Environmental change and uncertainty in coastal communities of northern Honduras
Hoover, Catherine Louise
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There is growing concern that the accelerated pace and increasing complexity of environmental change may be challenging people's ability to test, refine, and adjust livelihood strategies. This would be particularly challenging for poor households in hazardous environments, generating greater vulnerability to disasters. The context for this concern was examined in four rural communities from two different cultural realms along the Caribbean coast of Honduras. An ethnographic approach was used to understand how women household managers, community leaders, and elderly residents from Garifuna and Mestizo communities perceive and respond to hazards and other challenges in their environment. The analysis revealed how economic pressures combine with political context to contribute to an intensification of local land and resource use in the four communities. The consequent matrix of environmental hazards generates troubling uncertainties for these small-scale socioecological systems, particularly as the local ecological resources once available for livelihood adjustments become scarce. To make matters worse, institutional efforts to resolve environmental and economic challenges generating vulnerabilities for some rural communities are perceived as authoritarian, superimposed, and even culturally inappropriate. Confused or frustrated by so many uncertainties, households from both cultural realms try to adjust by increasing their dependence on an evolving web of political and financial resources beyond their communities, indeed from outside Honduras.