Transition to a Sustainable Economy, Griffith University

  • Transition to a Sustainable Economy, Griffith University (South Bank) - 2 days. I attended day-1 and came away disturbed by the presentations. The view that I am forming is that many of the 'social' sciences are weaving climate change into their stories, without sufficiently deep understanding of the actual climate science being done by research disciplines such as physics, oceanography, biology and the like. In a sense they are taking climate science on board as something they 'believe in', and they pay strong lip-service to 'trusting the climate scientists'.

Up to a point that is reasonable. We trust medical professionals and airline pilots and engineers. However, I think it has gone way past the point of reasonableness, and well into the realms of 'believing the Word of a Greater Power'. The parallel I want to draw is of people who believe the Bible is the Word of God and do not question it in any way.

Disturbingly, this belief approach to climate science is overflowing into approaches of how to communicate about it. I think these have far more in common with 'converting the heathen in a spirit of high evangelism' than any scientific discipline should allow. "How do you convince 'climate deniers' that climate change is real?" is no different in practice than the question "How do I market cigarettes to non-smokers?" or "How do we convert these non-believers to our one true faith?"

It also makes for shallow explanations, and ad hominum abusive responses to questions or alternative hypotheses, rather than well-informed, full explanations.

Climate science is multifaceted and there is a lot to cover and understand. Any comparable discipline is taught patiently and thoroughly. Think of chemistry, mathematics, French. You don't just tell people to 'believe' in these disciplines. You break them down to understandable steps and teach them systematically and logically. People argue we don't have time for this, but the other way just builds mistrust and resistance.

So, we can reflect on our own experience of what is happening to the climate and draw some tentative conclusions. We can choose to 'believe' what we are told without checking, or check carefully how the person telling us arrived at the information. Or we can put our toes into the fascinating sea of climate research ourselves!


To finish off, here are a few quotes from the forum which did seem well worth following up:

  • Q. What are the rules that lock us in in our economic lives? The biggest barrier to rapid innovation is the established rules in the system. Focus on the rules, not the technology. What rules and laws and customs need to change for us to progress in resilience?
  • We can be extremely well-informed yet do nothing. We are easily overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness. We need to promote our civic obligation to do something about the urgent problems facing us.
  • Learn about helpful behaviour in emergencies.
  • Intention to act is always affected by uncertainty. Where there is uncertainty, it is most effective to emphasize positives, (don't highlight losses). Let people know what others (ex. neighbours) are doing. Change the focus to solutions. Compared to fire preparedness messaging.
  • We need a new climate change story/narrative.
  • Q. What is it we are addressing when we speak of climate change
  • Q. As far as you know, do you personally think the world's climate is changing?
  • We need a much more ethnographic approach tuning in to what people are actually doing, and to the stories they've constructed around the climate.
  • Change how the person sees themselves. It changes everything.
  • The disease is industrial ecocide. Climate change is a symptom.
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