Climate Change and Well-being in the Italian Alps Restricted; Files Only

Whitaker, Sarah (Fall 2020)

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Individuals across the world are living in ecosystems and landscapes that have been fundamentally altered by climate change within their own lifetimes. This dissertation examines the effects of climate change on the well-being of farmers and beekeepers in two valleys of the central Italian Alps. Over the course of the last several decades, Alpine areas have undergone temperature and precipitation changes at a faster rate than the global average. Although the biogeophysical effects of climate change in the Alps are well-documented, less is known about the impact of climate change on the well-being of those who depend on the natural environment for a living. Through an in-depth study in place, this dissertation identifies the nature and causes behind the local effects of climate change and contextualizes them within their larger sociocultural, political, and historical context. The dissertation employs a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods including interviews, participant observation, questionnaires, and analysis of historical weather and landcover data. 

Farmers and beekeepers have noticed broad alterations to weather patterns, ecosystems, and landscapes that align with natural science findings of change, but their observations also point to important variability in the local impacts of change even across short distances. In addition, informants identified that social changes, such as the abandonment of agriculture, are profoundly altering Alpine ecosystems and landscapes. Farmers and beekeepers are taking active steps to address current challenges to livelihoods and productivity and to prepare for the future. For many, the climate and social changes elicit feelings of worry, stress, helplessness, and insecurity. For some, changes to the landscape represent an abandonment of traditional mountain values and identity and present a challenge to people’s sense of identity and connection to place and history. Farmers and beekeepers live in complex, intertwined, and interconnected social and ecological systems that shape well-being. Their well-being is linked to ecosystems and landscapes through relations of care, the pursuit of meaningful life projects, facing and overcoming challenges, and connections to place. This dissertation demonstrates that climate change has very specific local impacts. Knowledge of locally specific values and definitions of well-being is crucial for predicting and mitigating the human costs of climate change. 

Table of Contents

List of Figures / i

List of Tables / v

List of Maps / vi

Chapter 1 - Introduction / 1 

Chapter 2 - Methods/ 31

Overview - Introduction to mountain farming and beekeeping / 58

Chapter 3 - “I don’t make them, the earth does”: Introduction to mountain farmers and mountain

farming / 64 

Chapter 4 - “Everything happens really quickly in the mountains”: Beekeepers and beekeeping / 118

Chapter 5 - “I do not have much faith in the certification anymore”: Politics and bureaucracy in mountain

       farming and beekeeping / 183

Overview - Introduction to climate, ecosystem, and landscape change / 203

Chapter 6 - The forest is dirty: Landcover and landscape change in the Val Camonica / 206

Chapter 7 - “It’s not supposed to be like this:” Climate change and farming / 243

Chapter 8 - “Calm, a spirit of observation, ability to adapt, and, in primis, humility”: Climate change,

      beekeeping, and well-being / 279

Chapter 9 - “It’s my primary thought”: Climate change and well-being / 304 

Chapter 10 - Farming and well-being: Connection to place, meaningful life projects, care, and challenge / 334

Chapter 11 - Tranquil and serene: Beekeeping and well-being / 364

Chapter 12 - Conclusion / 382

Works Referenced / 399

Appendix 1 – Landcover and landscape change maps – methods / 437

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