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20-05-2021 | Issue 1/2021

Environmental Management 1/2021

Coastal Community Resilience and Power in the United States: A Comparative Analysis of Adaptability in North Carolina and Louisiana

Journal:
Environmental Management > Issue 1/2021
Author:
Candace K. May
Important notes
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Abstract

Community adaptations to increase resilience and reduce vulnerability depend on adaptability, which is constituted by how power shapes collective mobilization of differential capacities across scales and levels of governance systems. A multidimensional power framework (MPF) to track the role of power in adaptability is presented and applied in a qualitative, comparative case study of two historical fishing communities in the United States. The MPF conceptualizes power as differential capacities at the individual and group levels, structural at the policy level, and systemic, reflective of generalized norms, strategies, and technologies of political economic imperatives. The first case, Two Rivers, North Carolina represents an example of collective action failure resulting in transformation to a new resilience regime consisting of fundamentally altered community functions, structures, and identity. The second case, Delcambre, Louisiana represents collective action success; community adaptations resulted in continuity in change for fisher livelihoods. Success here is defined as the ability to maintain a semblance of structure, function, or identity of the original resilience regime without connotations of positive or negative desirability. The cases were similar in demographics, vulnerabilities, and differential capacities. Key differences existed in systemic political economic imperatives, structural power at the policy level, and the ways closure, the ability to enforce a common sense of place within the communities reflected systemic power. The utility of the MPF is mapping vulnerabilities and differential capacities against broader structures and systemic processes to inform effective mobilization for improved socio-ecological resilience and sustainability.

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