An Anthropological Perspective On The Role Of Scientific Predictions For Water Resource Decision-Making

Sophie Haines, University of Oxford, UK

The people of Belize have experienced environmental changes in the past and present, and further changes are anticipated in the future. As a small, low-lying, coastal country, Belize is particularly exposed to the effects of climate change, and to weather-related events involving rain, hurricanes, storm surges, floods and water shortages at a range of timescales. While the availability and skill of weather/climate information has increased in recent years, the social, cultural and institutional factors that influence the usability of these forecasts and projections for resource decision-making (e.g. in the water sector) are not well understood. This report outlines findings from three months of anthropological research carried out in Belize in 2014, as part of an international, interdisciplinary study on the usability of forecasts for the management of natural hazards and resources. My research draws on literature from anthropology, political ecology, and science and technology studies, and uses ethnographic approaches to develop understanding of how scientific information is (or is not) produced, circulated and used for resource management in Belize. Specifically, the focus on forecasting and projection under changing social and environmental conditions calls for examination of the roles of science and other forms of knowledge in longstanding human attempts to anticipate, understand – even influence - the future. Observations and interviews with scientists, forecasters, water managers, farmers, extension officers, conservationists, engineers, public servants and others reveal a complicated landscape of information, values and resources that contribute to modelling, imagining and decision-making about Belize’s future water resources.

Water, Resources, Forecasts, Prediction, Hazards, Institutions, Information


Vol 4 2015 Research Reports In Belizean History and Anthropology