Cherry Briggs (2018 Cohort)

Cherry Briggs

About me: I read Biochemistry as an undergraduate at Oxford and then trained as a Biology teacher. In 2010 I moved to Sri Lanka, to take up a teaching post in Colombo. The island was at a turning point in its history: the 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) had ended the previous year and the provinces of the war-zone were starting to open up. This region is also home to many of Sri Lanka’s rice-cultivating communities and there was growing discussion of the island’s changing climate, particularly the erratic rainfall, and its effect on food and water security. How, people wondered, would the challenges of climate change adaptation and post-war reconciliation become entangled? Following an MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology at UCL on my return to the UK, this question became the focus of my research.

My research: This research centres around an ethnographic study of a large climate change adaptation intervention currently being implemented in multi-ethnic, agricultural communities in Sri Lanka’s former war-zone. It will ask: How is the risk of climate change perceived in the wake of a violent conflict? What happens when global climate change policy collides with communities with religious and ethnic divisions? Must climate change must always exacerbate existing conflicts, by increasing resource scarcity, or can the process of co-operative adaptation facilitate reconciliation?

The difference my research makes: Climate change is already having an impact on conflict and security. For example, climate related stressors have played a role in the conflict in Darfur and they are thought to have been complicating factors in the conflicts of the Arab Spring. At the same time, climate change adaptation has become one of the most rapidly growing sources of development spending. The insights this research generates into the links between conflict, climate and environment can be used to inform adaptation policy, so that it can support peace and stability, and to enable conflict prevention initiatives to take account of climate change.

Location: Anthropology and Sociology Department, SOAS

Pathway: Anthropology

Supervisor : Professor Edward Simpson

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