier, misdirected policies, or a misguided attempt to manage a complex 'social-ecological' system, based on mistaken simplifications and disregard for existing forms of expertise, with potentially destructive effects for the system and its inhabitants -both insofar as interventions based on steady-state assumptions artificially restrict adaptive flexibility, with adverse effects for reindeer and herders alike (Reinert et al., 2010), and insofar as they misrepresent the ecological basis for pastoralism, thus opening for encroachment from competing interests such as mining (Johnsen, 2014). In the first version, the resilience of the system will be increased, supposedly, because reduced population densities will reduce resource competition and increase individual weight, and -as we have seen -individual weight indexes 'resilience' at all levels of the system. ...
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Resilience thinking has growing purchase in the context of Arctic policy, resource management and indigenous politics. The present text outlines and compares two conflicting versions of the resilience concept, both currently at work in the field of contemporary Norwegian Sámi reindeer pastoralism. First, while ecological resilience originally emerged as a challenge to mainstream equilibrium ecology in the 1970s, we identify and discuss here a strand of current research that links ‘resilience’ to the ability of reindeer populations - and ecosystems - to maintain themselves in a steady state. At the same time, another strand of resilience research - developed in large part with (and by) indigenous pastoralists - uses the term to conceptualise the pastoral ecology as a dynamic and unstable system, threatened by factors such as progressive pasture loss, competing land-use forms and the ongoing pressure to ‘modernise’ production. Contrasting these two versions of the resilience concept, we explore some of its potential implications and uses in the context of resistance against dominant political agendas.
... At least this applies to the Swedish context, these questions have been more thoroughly researched in a broader Arctic perspective (see e.g. Reinert 2006; Jernsletten 2007; Tyler et al. 2007; Eira et al. 2008; Vistnes 2008; Riseth 2009; Reinert et al. 2010; Mathiesen et al. 2013). This said, there are several studies that explore the contemporary situation for reindeer husbandry. ...
Thesis
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Abstract [en] We live in a complex, interconnected and constantly changing world. Human driven global climate change is now a local reality that reinforces the inherent need for adaptability in human systems. Adaptability, the capacity to adapt to disturbance and change and navigate system transformation, can be understood as a function of socio-political interactions. The capacity of governing systems to deal with novel challenges through novel forms of interaction is a key issue in the governance literature, but which is only beginning to be explored. We therefore know little of how global change will impact the local level and how institutions and governing systems will respond. The need for adaptability is likely to be more pronounced for tightly coupled human-environmental systems. Indigenous and natural resource dependent communities in general, and in the Northern hemisphere in particular, are among the most exposed to ongoing and projected climate change. In Sweden, reindeer husbandry is an Indigenous Sami livelihood and extensive land-use practice highly exposed to weather conditions and increasing competition over land and resources. Whereas herders struggle to deal with the challenges that now confront them, the practice is also known as resilient and sustainable, having withstood large-scale social, ecological and economic change before. The aim with this thesis is to explore adaptability from a governancetheoretical perspective in the case of Sami reindeer husbandry in Sweden. The thesis thereby contributes to the emerging literatures on governance and adaptability and addresses empirically identified needs. Theoretically, the thesis draws on Kooiman’s interactive governance framework, which offers a multidimensional approach to governance analysis where structural aspects are addressed through modes (self-, coand hierarchical governing) and intentional aspects through governing elements (images, instruments and action). While conceptually encompassing, the framework has rarely been employed in empirical analyses. In advancing an operationalisation of the framework based on governing orders (operational, institutional and meta-order), the thesis thereby makes a theoretical contribution. Designed as a qualitative case study, the thesis explores how reindeer husbandry is governed and how governing has changed over time (institutional and meta-order); how the governing system restricts or facilitates adaptation and transformation (operational order); and how a governance-theoretical perspective can contribute to our understanding of adaptability. Methods include document analysis, focus groups, interviews and participatory observation. Studies focussing the operational order have been conducted in collaboration with Vilhelmina North reindeer herding community in Västerbotten county, Sweden. The results show that only marginal change has occurred over time and state actors still dominate governing interactions. The governing system is riddled with inconsistencies among governing elements and particularly problematic is the lack of coherence between different meta-order images and between different actors. This gives rise to divergent and conflicting views as to ‘what’ the system of reindeer husbandry is and explains some of the observed governing inaction and limited problem-solving capacity of the governing system. Herders are currently highly restricted in their opportunities for adaptation and transformation and the governing system therefore acts restricting rather than facilitating on adaptability. By adopting a governance-theoretical approach, adaptability as a system quality has been decomposed and challenged and the important role of governing images and power in determining adaptability has been highlighted. It has called attention to questions such as who is forced to adapt, how images and governing interactions are constructed, and how different socio-political actors can exercise influence over the governing system and interactions taking place therein. The thesis calls for more critical and empirical research on adaptability and argues that future studies need to situate and balance adaptability against other fundamental values and rights. In the case of reindeer husbandry, efforts are needed to create a better internal fit between governing elements as well as between involved socio-political actors. This could enable more equal governing interactions with other land-users and thereby contribute to mitigating conflicts as well as increasing adaptability.
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