Urban climate change, livelihood vulnerability and narratives of generational responsibility in Jinja, Uganda

Publication authors

Katie McQuaid, Robert M. Vanderbeck, Gill Valentine, Chen Liu, Lily Chen, Mei Zhang, Kristina Diprose

Abstract

There is an urgent need to understand lived experiences of climate change in the context of African cities, where even small climate shocks can have significant implications for the livelihoods of the urban poor. This article examines narratives of climate and livelihood changes within Jinja Municipality, Uganda, emphasizing how Jinja’s residents make sense of climate change through their own narrative frames rather than through the lens of global climate change discourses. We demonstrate how the onset of climate change in Jinja is widely attributed to perceived moral and environmental failings on the part of a present generation that is viewed as both more destructive than previous generations and unable to preserve land, trees and other resources for future generations. A focus on local ontologies of climate change highlights how the multiple, intersecting vulnerabilities of contemporary urban life in Jinja serve to obfuscate not only the conditions of possibility of an immediate future, but the longer-term horizons for future generations, as changing weather patterns exacerbate existing challenges people face in adapting to wider socio-economic changes and rising livelihood vulnerability. This form of analysis situates changing climate and environments within the context of everyday urban struggles and emphasizes the need for civic participation in developing climate change strategies that avoid the pitfalls of climate reductionism. The article draws on more than 150 qualitative interviews, generational dialogue groups, and creative methods based on research-led community theatre.