Paul O'Keefe

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Brent McCusker

Committee Co-Chair

Karen Culcasi

Committee Member

Robert Maxon

Committee Member

Jeremia Njeru

Committee Member

Bradley Wilson


This dissertation demonstrates that the vulnerability of households to both socioeconomic and environmental processes is found in unequal, differentiated ability to access the means of social production and reproduction. Place specific environmental and social factors co-produce specific manifestations of vulnerability, but the underlying causes and driving forces are to be found in the social formation and social relations of households in the case study area. The major finding of this dissertation is that changes in the social relations of production and reproduction are creating as much risk to livelihoods as climate change does, or is likely to do in the future. Vulnerability is not necessarily caused at all by a changing climate, rather it is found in the daily struggles over social production and reproduction. Most so called 'environmental sources of vulnerability' are not experienced equally, and their ultimate roots are found not in the 'natural' environment but in social relations. Household exposure and vulnerability to drought varied hugely over small distances, suggesting that environmental conditions do not affect all households equally. Vulnerabilities are experienced locally but are generated in socially scaled processes beyond household control.