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Research picture: Melting Andean glaciers: view from water reservoir in Chivay (Peru), where water is precious and scarce. ©Astrid Stensrud

02-05-2016

Different responses might be given to global challenges. For example, how should the vanishing of a glacier be tackled? Prof. Thomas Eriksen aims to understand the economic, environmental and cultural transitions the world is going through and the responses created by local communities in order to offer valuable advice to our policymakers and leaders.

‘Overheating’ is a metaphor for our present world, where changes are occurring at an exponential speed: population increasing sevenfold in the last two centuries, connecting technologies multiplying and energy needs creating a large pollution challenge. The OVERHEATING project is an attempt to write a collective, anthropological history of the early 21st century, with a focus on accelerated change and local responses to it.

Prof. Eriksen and his team are retrieving data from five continents and conducting fieldwork in Europe, Australia, Peru, Sierra Leone, Canada, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. In every place they have developed an ethnographic project involving poor and affluent people, activists and decision-makers, in order to produce comparable and compatible data on the local perception, impact and management of the global crises. One of these studies took place in Peru, where the team analysed the responses given by the local villagers to the vanishing of glaciers provoked by the raise of temperatures. They portrayed a wide amount of actions, ranging from the most traditional ones - such as gifts to a mountain god - to anti global warming campaigns promoted by international NGOs and governmental agencies.

Using a worldwide approach, OVERHEATING aims to offer policymakers a view from a local vantage point on the growth and emergence of the presently interconnected world and the ways in which its inherent contradictions are being perceived at a small scale. As a result, appropriate policies could be developed in order to address these challenges.