Caucasus Green Tales
This poster is the result of a research project undertaken with Armenian high school students from the region of Gargar in Armenia, within the framework of a larger project funded by the EU commission and implemented by CENN, a regional NGO. The aim was to teach the idea of ‘community based adaptation to climate change’ to the teenagers who live in a region affected by natural disasters that are predicted to amplify with climate change. This idea is crucial in empowering communities to tackle an issue that is directly affecting them.
As well as teaching communities tools and strategies that can be self led and implemented with little resources, the concept of ‘community based climate change adaptation’ highlights that existing local knowledge is often the most suited to the local context. However, with science and knowledge often taught as something that comes from books and scientists, local communities tend to undermine the knowledge and inbuilt strategies that they already have. This is particularly true in the face of ‘Climate Change’ which has been introduced by external media and is packaged as a totally new phenomenon that even scientists are having trouble dealing with.
The research project aimed to explore the idea of community based knowledge of the environment by teaching the teenagers how to collect data about the community’s interaction with and knowledge of their environment. This was split into 4 tasks – (i) mapping the geography of the community, its natural resources and how people interact with them (ii) creating a calendar of seasons, how the environment changes and how activities in the community change accordingly (iii) describing the community’s biodiversity (iv) collecting stories from older generations on changes that have happened in the community, natural disasters and how they reacted to them. Alongside this, the students collected recipes, pictures, stories etc
The poster, which is the work of the teenagers, is a visual summary of my first attempt at encouraging students to ask questions, to understand the mechanisms that tie them and the environment together and to be aware and appreciative of their local knowledge and strengths.I would design the tasks very differently if I was given another opportunity to lead this project. The challenges that I encountered didn’t help either, such as language barriers.
An old lady, at the end of the project, came to see me to say that she was very happy that the project had made the teenagers ask questions and observe their environment more thoroughly. I had no idea who she was, and I believe that she much have really meant what she said. To me, her remark shows that this project played a role, however small, in the path to community based climate change adaptation.