Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cultural inertia is slowing effective action to address climate-change

27.03.2012
University of Oregon sociologist says that all levels of society are resisting the serious discussions

Resistance at individual and societal levels must be recognized and treated before real action can be taken to effectively address threats facing the planet from human-caused contributions to climate change.

That's the message to this week's Planet Under Pressure Conference by a group of speakers led by Kari Marie Norgaard, professor of sociology and environmental studies at the University of Oregon. In a news briefing Monday, Norgaard discussed her paper and issues her group will address in a conference session on Wednesday.

Scientists from multiple disciplines from around the world are at the conference to assess where they stand before the June 4-6 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro -- also known as "Rio+20" since it is occurring 20 years after 1992's Rio Earth Summit that drew officials from 172 governments.

"We find a profound misfit between dire scientific predictions of ongoing and future climate changes and scientific assessments of needed emissions reductions on the one hand, and weak political, social or policy response on the other," Norgaard said. Serious discussions about solutions, she added, are mired in cultural inertia "that exists across spheres of the individual, social interaction, culture and institutions."

"Climate change poses a massive threat to our present social, economic and political order. From a sociological perspective, resistance to change is to be expected," she said. "People are individually and collectively habituated to the ways we act and think. This habituation must be recognized and simultaneously addressed at the individual, cultural and societal level -- how we think the world works and how we think it should work."

In their paper, Norgaard and co-authors Robert Brulle of Drexel University in Philadelphia and Randolph Haluza-DeLay of The King's University College in Canada draw from the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) to describe social mechanisms that maintain social stability or cultural inertia in the face of climate change at the three levels.

At the personal level, climate-change information raises fear about the future, a sense of helplessness and guilt. These emotions clash with individual -- and often national -- identity, sense of self-efficacy and the need for basic security and survival. In small groups, interactions often subvert political conversations and/or submerge the visibility of climate-change issues. At the macro level, or society at large, the co-authors point to an absence of serious discussion of climate change within U.S. Congressional hearings and in media coverage.

In many discussions in the last 30 years, climate change has been seen as either a hoax or fixable with minimal political or economic intervention, said Norgaard, author of the book "Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life" (2011, MIT Press). "This kind of cultural resistance to very significant social threat is something that we would expect in any society facing a massive threat," she said. The discussion, she said, is comparable to what happened with challenges to racism or slavery in the U.S. South.

"Just as we cannot overhaul a car fleet overnight, we cannot change our ideological superstructure overnight," Norgaard said. "We must first be aware that this resistance is happening at all levels of our society," she said. "If you have to push a heavy weight, it doesn't mean it can't be moved, but in order to push it you had better know that you have something heavy and figure out how to move it -- where to put the lever to shift the weight."

Most discussion on climate change has focused on natural science. It is time, she said, to broaden that approach. "Social scientific responses have been limited in their primary focus on individuals. These explanations are important but partial and thus inadequate as explanations or guides for future action. Our cross-dimensional model links individuals, culture and society. We have to take all dimensions into account simultaneously."

"Confronting climate change is daunting but it is not an insurmountable obstacle if we collectively put our minds together," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation at the University of Oregon. "Interdisciplinary collaboration among social scientists and those involved in technological advances can help to move us forward."

About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

Source: Kari Marie Norgaard, associate professor of sociology and environmental studies, 541-346-8615, norgaard@uoregon.edu. At the conference, she is staying at the Hotel Ibis London Docklands (44-20751711000).

Links:

Norgaard faculty page: http://sociology.uoregon.edu/faculty/norgaard.php

UO Sociology Department: http://sociology.uoregon.edu/

UO Environmental Studies Program: http://envs.uoregon.edu/

Paper abstract: http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/pup_session.asp?19170

Planet Under Pressure Conference: http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/index.asp

Jim Barlow | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uoregon.edu

Further reports about: Climate change Conference Oregon environmental studies pressure

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

nachricht Species Richness – a false friend? Scientists want to improve biodiversity assessments
01.08.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>