Alizé Carrèr: How Humans are Adapting in the Face of Climate Change

World-traveling scientist, writer, photographer, and National Geographic Young Explorer Alizé Carrèr spoke on her experiences researching and documenting climate change at school meeting this past Thursday.

World-traveling scientist, writer, photographer, and National Geographic Young Explorer Alizé Carrèr spoke on her experiences researching and documenting climate change at school meeting this past Thursday.

Carrèr was raised in a “treehouse” in Ithaca, New York, which ultimately inspired her to “understand how people interact with changes in their immediate community.” She received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Sciences and International Development from McGill University. She later returned to McGill to complete her Masters in Science in Bioresource Engineering. Currently, she is pursuing her Ph.D. in ecosystem science and policy at the University of Miami.

In 2012, Carrèr received a grant from National Geographic to pursue field research in the central highlands of Madagascar.

“My goal was to spend four months doing field work, collecting qualitative data, [and] conducting interviews in order to understand how people were living with this new reality of severe deforestation,” Carrèr said.

According to Carrèr, as tree matter above ground is removed, “all of the root infrastructure below the ground that holds the soil together is also removed.” Then, the soil becomes susceptible to erosion, which “leads to the manifestation of massive gullies called lavakas or ‘holes’ in Madagascar.”

Carrèr traveled throughout the highlands and stopped whenever she found a lavaka, interviewing the farmers who lived near it.

“Our goal was to map this story of what’s happening from the human angle about people living and evolving as their land is evolving underneath them,” Carrèr said.

On how people have adapted to this environmental change, Carrèr said, “When I asked a farmer if he was worried about the lavakas, he said, ‘No.’ He called the lavaka [near his home] his ‘tree bank’ and ‘savings account.’”

Carrèr went on to discuss her work in Bangladesh, India, Vanuatu, and the United States, where she explored human structural and behavioral adaptations. She focused on Bangladesh, discussing how people created “floating gardens” in response to rising sea levels.

“Adaptation is a new frontier where the cause doesn’t matter. It’s happening; it’s here; and it’s about how we live with it,” she said.

Carrèr concluded her speech by distinguishing between “a coping strategy and a solution.” While coping strategies can turn into solutions, Carrèr said, “It’s important that we keep the space open for trial and error coping mechanisms, which is what inspires innovation.”