Coastal erosion narratives in the Gulf of Mexico: implications for climate change governance

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This article presents a study of coastal erosion narratives by the Mexican government, scientists, and local fishers in coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico. It shows how plans to enroll fishing communities into programs to adapt to or to slow coastal erosion are based on simplified environmental narratives that rely on global climate change as the main cause of coastal erosion. They discount local processes and local explanations, as well as scientific studies that outline complex multi-scalar explanations for coastal erosion. Government narratives frame global climate change, as manifested in increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other hydrometereological extreme events and sea level rise, as the main causes of changes in coastal environments, including coastal erosion They fail to acknowledge other causes including the environmental degradation caused by the influential oil industry. In contrast, fishers' more complex and locally-embedded narratives are shaped by their long-term struggles against the state-owned oil company, whom they hold primarily responsible for coastal erosion in their communities. Scientists similarly emphasize the importance of local and regional processes, with climate change understood primarily as having significant impacts in the future, but less so in the recent past. Differences in temporal and geographical scaling among these narratives highlight the importance of considering how the translation of climate change adaptation programming from the global to diverse local situations would ideally consider site-specific power relations as well as community-based perspectives.

Keywords: coastal erosion, climate change, environmental narratives, oil, participation

How to Cite: Vázquez, L. & Vandergeest, P. (2022) “Coastal erosion narratives in the Gulf of Mexico: implications for climate change governance”, Journal of Political Ecology. 29(1). doi: