VIEWS: 10 PAGES: 22 POSTED ON: 12/2/2011
Analyzing Societal Responses to Climate Change with Particular Reference to Health Jonathan D. Mayer University of Washington Geography, Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology, Health Services, Family Medicine 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 Example • 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 Adaptation • Keyword in this context • Adaptation different than ―natural‖ adaptation • 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 Change • Adaptive human action viewed as ―mitigation‖ • 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 transportation; • 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 hazards • Can analyze individual, group, and formalized group (governmental) responses – 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 Adaptations • 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 maladaptation 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 examples!
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