Document Sample
mayer Powered By Docstoc
					Analyzing Societal Responses
   to Climate Change with
Particular Reference to Health
            Jonathan D. Mayer
         University of Washington
      Geography, Infectious Diseases,
   Epidemiology, Health Services, Family
    Human-Earth System Interaction
•   Highly complex
•   Involves interactive and recursive loops
•   Many of the relationships are nonlinear
•   Just as ecosystem(s) influence humans,
•   So humans influence ecosystems
• Swidden (slash and burn) agriculture
• Well adapted in when food requirements
  not high for large numbers of people
• Highly sustainable
  – Allows regeneration of soil nutrients
• Humans influence environment
• Environment influences humans
• Keyword in this context
• Adaptation different than ―natural‖
• Can be the result of intentional action
• Can be the result of tradition
• ?Other factors
• This is ―cultural ecology‖
Why Do Social Systems Adapt?
• To Reduce Vulnerability
  – Individuals
  – Groups
  – Governments
  – Supragovernmental units
• Vulnerability:
  – ―ability to be harmed or hurt‖—Robt. Kates
  – Strategies are taken to minimize this
  Upstream Responses to Climate
• Adaptive human action viewed as
• Actions, based on feedback, to change
  what is viewed as harmful human action
• Logic:
  – Human activities are causing climate change
  – Change those human actions
    • Directly
    • Through incentives
          Specific Examples
• Change consumption of fossil fuels;
• Change incentives for use of private
• Develop new technologies:
  – Industry
  – Transportation
• Alter spatial design of cities
  – e.g., more ―foot friendly‖
        More Profoundly…..
• Alter political incentives
• In democratic societies, make political
  bodies (and politicians) accountable
• Etc…
• All of these are human actions (―societal
  responses‖) to alter the ―anthropogenic‖ in
  ―anthropogenic climate change‖
         Downstream Effects
• (or responses)
• Climate change is there….what are we
  going to do?
• Analysis is very similar to that of natural
• Can analyze individual, group, and
  formalized group (governmental)
  – Intrapsychic responses as well
          Most Profoundly
• Can realize degree to which humans are
  responsible for climate change
• Respond accordingly
• But beware ―Tragedy of the Commons‖
     Intrapsychic Responses
• Defenses
• Normalizing the abnormal
• Anxiety
  – Common with sudden phenomena
  – Less common with phenomena of gradual
    onset and progression
• Denial
       Individual Responses
• Do nothing
• Buy into the denial of others
• Individual strategies to minimize risk
  – Heat waves—buy air conditioners if possible
  – Drink water
  – Stay cool
• Keep cisterns away from dwellings
• Drain pools of water
   Individual Responses (cont)
• Change physical structure of houses
  – Heat conservation
  – Waterproof
• Insurance
            Group Responses
• Form action groups
    – e.g., environmental groups
    – Political action
•   Stregthen social ties (NYC and 9/11)
•   ―Persuade‖
•   Offer forms of insurance to spread risk
•   Group pressure
•   Group support
   Governmental Adaptations
• Agencies to address consequences of
  climate change—there are many!
• Strengthen public health
• Improve mosquito abatement
• Improve drainage
• Implement migration and resettlement in
  case of potential flooding
  – This has many profound social
    consequences—Three Gorges Dam
         Public Health Systems As
• Purpose is to reduce vulnerability thru
  collective action
  – Ability to be harmed by:
     • Pathogens
     • Toxins
     • Underlying causes of widespread threats including:

• Human causes (―anthropogenic‖), such as
  climate change, cigarette smoke, toxic
  waste, etc
 Thus, public health serves as
  a buffer of the environment
     between some of the
malevolent forces, and society
(note that these forces are not
       always ―natural‖)
  Political Ecologic Framework
• First used in geography, anthropology to
  analyze land degradation
• Political economy + cultural ecology
• Land degradation frequently result of
  political decisions as well as cultural
 Political Ecology and Disease
• Suggested by me in context of infectious
  disease (Mayer 1996) and emerging
  infection (Mayer 2000)
• Unintended consequences of political
  decisions or political consequences of
  private decisions
• Merged with ecological consequences
   Climate Change, Disease, and
          Political Ecology
• Global warming result of complex private
  decisions—many scales
• Probable result: alteration of infectious,
  noninfectious disease patterns
• Unintended consequences of decisions
  made in:
  – Firm
  – By consumers
  – By land developers (deforestation)
Major Need of Political Ecology
• Grounding abstract analysis with
  real, concrete, on the ground