Anti-politics, Apocalypse and Adaptation in Kenya's National Climate Change Response Strategy

Symons, K. (2014). Anti-politics, Apocalypse and Adaptation in Kenya's National Climate Change Response Strategy. Scottish Geographical Journal, 130(4) pp. 266–278.



Climate change is increasingly discussed in apocalyptic terms, a spectre-invoking crisis discourse that simultaneously legitimises society-wide action, while de-politicising this very political issue. This paper examines the depoliticisation of climate change adaptation in Kenya, a country which has been recently praised as a developing country with a progressive adaptation policy. Using examples from fieldwork in Kenya, it focusses on Kenya's recently adopted National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS), and argues that Kenya's adaptation discourse is driven by particular imaginaries, specifically: adaptation as a ‘universal apocalypse’, and adaptation as a technical-economic problem. These function as deliberate anti-political strategies, aimed at obscuring the highly charged realities of adaptation. For Kenya's current political elite adaptation is predominantly a matter of reducing the perceived risks to economic growth, and enhancing opportunities to gain revenue from international funding sources. This is achieved through a discursive construction of a particular vision of adaptation, and against a backdrop of a capitalist strategy for growth. The paper concludes that a critical and political interpretation of the NCCRS and similar adaptation strategies is necessary to keep equity and justice at the centre of the climate debate, and to dispel the myth of adaptation policy making as a rational and disinterested process.

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