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Water Conflicts and Technological Solutions to Climate Change: An Historical Analysis from the Peruvian Andes

Friday, February 4, 2011
12:00 AM
1014 Tisch Hall | 435 South State Street | Ann Arbor

Despite increasing involvement of social scientists in climate change research, there are still relatively few empirical studies that analyze actual cases of societal adaptation to global warming. This historical presentation examines such a case of long-term adaptation to climate change and ongoing conflicts over dwindling water supplies at Lake Paron in the Peruvian Andes. Over several decades, Paron transformed from a dangerous flood hazard to a lucrative reservoir. But with neoliberal privatization, a shifting political-economic landscape, and evolving cultural perceptions, Paron turned into a highly contested site of conflict over its precious but dwindling amount of water. The paper reveals the outcome of this struggle while demonstrating more broadly how engineering and technological solutions to climate change can trigger far-reaching unintended consequences and social conflict.

Mark Carey is an assistant professor of History in the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, where he teaches environmental history and the history of science.  His article, “The History of Ice: How Glaciers Became an Endangered Species,” won the Leopold-Hidy Prize for the best article in the journal Environmental History in 2007.  In 2009, while an assistant professor at Washington and Lee University, he was awarded the state of Virginia's “Rising Star” outstanding faculty award, presented to the most promising untenured faculty member in all departments and at all public and private colleges and universities in Virginia.  Ongoing interdisciplinary collaborative research on water and climate change in the Andes is currently supported by the National Science Foundation.  His book, In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society, was published in 2010 by the Oxford University Press.

Presented by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS), the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History, and the LSA Theme Semester on Water.