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Co-production of seasonal representations for adaptive institutions

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CALENDARS (Co-production of seasonal representations for adaptive institutions)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

The CALENDARS project will empirically explore the relationship between different institutions’ ideas of seasons and their successful adaptation through an in-depth comparative study in two local communities in Norway and New Zealand.
The overall objective of the project is:
To advance knowledge and understanding of how seasonal representations shape and are shaped by institutions, and to critically appraise the quality of these representations for contributing to successful adaptation to seasonal change.
In CALENDARS, we think that climate change might be undermining the ideas or representations of seasons that we all use for understanding and living according to seasonal rhythms.

Seasonal representations are important cues for helping us anticipate and plan for ‘normal’ weather and natural conditions in periods of the year. These representations can take many forms; stories, images, experiences, scientific forecasts, natural signs, proverbs or practices for instance. All our institutions - from schools to hospitals, local government or sports clubs - organise their activities based on different seasonal representations.

But in some places, rapid climatic, natural and social changes mean that communities’ representations of seasons are out of sync with the weather they experience now. The idea of a ‘white Christmas’ is undone in some parts of England that haven’t seen December snow for decades. At the same time, in our increasingly urbanised and modern society, we are losing contact with local and traditional ways of knowing nature. We see growing studies about people being left without reliable ways to decide how to act in each season; whether for planning crops or flu vaccinations. Climate and meteorological science are trying to measure and predict these changes to our seasons, but face important barriers to forecasting at seasonal timescales, specific to the places where we live.

We argue that as long as people are living according to out-dated and inaccurate ideas of seasons, they are not adapting well to the changing seasons they actually face. We ask, what seasonal representations are shaping the different institutions in our society, and how do these ideas of seasons help (or hinder) these institutions to successfully adapt to seasonal change?

To explore these questions, we have assembled a four-person research team to closely study institutions in two places; Bergen city in Norway, and the townships on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Our researchers will embed themselves in some key institutions, working with the people of these institutions to reflect on the ways they think about seasons, and co-create new seasonal ideas for the future.
Administratively, the project is set up. The PI has hired the full research team, and established
the necessary infrastructure for conducting the project including: (i) Data sharing platforms for
anonymised data (Dropbox-for-business) and a ‘SAFE’ protected database for storing sensitive
data; (ii) a Data Management Plan; (iii) a project governance structure and plan, including 2-3
weekly meetings with the core research team, which have been ongoing since early 2020; (iv)
a communication platform in Skype-for-business; and (v) a website containing regular updates
on progress. In addition, the project team has acquired all appropriate ethical approvals, and
had all Deliverables accepted. Finally, the PI co-wrote a successful application for a Marie
Curie Fellowship with excellent early career researcher Dr Simon Meisch at the University of
Tübingen, which will establish a ‘sister project’ to CALENDARS called CANALS (‘Changing
Water Cultures’). CANALS will be run in parallel (and partly overlap) with CALENDARS in
Relative to research activity, the project has progressed along conceptual and methodological
lines. Conceptually, the team has been working on a framing of institutional cultures through
regular reading and discussion groups, and invited presentations, with the goal of submitting a
perspective piece by the end of 2020. In parallel, we have been commissioned by WIRES
Climate Change to write a systematic review article on how climate change affects institutional
cultures, due October 2020. The two PhD candidates have also begun to zoom in on their
conceptual entry point for their research. Methodologically, the team has mapped key
institutions in the case studies, and have engaged with a set of institutions who are interested
in participating in this research. The project has conducted pilot activities to test interview
approaches and technologies for use in the empirical work, including the use of ‘primstav’
(calendar) templates for eliciting people’s ideas of seasons. Finally, the team has been keeping
diaries of how they experience seasons and seasonal change.
Altogether, the project has had the following outputs: (i) Four peer reviewed scientific
publications, partially or wholly under the auspices of the CALENDARS project; three in a
special issue in Climate Risk Management (IF: 4.9) on ‘Narratives of Change’ (edited by the
PI), and a chapter in the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Natural Hazard Risk; (ii) Fifteen invited
presentations as part of seminar series (8), including at the prestigious ETH Risk Centre in
Zurich, as part of teaching courses (5), or conferences and symposia (2), including the
European Climate Change Adaptation conference; (iii) three workshops testing approaches to
creating contemporary versions of traditional calendars (‘primstavs’), with school children and
There are three important changes from the planned activities for the first 18 months. First, the
PI has reduced his time on the project by 9PMs because of three months parental leave in
2019/2020, and six months teaching work on the ARQUS University Alliance – to be spread
over 2020-2022. Second, the Covid-19 Pandemic measures saw the kick-off meeting in March
cancelled, to be replaced by short on-line updates in August 2020. Third, the pandemic
measures saw a delay in planned empirical work, from March 2020 to September 2020. The
team plans to conduct Phase 1 ethnographic work from September 2020 – October 2021, and
Phase 2 workshops from November 2021. Face-to-face meetings are planned for March 2021
in New Zealand, and a mid-way meeting in Norway in August 2021