Monday, July 7, 2014

Bangladesh and climate change: time to change the narrative?

Saleemul Huq in Responding to Climate Change: By now Bangladesh has become known as being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. This refrain is now repeated endlessly by our leaders and representatives when talking about Bangladesh and climate change. It is also the way the international media sees Bangladesh.

...While this story is undoubtedly true, it is no longer the only story about climate change and Bangladesh. I would argue that it is by now an out of date story and that a new narrative of Bangladesh being at the forefront of tackling the adverse impacts of climate change is indeed the more important narrative for us to propagate from now on.

In scientific and development discourse the vulnerability of countries, communities and systems to the adverse impacts of climate change are often used as the obverse of resilience to those adverse impacts. In other words, countries and communities that have high vulnerability are generally deemed to also have low resilience while building up resilience is seen as reducing vulnerability. So vulnerability and resilience are seen like a see-saw where high vulnerability equals low resilience and low vulnerability equals high resilience.

I would argue that while this may be true in many cases, Bangladesh is the exception to this rule. In other words, Bangladesh is both highly vulnerable to the physical impacts of climate change but at the same time the people are highly resilient to facing all kinds of adversity, including climatic ones. Indeed, one could argue that Bangladeshis are more resilient than even many developed countries....

US Navy photo of Bangladesh after Cyclone Sidr, 2007

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