Efforts by artists and scientists to engage public in climate change

by Yijing Zhang

David Buckland (2012) argues that climate science needs a broader platform to engage the public in the discussion of global warming. In his opinion, the Cape Farewell project is such a perfect means for scientist to work on cultural factors of climate, together with filmmakers, writers and poets. Cape Farwell is a good fit because it involves all the people, including artists, architects, and musicians, who know how to measure and evaluate climate changes in terms of topics most interesting to the public. The project consists of many journeys into areas most susceptible to climate change, in order to let participants see and examine how human activities are influencing our habitats. According to Buckland, these expeditions provide “a different language of climate change with which to engage the public.” As an international affair, more than 140 participants have taken part by writing down their stories, creating their artworks, or videoing their experiences. These practitioners use their own artsy ways to offer public a cultural explanation of cause and effects of climate changes. Continue reading

Visual imagery and climate change

by Yijing Zhang

A review by O’Neill (2014) studies the visual representation of climate change and public’s reaction on visual imagery. O’Neill begins by outlining three essential qualities of image that are different from text: analogical quality, a lack of an explicit propositional syntax, and indexicality (unlike words that are understood as a particular way of portraying the world, images are seen as direct representation of reality). These three qualities are related when O’Neill discusses three moments of communication cycles. The moment of production is about how climate visual are made, in what form, by and for whom, when and why. The moment of the visual text is about the context of the visual climate discourses. The moment of consumption is about how does the public read the visual climate discourses. Continue reading

Anthropology in Climate Change

by Yijing Zhang

Barnes (2013) strongly suggests that natural scientists cannot solve the climate issue alone even if they have understood every scientific aspect of it. Therefore, anthropologists can further enrich the study of climate change in three ways, particularly when the climate debate involves social, cultural and political topics.

The first way to improve the climate study is to apply ethnographic insights. Instead of focusing on one specific community, Barnes argues that the climate change requires a broader perspective. Extending subjects from local places to international environments, and from science departments to companies and non-profit organizations, Barnes suggests that anthropology research is able to study how pure scientific knowledge could be incorporated into policies. By studying the language used in communication and debate, anthropologists can analyze how scientific knowledge is conveyed to the public.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a typical example of how scientific knowledge is interpreted. Research, which focused on how decisions were made and how presentation affects the debate in the panel, finds that anthropological elements help participants in the debate to think more broadly and help them to include cultural and social factors.

The second perspective that anthropology can offer is historical. As climate change is studied in a very long time scale, anthropologists suggest that the debate topics in environment and climate are not new. Since the time of Hippocrates, people have pondered whether humans can control environmental change. In addition, when scientists are talking about impacts of climate change on susceptible groups, they are, in fact, talking about uneven development processes in different countries, which has been a frequently discussed topic over the years. Hence, Barnes argues that discussions on past topics can effectively improve present mitigation or adaptation strategies.

The last way that anthropology can help is offering a holistic view. In contrast to solely emphasizing on the big picture, Barnes suggests that it is better to think about how new policies can influence people’s livelihood. Though people’s living quality, determined by politic environment and cultural influence is difficult to quantify, it is still important to address these issues, and anthropological approach helps to prevent an overemphasis on climate change data, bringing social responses into the picture.

Barnes, J., et al. (2013). “Contribution of anthropology to the study of climate change.” Nature Climate Change 3: 541-544. http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v3/n6/full/nclimate1775.html

TAGS: Yale school of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale Climate & Energy Institute, anthropology, fieldwork methodology, climate change.



Personal Beliefs in Reality of Climate Change

by Yijing Zhang

Teresa A. Myers (2012) suggests that perception processes shape people’s belief in global warming. One perception process is experiential learning, in which one’s experience strengthens his or her belief. The other process model by Myers is motivated reasoning, in which personal experience is significantly influenced by existing belief. According to a survey, cited by Myers, the majority of Americans have a low engagement in global warming issues. Hence, Myers hypnotizes that the motivated reasoning plays a main role in shaping people’s attitude. One hypothesis is that both experiential processing and reasoning motivation affect people’s belief in global warming. The second hypothesis is that people with personal experience engage more with the climate issue than those who do not have the experience. Continue reading

Climate Change and Aging Population

by Yijing Zhang

According to Adapting To Global Change: Aging, Urbanization and Resilience by Francesca Birks and Katherine Prater, the demography has shifted towards an aging population across the entire world. The authors point out that as a relatively vulnerable group, the elderly deserve more help from the society, especially more from the government. Although the vulnerability of this population may not be apparent on daily basis, it will be exposed under extreme conditions, such as natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. With the lack of medical materials and weak evacuation instructions, the vast majority of fatalities caused by Hurricane Sandy were the population over 45. When the Heatwave hit Moscow, the outcome of the forest fire was the poor air quality. Among the entire population, the elderly are the most susceptible to these consequences. Therefore, Birks and Prater suggest the importance of design solutions to address this problem. Continue reading