Adaptation is a means of reducing vulnerability. So, understanding causes of vulnerability should help to achieve adaptation. Why, then, are people vulnerable? Why do expected dry spells turn into hunger? Why do mere droughts become disasters? This article shows some of the multiscale processes that make the lives of people in the forests of Eastern Senegal precarious; it outlines processes that reduce forest villagers’ access to resources, lucrative markets and political representation. These are the processes that place villagers at risk when exposed to stressors— climate or otherwise. In this case, the Forest Service applies double standards—favoring urban merchants while subordinating forest villagers—through the making, interpretation, implementation and circumvention of laws and regulations. The wealth of the poor is continuously expropriated by a well-adapted extractive apparatus, enriching urban merchants while leaving villagers incapacitated. These people may lack adaptive capacity or capability or assets or social protections, but those lacks have causes. “Adaptation” without identifying and addressing these root causes is palliative at best. Security requires emancipatory transformations.
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