Beliefs of time orientation from an indigenous African perspective : possible implications for climate change adaptation
Terblanché-Greeff, Aida Chantell
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Climate change may be one of the biggest threats to human survival and it is imperative that humans adapt their behaviour in order to mitigate the effects thereof. In South Africa, some communities are vulnerable to climate change and should therefore be the focus of climate change adaptive strategies. Based on cultural diversity and societal differences, it is valuable to investigate a vulnerable community’s worldview in order to tailor climate change adaptive strategies for said community. A community’s worldview, and consequently culture, will influence the risk perception of the group. If the group does not identify a risk as threatening enough, there will be a lack of motivation to adapt to this risk, which in turn may have detrimental effects. One such aspect of a community’s culture that will greatly influence the group’s risk perception, is its time orientation. To date, no research focusses on the time orientation of peri-urban communities in South Africa or how those beliefs may influence the relevant community’s adaptive behaviour towards climate change. This vacuum in research served as motivation for the study in which three periurban South African communities were identified to investigate the relationship between the communities’ cultural time orientation, climate change and adaptation. A comprehensive literature review is presented to provide a theoretical foundation for the study. Based on the literature review, a context specific concept, namely Afro-polychronism, is proposed. This concept aims to formulate the characteristics of polychronism, Ubuntu and African time orientation (as formulated by John Mbiti in 1969) into one concept to better describe the cultural time orientation of the indigenous South African communities present in this study. In this study, Q-methodology was used during the research process. Semi-structured interviews were conducted after respondents were identified by means of random purposive sampling. Based on the recorded and transcribed semi-structured interviews, a Q-set of 40 Q-sort statements were identified. The respondents were then requested to arrange these statements in a free-distribution manner on a Q-sort diagram based on the provided Likert scale. Subsequently, they were requested to arrange the statements in a forced-distribution manner. The statement distributions were recorded and entered into the PQMethod software. The PQMethod software analysed the data and produced various statistical data. Based on the factor arrays produced for each Q-sort statement, several interpretation and conclusions were made regarding the respondents’ attitudes and opinions pertaining to time orientation, climate change awareness and causality. It became clear that the respondents are in fact aware of climate change based on their present and past experiences. A lack of motivation to adapt to the change is nonetheless prevalent. This can be ascribed to their collectivistic time orientation whereby limited emphasis is allocated to future occurrences. To attempt alteration of the community’s risk perception, it is recommended that the communitybased disaster risk management approach should be implemented in order to tailor awareness information based on the community’s beliefs and culture. By providing community-specific disaster risk reduction strategies, the community may be more inclined to identify with the risks, consequently motivating adaptive behaviour. In multicultural South Africa it cannot be assumed that various communities will have the same time orientation and this study motivates further studies to investigate the cultural time orientation and beliefs of communities, as these may influence climate change adaptation.