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Culture to Understand Global Climate Change.pdf

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McGill University
ANTH 206
Peter Rudiak- Gould

Climate Change and Culture Susan Crate Climate change is intimately and ultimately about culture Some cultural aspects Causes Population Urban planning Impacts Loss of TEK Loss of homeland Observation Responses Adaptation Mitigation Relocation Interpretations Ethics and responsibility Philosophical implications Scientific study Mainstream scientific perspective Scientists have a monopoly on legitimate knowledge about climate change When people don't agree, it's because they don't understand These people must be taught about climate change The more we know about climate change, the more we will change to prevent it Politics block the actions PROBLEMS Scientists have their own ideologies Non-scientist' views have insights too Science tends to take meaning/ethics/agency out of climate change Regarding the issue as purely environmental with a purely technological solution Anthropological perspective Non-scientists' perspectives on climate changes are valid too People are skeptical about scientific climate change because of what they know, not because of what they don't know These disagreements lead to constructive dialogue and democratic action Knowing more doesn't mean understanding more PROBLEMS Means any viewpoint on global warming is legitimate People have the right to their own values and facts Interpretations Experts vs public perceptions Experts assess the severity of environmental risk by how many deaths/injuries are caused by it per unit time Public assess the severity of a risk by how unfamiliar, uncontrollable, viscerally frightening, and morally outrageous it is e.g. Nuclear power Scientific: very low risk Public: very high risk Climate change Public: less concerned because it is not as unfamiliar and seeming dangerous Experts: more concerned because they know the facts An example of differing views among scientists vs. publics: almost all scientists agree that anthropogenic climate change is real, while a significant percentage of non-scientists do not This disagreement is not because of ignorance but because of: Distrust of scientists: “Public experiences of risks, risk communications or any other scientific information is never, and can never be, a purely intellectual process, about reception of knowledge per se....People do not simply not understand science when they are seen to disregard it; they do not recognize it, or identify with it, morally speaking.” (Wynne) Ideological differences: If available knowledge is useless, or even (socially) dangerous, there may be no point in taking on the often considerable costs involved in assimilating it…People may thus calculate how much understanding they are willing to own…This often hidden process may then be recorded, misleadlingly, as simple ignorance or resistance.” (Jasanoff & Wynne) / Mary Douglas’ Cultural theory of risk perception: people don’t dislike risks; they dislike changing their beliefs Just world belief e.g. Catastrophes happened because you deserved it System justification Political orientation Belief in progress Indigenous vs Western Views The value of listening to indigenous voices on climate change Mainstream Western views Abstract and in the future "Environmental" issue Can be solved via superficial changes Indigenous Concrete and immediate Moral, spiritual, and political issue Can be solved only by radical transformations from a capitalist economic and moral system to a non-capitalist economic and moral system Why We Disagree about Climate Change (by Hulme) Climate change is not just a physical phenomenon but also a political/philosophical arena in which we argue about different visions of what we should work towards
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