Monday, 29 September 2014

Different responses to climate change

 classified as: reflective journal - discourse

The presentations from the Australian Climate Action Summit that I attended recently aren't up on the website, and I'm not sure if they all will be put up, but I want to put down some quick impressions I had of the summit. In particular, I was very interested in a difference between what I'm thinking of as 'technology can get us there, with a bit of political will' approach, and a 'we have to change the way we live, starting from the local level' approach.

As I said, presentations aren't up, so this is really impressionistic and going on memory, and I apologise to anyone I might be misrepresenting. However this was a difference that really struck me.

technology can get us there, with a bit of political will

This seems to be exemplified by speakers such as Dr Stephen Bygrave, from Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE). BZE is putting out a number of reports on different sectors, such as energy, transport and land use. Although the land use one may contain recommendations that involve substantial change to our way of life (apparently it may be quite controversial), Stephen's talk seemed to suggest we can reach zero emissions by serious investment in the right technologies such as solar or wind power, fast trains, and so on.

John Quiggin (not at the Climate Summit, but in a recent post at his blog), seems to be following a similar line: serious investment in the right technologies, plus some political will (such as regulation and carbon pricing), can keep us below the 2C level of climate change. He mentioned a number of reports recently supporting this view.

Now I haven't read all the reports in either case, so I'm going on summaries, in the latter case second hand. But I was struck by the tone of these views, as compared to the other approach I perceived:

we have to change the way we live, starting from the local level

This was illustrated in a very appealing way by Morag Gamble from Seed International. Morag talked about her garden and how it supplies all her family's food - plus she was able to give away 10,000 plants last year. She and her partner have achieved sustainable living in an eco-village, with $0 power bill and no mortgage.

Other speakers, such as Nicole Foss, focused more on the instability of the current system (particularly the financial system) and resource constraints for technology development, as predicted many years ago in Limits to Growth. Nicole, however, is also a permaculture advocate, with a focus on sustainable homes and communities.

As readers of this blog will know, the projects I've been looking at in my research tend towards the latter approach. They are local projects, with a focus on promoting community development and social inclusion as well as environmental sustainability or climate change adaptation. That's partly because health promotion in Victoria generally focuses on local projects, but also I think relates to some deeper questions I outlined in my previous post. Can we - or do we want to - continue with our big, hierarchical, unequal organisations, and still achieve sustainable living? Or do we need to live differently, in terms of more equal social organisation, as well as the different technology we use?

You may also note that there is a gender difference above: men presenting the first approach, and women the latter. I don't think that's purely random, nor the result me being selective in whom I chose to illustrate the approaches. I haven't formally researched whether the first approach is advocated more by men, and the latter by women - and within the scope of my current research, won't be able to - but I think it is a valid research question. If only I had more time! 

Finally - this should be obvious, but I know people don't always read carefully - nobody being discussed here is a climate change denier, and all their views are worth considering. Maybe both approaches can be combined in practice (to a degree?), but I think there is a lot of useful dialogue that could happen here.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Val, I've done a lengthy post about this.

http://www.climateplus.info/2014/10/02/climate-mitigation-costs-and-strategies/