Environmental stresses and community responses in four communities of southwestern Uruguay
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Worldwide, communities are becoming more vulnerable, facing new environmental stresses driven by globalization and climate change. Since the turn of the 21st century, climate change and globalization have critically affected the southwestern region of Uruguay. Community responses to environmental stresses can be influenced by cultural capital, significant changes in all community capitals, and by social and political capitals under decentralizing governance and programs. This study explores the community capitals that influenced community adaptations to environmental stresses in Nueva Helvecia (NH), Nueva Palmira (NP), Cardona, and Dolores, in southwestern Uruguay. Research methods of this study include semi-structured interviews with key local informants from market, state, and civil society, and participant observation and reports from local public meetings and assemblies. Results from NH show that social and political capitals were influenced by community cultural capital. Cultural capital strengthened social and political capital to develop local adaptations rooted in the local culture/s. Results from NP and Dolores, show that collective mobilization of social and political capitals (collective agency) for local adaptations occurred when negative changes in all community capitals (especially financial, built, and human capitals) undermined community well-being. Decentralized multi-level governance organized by Municipios and Mesas de Desarrollo Rural (MDRs) made environmental stresses more visible at the four communities. Decentralized multi-level governance (social and political capitals) facilitated consultation and information exchange between the actors involved, but community empowerment for adaptive actions at the local level was minimal, due to the limited resources and historic dependency on regional and national governmental institutions.