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WIREs Clim Change
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Glaciers and society: attributions, perceptions, and valuations

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As icons of a world set in motion by human action, glaciers are often highlighted as quintessential evidences of global climate change. Although there is a general agreement among scientists that glaciers around the world are receding, much of the discussions on the subject tend to be oriented toward technological methodologies. Yet, as elements of the landscape, glaciers are strongly integrated to various societies around the world in ways that exceed their role as provider of fundamental sources of water. The relation between glaciers and societies is therefore marked by processes of attribution, perception, and valuation by local and distant actors. As a consequence, as they recede, glaciers often become the loci of interactions between actors of various scales. But besides melting, glaciers also transform from being objects of local to national and global concern. This is particularly true when esthetic and economic values are assigned to glaciers. Real and perceived changes in the form, reach and out‐flow of water impact the local populations, and shape the kinds of action undertaken by communities, local actors, state authorities, and international organizations. The paper concludes by arguing that place‐based research is fundamental to discuss a global environmental phenomenon such as glacier recession. WIREs Clim Change 2014, 5:793–808. doi: 10.1002/wcc.315 This article is categorized under: Climate, History, Society, Culture > Ideas and Knowledge Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > Learning from Cases and Analogies Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge > Sociology/Anthropology of Climate Knowledge
Global distribution of the place‐based studies cited in the review article. Locations are approximate.
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Social Status of Climate Change Knowledge > Sociology/Anthropology of Climate Knowledge
Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > Learning from Cases and Analogies
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