Climate change, ecology and sustainable development: is it too late?
Ecological degradation is not new – it’s been happening regularly throughout history
There have been massive extinctions before – at one point, 97% of the planet was wiped out
What’s new this time:
o The rate and scale is paralleled & there is public awareness
Why do people deny it
1. Incompetent scholarship
2. Biased research by people paid by energy industries
Being encouraged to drive cars & use air conditioners
3. A confusion between weather & climate
Weather: A variable, local and immediate phenomenon
Climate: Regular range of highs & lows of temperature & precipitation
4. Lack of agreement about the character of humanity’s relationship with nature
a. Is nature capricious, driving global changes: fatalist
b. Is nature robust, capable of withstanding human action: entrepreneurial expansionist
c. Is nature robust, but within limits: hierarchist
d. Is nature inherently fragile: communard
These 4 perspectives as to whether nature is fragile or robust produce conflicting perspectives
o about the scale of ecological degradation
o about the scope of ecological degradation
o about how to develop coherent policies for the environment
o about how to govern ecological policy-making
Meyer and Turner (1995) argue that these 4 perspectives are largely impossible to verify or
refute – and so they describe them as myths
These 4 myths give different views to why ecological degradation & climate change is happening
1. a problem of population?
are there too many people for carrying capacity?
2. a problem of poverty?
does a lack of wealth and resources make it harder to invest in environmental
3. a problem of growth and overconsumptiion?
global consumer society and the world system of accumulation is bad for the
environment and fails to recognize that the economy is a (smaller) part of the
This is what we mean by “progress” and modernity – overcoming scarcity
4. a problem of the domination of nature?
overcoming scarcity through the domination of nature by human beings lies at
the core of the idea of modernity, progress and development There are elements of truth in all of these
They also give rise to different views as to what can be done about ecological degradation and
1. there are those that deny there is a problem
• it is part of the planet’s natural cycle, and renewal is part of the cycle
2. there are those that believe there is a problem, and the market can solve it
• excessive government intervention gets in the way of markets solving the
3. there are those that believe in a technological solution
• human ingenuity can overcome any obstacle
4. there are those that believe that environmental degradation requires a fundamental
reordering of societies and economies
• structural transformation of societies and economies are a precondition of
Efforts to try and globally manage climate change is organized by the United Nations using
Conferences of the Parties (COP) through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC), for wh