Since there are no currently active contests, we have switched Climate CoLab to read-only mode.
Learn more at
Skip navigation
Share via:


Invoke agricultural foresight using cultural consensus, symbolic tools, and POV stories to link local insights w/downscaled climate trends.



The core features of the interventions proposed are the following: 

a. Model Consensus.

Cultural Consensus Modeling (CCM; example) is a formal tool to identify where individual mental models converge within and between village populations. CCMs are lightweight to deliver and assume that the researchers do not know the answers. This technique is designed to assess cultural consensus around coherent topics including climate impacts, skills, practices, rituals, technologies, conceptions of time, and body calendar reference points. The results can be used to assess areas of overlap in cultural understanding, entry points for advantageous concepts and technologies, pastures of shared identity, and folk taxonomies that are likely to affect how cause-effect relationships are interpreted. 


b. Calibrate Chronotopes.

A chronotope is narrative system for coordinating space and time. It gives form and structure to ongoing practices, motivations, and resources through the use of tropes like “the road”, “old woman time”, “threshold”, or in the case of the body calendar, “heart”, “thigh”, and so on. Chronotopes represent different ways of folding past, present, and future together within each trope. For example, the heart (being associated at least once yearly with the festival of Nowruz) encompasses a special set of relations to time and space, while each chilla or wandering period has a different relationship to time. Chronotopes are a common frame for blending relative experience, social relationships, the landscape, ecological interactions, life events, historical symbolism, and personal sensemaking along timelines that make sense locally by the quality and type of interactions they describe.

Chronotopes align multiple observations, symbols, and reference points in order to carry out the work of planting and harvesting across geographically (and climatically) diverse valleys and mountain sides.

Chronotopes need calibration to refine and update conceptions of climate variability, landscape structure, cultural reference events, and phenological timing. Farmers, climate scientists, and regional coordinators are each equivalent actors in building this network of stories. The chronotope is simply a way of integrating them along a shared standard. This requires opportunities for telling and comparing stories from each of the participants in the system (communication and community cohesion), and it requires methods for placing each transition or interval within a spatial context—including both the body and the landscape—in order to create synchrony and meaning between action, context, and outcome. These spatial relationships help link observations, interpretations, and skills to concrete ecological and social gradients. 

c. Cement Competencies.

Long-term practice requires durable infrastructure to help make the system of relationships and practices more memorable and meaningful. The changes needed to prepare for climate variability do not exist apart from the physical and social world. And so, there must be physical objects that bind and galvanize social actions. These may be interpreted literally or metaphorically: 

  • A solar observatory. 
  • Nowruz and other melas.
  • The inception or beginning of counting. 
  • Body statues to measure and demonstrate timekeeping. 
  • A household reference solar clock. 
  • Rain gauges and other talismans. 
  • Aspirational objects for improving other, unrelated aspects of daily life. 
  • Methods of water distribution and governance. 
  • Climate information services products including but not limited to remote sensing of vegetation for emergence, soil moisture, evaporation, runoff, temperature, and precipitation. 
  • Recognition of expertise and social standing. 
  • The landscape. 
  • Village and home architecture. 
  • A risk pool to enable experimentation without sacrificing one’s entire livelihood and wellbeing. 
  • Farmer-centric center for information exchange across ecotopes, villages, and institutions. Coordinated by Agra Kahn trust. 
  • Comic books. 
  • A handheld gnomon.

Category of the action


Who will take these actions?

It is not yet known. More information is needed about the networks involved, the incentives, and what the interests are of local and regional individuals for implementing the proposed activities. 

What are other key benefits?

The key benefits are:

Better mental models for planting and harvesting that account for phenological variability across short- and long-term climatic cycles. 

Attractive and thought-provoking objects and figures on the landscape and in village life. 

Greater exposure to visiting guests from elsewhere. 

Pride in cultural recognition. 

Development of a climate services development chain for better understanding of  design tactics for localization. 



Discussing W. Lentz's descriptions of body calendars from 1939.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Based on previous experience, the scale of implementation, and the need for iteration and refinement, an initial investment on the order of magnitude of $500,000 USD would be an educated guess with follow-up investments of $150,000 for each season to follow. 

The time to implement would likely be on the order of a decade, taking into account the pace of climate information services, organizational change, and climate variability which would most likely impede the “signal” of success within rapid environmental change. 

A focused research team, an information services team to field climate information needs, successively chained design teams to translate information services, and a training and implementation team would need to coordinate across the life of the project to document learned insights and practices while refining the approach.  

The project would also require significant buy-in and support from personal, regional, and remote actors across institutional, technological, and cultural boundaries. The main cost of this buy-in will be the suspension of personal and professional worldviews for the purpose of finding operational solutions. 

However, because many features of the problem and the means to address them are as yet undefined, the proposal’s cost cannot be determined without gross exaggeration or underestimation. 

The negative side effects are not side effects; they are direct effects:

  1. Non-useful information and “wasted” resources.
  2. Conflict as a result of competing interests among expert-level stakeholders.
  3. Incorrect information resulting in losses attributed the intervention. Correct information resulting in losses attributed the intervention.
  4. Opportunity costs of not doing other kind of work.
  5. Others TBD

Time line

We would begin with a simple in-person workshop or conference call to gather initial actors and begin to identify, map, and clarify existing sources of uncertainty and probable responses.

The next steps would be to identify the scope, stakeholders, process, and timing for a more detailed workshop to visualize the entire system, resolve key uncertainties, and map the processes needed to undertake an implementation plan.

The resulting map could be refined, visualized and used as an organizing tool to define key deliverables, timing, roles, responsibilities, and financial, operational, and human resources.

The major features of subsequent timelines could be geared to the following long-term milestones: 

  1. Assessing users’ information needs
  2. Translating, communicating, and sharing knowledge
  3. Producing and situating social capital
  4. Capacity building
  5. Leadership and organizational design


However, because the ability to assemble and implement resources and events is highly conditional upon funding, it would be irresponsible to map out a timeline. Given the number and shape of the uncertainties involved, it would most certainly be inaccurate and imprecise. 



Related proposals

Boroditsky, L. (2000). Metaphoric structuring: Understanding time through spatial metaphors. Cognition75(1), 1-28.

Shoval, N., & Isaacson, M. (2007). Sequence alignment as a method for human activity analysis in space and time. Annals of the Association of American geographers97(2), 282-297.

Isler, M. (2001). Sticks, stones, and shadows: building the Egyptian pyramids. University of Oklahoma Press.


Lentz, W., Alai-Pamir Expedition, & Deutsche Hindukusch-Expedition. (1939). Zeitrechnung in Nuristan und am Pamir. Berlin: Akademie der Wissenschaften, in Kommission bei W. de Gruyter u. Co.

Jettmar, K. Book Review: Zeitrechnung in Nuristan und am Pamir. Mit einem Geleitwort des Verfassers zur Neuauflage by Wolfgang Lentz. East and West Vol. 31, No. 1/4 (December 1981), pp. 142-144

McNie, E. C. (2012). Delivering climate services: organizational strategies and approaches for producing useful climate-science information. Weather, Climate, and Society5(1), 14-26.


Jain, M., Naeem, S., Orlove, B., Modi, V., & DeFries, R. S. (2015). Understanding the causes and consequences of differential decision-making in adaptation research: Adapting to a delayed monsoon onset in Gujarat, India.Global Environmental Change31, 98-109.

Lopez, A., Atran, S., Coley, J. D., Medin, D. L., & Smith, E. E. (1997). The tree of life: Universal and cultural features of folkbiological taxonomies and inductions. Cognitive psychology32(3), 251-295.

Climate Services Information System

Ahas, R., Aasa, A., Menzel, A., Fedotova, V. G., & Scheifinger, H. (2002). Changes in European spring phenology. International Journal of Climatology,22(14), 1727-1738.

Kirksey, S., & Helmreich, S. (2010). The emergence of multispecies ethnography. Cultural anthropology25(4), 545-576.

Time of onset in gohşumorihoi. BBC online. 

Calendar of ILO "solar man" in Badakhshan. BBC Online. 

Calendar of local people and rituals in Badakhshan. BBC Online

PIR-E ZANa calendar-related legend about an Old Woman who personifies winter.

A. Iloliev, The Isma’ili-Sufi Sage of Pamir: Mubarak-i Wakhani and the Esoteric Tradition of the Pamiri Muslims, Amherst, N.Y., 2008.

M.M. Bakhtin, ‘Forms of time and of the chronotope in the novel: notes toward a historical poetics’, in The Dialogic Imagination (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), pp.84-85.

Bloch, G. (2010). The social clock of the honeybee. Journal of Biological Rhythms25(5), 307-317.

Hudson, I. L., & Keatley, M. R. (Eds.). (2009). Phenological research: methods for environmental and climate change analysis. Springer Science & Business Media.

Phenology Clock Workshop

Davis, S. B. (2012). History on the Line: time as dimension. Design Issues,28(4), 4-17.


Vasiliev, I. R. (1997). Mapping time. Cartographica: The international journal for geographic information and geovisualization34(2), 1-51.