Climate ethnography and wine environmental futures
Globalisation and climate change have radically transformed world wine production upsetting the established order of wine ecologies. Ecological risks and the future of traditional agricultural systems are widely debated in anthropology, but very little is understood of the particular challenges posed by climate change to viticulture which is seen by many as the canary in the coalmine of global agriculture. Moreover, wine as a globalised embedded commodity provides a particularly telling example for the study of climate change having already attracted early scientific attention. Studies of climate change in viticulture have focused primarily on the production of systematic models of adaptation and vulnerability, while the human and cultural factors, which are key to adaptation and sustainable futures, are largely missing. Climate experts have been unanimous in recognising the urgent need for a better understanding of the complex dynamics that shape how climate change is experienced and responded to by human systems. Yet this call has not yet been addressed. Climate ethnography, coined by the anthropologist Susan Crate (2011), aims to bridge this growing disjuncture between climate science and everyday life through the exploration of the social meaning of climate change. It seeks to investigate the confrontation of its social salience in different locations and under different environmental guises (Goodman 2018: 340). By understanding how wine producers make sense of the world (and the environment) and act in it, it proposes to focus on the co-production of interdisciplinary knowledge by identifying and foreshadowing problems (Goodman 2018: 342; Goodman & Marshall 2018). It seeks to offer an original, transformative and contrasted perspective to climate change scenarios by investigating human agency -individual or collective- in all its social, political and cultural diversity. An anthropological approach founded on detailed ethnographies of wine production is ideally placed to address economic, social and cultural disruptions caused by the emergence of these new environmental challenges. Indeed, the community of experts in environmental change have recently called for research that will encompass the human dimension and for more broad-based, integrated through interdisciplinarity, useful knowledge (Castree & al 2014). My paper seeks to engage with climate ethnography and discuss what it brings to the study of wine environmental futures while exploring the limitations of the anthropological environmental approach.
Issue: Terclim 2022
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom