"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Race, Gender, Class, Culture, and Climate Change

This study analyzing social and cultural obstacles to climate change found that among the "six Americas" (alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, and dismissive), those people most dsimissive about addressing climate change because they are convinced either it doesn't exist or isn't a problem are most likely to be
high-income, well-educated, white men. They are also more likely to be very conservative Republicans who are civically active, hold strong religious beliefs and are the segment most likely to be evangelical Christian. They strongly endorse individualistic values and oppose most forms of government intervention.
Hmmmm. Fancy that! In other words, the group whose social, cultural, and economic dominance is most likely to be challenged by A) the environmental consequences of climate change and B) collective actions to mitigate those consequences is the group most resistant to the facts.

It's also interesting that the group most likely to be "alarmed" about climate change is older, well-educated white women with higher than average household incomes, while lower income women of color are the most likely to be "disengaged" from the issue altogether. In other words, socioeconomically privileged women can afford to overlook the "dirty" sources of their status (e.g. the oil company executive husband) while personalizing the exploitation of the environment (recall, traditionally Nature = Woman). However, socioeconomically underprivileged women have more pressing priorities, like reliable jobs, healthcare, and childcare, and cannot necessarily afford to question -- no matter how valid the basis for their questions -- the status of the ruling class.

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While the majority of Americans actually fit into the categories "concerned" or "cautious," rather than "dismissive," "disengaged," or "alarmed," I'm still pretty well convinced we're screwed.

Why? Because even poeple who are "concerned" enough to do things like bike to work and maintain a compost bin in the office kitchen are only willing to accept inconveniences they deem appropriate -- it's great having low-flush toilets, you know, as long as everyone still gets to eat factory farmed burgers for lunch.

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Like I said. We're screwed.

Shit. I may have just convinced myself to give up cheese. 


  1. In other words, the group whose social, cultural, and economic dominance is most likely to be challenged by A) the environmental consequences of climate change and B) collective actions to mitigate those consequences is the group most resistant to the facts.

    (B) is obvious, since the holders of capital profit massively from the socialization of externalized costs of climate change and will have to bear much more of them if they are appropriately internalized. I'm not sure I understand (A), however. Won't the wealthy holders of capital be best able to use that wealth to mitigate the effects of climate change on them? For example, unlike poor people in coastal regions whose homes will eventually be inundated by rising sea levels, rich people can move wherever they want.

  2. Yes, economically spseaking, you're right. Rich people will just build more expensive beach houses after the next Katrina. But ... up until what point? At a certain point, presumably, after enough Katrinas, the costs and consesquences of attempting to do whatever these rich assholes want to do to the natural environment will become too great, right? Maybe??

    It's the cultural challenge that situation poses that I'm talking about -- the situation where it's too late to refuse to question the hubristic, anthropocentrically stupid fiction that Rich White Dudes (and those who culturally identify with them) can domincate nature at the expense of everyone and everything that's not them and get away with it. Hopefully, they'll catch on before that time, becauses by the time they cannot escape this challenge to their identity, it will be waaaaaaaaaaaay too late for the rest of us.

    As I said, however, I am not optimistic. That belief goes deep -- deep such that it gets enough poor people to espouse certain values and ideass and (too often) vote against their own interests. And deep such that it even causes well-meaning, thoughful people whose economic status is not esspecially at risk to not even consider doing some of the more extreme things they could do -- like cutting factory farmed meat and dairy, a major source of carbon emissions, out of their diets.

  3. As I said, however, I am not optimistic.

    Nor am I. I am extremely glad I do not have children, whose futures I would be extremely pessimistic about.

  4. No brats here, either. Cats are all I can handle.

  5. Meaning I take comfort in the fact that if I die first they will eat my corpse without even thinking.