It’s a little left field for me, but I am currently taking a unit on the Psychology of Sustainability. One of the requirements of the unit (I’m an off-campus student, so I study from Sydney even though the campus is in Armidale) is to have forum discussions about sustainability and climate change. This is the first week of the unit being live, but I feel that this discussion should be happening everywhere, not just in the academic world, so I’m throwing it out for discussion. And I’m very much open for discussion. I never realised just how important this was to me until it got challenged. This was my response:
I’ve had a look at this article
You are absolutely right. There are many different reasons as to why it may be raining in any one place. The change in air pressure, humidity in another area prior to reaching you, the amount of time it has been since the last rainfall…
And not all of the change occurring in the climate can possibly be coming from us, because there are documented cycles.
However, one of the reasons we need to have such an interest in this is that humans come along and change things. If animals need salt, they migrate to where they can find it or they die out. Humans make things happen where they are or go to where it is and use fossil fuels 91% of the time (as noted in “An Invitation to Environmental Sociology”, Bell 2012) to achieve those ends. Every action has a reaction, and the actions we have been taking as a society have been having reactions we may not have known about, or may not have taken notice of until now.
In my eyes it’s similar to getting a puppy. You bring the puppy home, you’re raising the puppy and then suddenly you realise they have this habit of urinating in a corner of the kitchen. You’ve been absent-mindedly cleaning it up as you go along, but now you realise the habit is deeply ingrained and the puppy is a 30kg dog with a lot of urine. You can either retrain the thought process of the dog to go outside, or you can keep mopping up and hope that things don’t get worse. You don’t know what could be worse, not in a literal sense, because you can’t imagine what would be worse than a huge dog peeing in the kitchen, but you don’t really want to take that chance.
Exxon are the owners that take the chance. They know that some kind of technology will come along, perhaps a robot that will clean up after the dog for you so you don’t have to. They know that they will probably do everything they can to be on the front line of that technology. But they’re not going to hurry to change the dog’s behaviour because they’re so used to mopping up now, why change the status quo?
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) are the owners that don’t want to take the chance. They’re the owners that get a dog trainer in to teach the dog to go outside, and learn themselves how to monitor and control that behaviour. They hope that technology will have arrived by the time they want to raise their second dog, but they work on the assumption that the technology then will be the same as now or grow at a consistent rate.
I’m clearly preparing to bring a puppy into my home, but hopefully the metaphor functions. Our climate is changing, and we can allow it to change passively, knowing that we’re having a significant impact on it, or we can change our behaviours and our rhythms in the hope that that cycle isn’t as extreme as it could be.
I don’t believe we are the sole cause of change in our climate, I believe that it does go in cycles, but I also believe that since we know it does cycle, and since we know we are having an impact, we should be taking extreme responsibility to limit that impact because we can, and because we have no where else to go if this island sinks.