Climate Change and Culture

Jan 29, 2023
Parima Lumba

Climate describes the shared perceptions of the people in a group or organization, while culture includes how people feel about the organization and the beliefs, values, and assumptions that provide the identity and set the standards of behavior (Stolp & Smith, 1995). Normally, culture is defined as beliefs, knowledge, and values that are passed from generation to generation that helps to create identity whereas climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, and no sector is immune from it.


Climate change is affecting all aspects of culture, from cultural heritage to natural heritage which is linked to the livelihood of people. Specific changes to local conditions are difficult to predict due to the complexity of the natural systems. Climate change may be altering the processes and conditions that drive local natural indicators, altering associated practices (Chand et al. 2014). World Heritage sites are increasingly impacted by climate-change-related disasters. Climate change is threatening entire ways of life, including the practice of intangible cultural heritage too.

Cultures are one of the major resources for climate change adaptation, traditional knowledge of culture has always been environment friendly though creativity is necessary for finding new solutions to environmental challenges. In the context of Nepal, for instance, while talking about Udhauli and Ubhauli festival here, on Ubhauli festival day, the Kirat people pray to mother nature for healthy crops and protection from natural calamities in that year and  Udhauli is about thanking mother nature for providing a good harvest, they even perform Sakela dance to celebrate nature as they are worshippers of nature. Therefore, Intangible cultural heritage practices are highly effective tools for helping communities adapt to a change. Likewise, Indrajatra is also celebrated on the occasion of thanking Lord Indra for rain. Somehow it also emphasizes the importance of water in our lives. Culture has a critical role to play in humanity’s reaction to climate change. Loss of traditions and cultural heritage can make it more difficult to deal with climate change, and weaken social cohesion, as people lose touch with traditional ways of life.

 Thus, all cultures change over time; none is static. It is necessary to recognize the role of culture as a resource for climate change mitigation and adaptation as people modify the ecosystems around them through cultural practices, values, and vision of the world.