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  • pg 1
									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

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