Beyond threshold approaches to extreme heat: Repositioning adaptation as everyday practice

Beyond threshold approaches to extreme heat: Repositioning adaptation as everyday practice Journal Article

Weather, Climate, and Society

  • Author(s): Elspeth Oppermann, Yolande Strengers, Cecily Maller, Lauren Rickards, Matt Brearley
  • Published: 2018
  • Edition: 17 September 2018

Abstract: One of climate change’s most certain impacts is increasingly frequent and extreme heat. Heat management and climate adaptation policies generally utilize temperature and humidity thresholds to identify what constitutes ‘extreme’ conditions. In the workplace, such thresholds can be used to trigger reductions in work intensity and/or duration. However, in regions that routinely exceed proposed thresholds, this approach can be deeply problematic and raises critical questions about how frequently exposed populations already manage and mitigate the effects of extreme heat. Drawing on social practice theories, this paper repositions everyday engagements with extreme heat in terms of practices of work. It finds that bodies absorb and produce heat through practices, challenging the view that extreme heat is an ‘external’ risk that bodies are ‘exposed’ to. This theoretical starting point also challenges the utility of threshold-based adaptation strategies, by demonstrating how heat is actively co-produced by living, performing bodies-in-weather. This argument is exemplified through a case study of outdoor, manual workers in Australia’s Monsoon Tropics, where work practices were adapted to reduce thermal load. More specifically, we find that workers ‘weather’ work and ‘work’ the weather to enable work to be done in extreme conditions. Our analysis of everyday heat adaptation draws attention to the generative capacities of bodies and unsettles two established separations: (1) between climatic exposure and sensitivity, calling for a more embodied, experiential and performed perspective; and (2) between climatic impacts and (mal)adaptation, calling for an understanding of climate adaptation as located in everyday practices, in the management of bodies-in-weather.

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Elspeth Oppermann, Yolande Strengers, Cecily Maller, Lauren Rickards, Matt Brearley, 2018, Beyond threshold approaches to extreme heat: Repositioning adaptation as everyday practice, Edition:17 September 2018, Journal Article, viewed 13 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=13884.

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