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Published Online: 6 June 2022

Resilience Requires Change: Assessing Pehuenche Responses to Climate Change Impacts in Southern Chile

Publication: Environmental Justice
Volume 15, Issue Number 3


Indigenous peoples are one of the most vulnerable groups to climate change. Although many communities are already responding to these impacts, inequitable structures impose barriers to their capacity to recover and adapt. Through the case of the Pehuenche people of Southern Chile, this article addresses the question of what is the relationship between resilience and adaptation to climate change. From an ethnographic approach, the article characterizes the construction process of the contextual vulnerability of Pehuenche communities and evaluates their responses to cope with climate change impacts. Fieldwork was conducted in two stages between 2017 and 2019. Results show that current Pehuenche vulnerability to climate change is an ongoing process influenced by the state rather than a consequence of this phenomenon. Although Pehuenche communities are responding to climate change impacts, their resilience is constrained by the incidence of state policy. Identifying themselves as herders, Pehuenche responses aim to restore the conditions for livestock instead of changing the factors that make them vulnerable. Most of their responses can be considered maladaptation because they reinforce vulnerability by reproducing practices that damage their social capital and cause more pressure on the territory. A critical review and reformulation of the policy implemented at the local level are mandatory to strengthen community resilience.

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Published In

cover image Environmental Justice
Environmental Justice
Volume 15Issue Number 3June 2022
Pages: 185 - 195


Published online: 6 June 2022
Published in print: June 2022
Published ahead of print: 15 September 2021


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Rosario Carmona is a doctoral candidate at the Department for the Anthropology of the Americas, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany and a Researcher at the Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Estudies, Chile.


Address correspondence to: Rosario Carmona, Department for the Anthropology of the Americas, University of Bonn, Oxfordstraße 15, Bonn 53111, Germany [email protected] [email protected]

Author Disclosure Statement

No competing financial interests exist.

Funding Information

This research was funded by the Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Research (ANID/FONDAP 15110006); the ERC Consolidator Grant to Reyes-García (FP7-771056-LICCI); and the Academy of Christian Humanism University (FIIC 2019-02-01).

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