Climate CoLab and its “Anticipating Climate Change in the Pamir Mountains” contest were featured in a National Geographic article by Karen Emslie on June 7, 2016. An excerpt of her full article, “Climate Change is Making Calendars Run Amok” is included below.
People in the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia are recalibrating their system of time to adapt to a changing ecosystem
By Karen Emslie
June 7, 2016
With the calendars in turmoil, people in the Pamir Mountains are experimenting with ways to cope. Plowing and sowing now begins 15 to 30 days earlier than it did two decades ago, and it has become possible to grow wheat further up in the mountains without the risk of frost damage.
“They are already showing human agency, because they have figured out that they can now grow wheat at higher elevations. People are developing strategies on their own,” Kassam says.
However, this adaption has restrictions. Arable land is limited at higher altitudes, so the villagers will ultimately need a combination of approaches to ensure that their communities can predict the best times for vital events.
“They need to be able to anticipate what size their herd should be, what will be the nature of the pastures, when should they be seeding, when should they be plowing, when should they be harvesting,” says Kassam.
To address the problem, Kassam partnered with the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange and MIT’s Climate CoLab. They worked together to develop the ECCAP project, identify scientists with experience and respect for local knowledge, and crowdsource ideas.
The resulting multidisciplinary team brings together researchers from the U.S., Italy, Germany, and China. One team will update the calendars with current ecological data and recalibrate them so that people can once again make seasonal predictions.