Our seasonal cultures must adapt to fast-changing seasonal realities

In CALENDARS, we think that climatic and other changes are undermining the cultural frameworks or calendars that people use for understanding and living by seasonal rhythms.

The primstav is a traditional Norwegian stick calendar of symbols, used to mark important local days as cues for activities over the year.
Reinsfelt, Anne-Lise, Norsk folkemuseum

Main content

Communities worldwide are critically re-examining their seasonal calendars to better adapt to fast-changing seasonal realities in the places they live. Seasonal calendars, as cultural frameworks, have long structured patterns of community life and provided a repertoire for living according to seasonal rhythms. Calendars evolve with environments and communities’ worldviews, values, technologies and practices; affecting how people perceive seasonal patterns over the year and behave seasonally.

The problem is that communities today find themselves in a unique moment of accelerated and intersecting climatic, environmental, social, technological, and cultural changes that are destabilizing their calendars as templates for timely action. There are increasing accounts of populations whose calendars no longer correspond to the seasonal rhythms they track. We see for instance: farming practices disconnected from a changing climate; fishing rhythms upset by altered ocean habitats; festivals detached from an increasingly diverse society; or obsolete seasonal objects under technological advancement.

Now is an important moment for communities to reflect on what seasonality means for them. The way communities reorient calendars to shifting conditions may affect whether they continue to serve as resources for living by seasonal rhythms, or lock people into maladaptive pathways. Our seasonal cultures have always been synched with those rhythms that matter to us, but where calendars are slow to change, where they are disconnected from what matters, or where they inscribe unsustainable habits, it might be time to consciously recalibrate them.

This research touches on a kaleidoscope of research fields, but perhaps most clearly starts from work on the cultural side of adaptation to climate and environmental change, in communities, institutions and organisations. More particularly the project links up to work examining the role played by cultural frameworks of time and temporality in adaptation.

A drawing of a circula calendar with the 12 months named and illustrated