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Adaptation or manipulation? Unpacking climate change response strategies

Adaptation is a key feature of sustainable socioecological systems. Yet a closer look into the meaning of adaptation and its relationship to resilience, vulnerability and sustainability shows that, in many cases, societies actually manipulate their socioecological contexts rather than adapt to them. Some argue that manipulative behaviours are a subset of adaptive behaviours, but this paper suggests that they have fundamentally different intentions and outcomes. Adaptive behaviours are respectful of the intrinsic integrity of socioecological systems and change is directed toward internal or self-regulating modification, whereas manipulative behaviours disregard the integrity of socioecological systems and focus on external change. Therefore, adaptive behaviours represent long-term strategies for building resilience, whereas manipulative behaviours represent short-term strategies with uncertain consequences for resilience, vulnerability and the sustainability of socioecological systems.