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Fighting Climate Change: Structural vs individual action

Posted on 25 February 2019 by Guest Author

We need to stop emitting greenhouse gases to stop global warming, but how do we get there? Should we be cutting our own emissions or pushing for systemic change? ClimateAdam battles it out with a very special guest - who looks just a little bit different...

Check out our video on Miriam's channel over here:

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Comments 1 to 9:

  1. Thought provoking related article : Mitigating Climate Disaster Will Require Both Systemic and Lifestyle Changes.

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  2. Obviously we need both individual action, systemic change and government action. But lets look at it more specifically. Individuals can reduce meat consumption, and there are many reasons to do this. Governments cannot do much about this issue, other than education perhaps.

    Most individuals might be reluctant to buy electric cars and solar panels etc until they are affordable and perhaps subsidised by government,  or alternatively they are impelled to make changes by a carbon fee and dividend. People are locked into an economic system of debt and credit cards where they live almost week to week so finding extra money is not easy. Savings are zilch. We want people to have noble environmental values that take precedence but realism is also needed.

    Bottom line: make some changes in your personal lives, even easy ones like reducing meat consumption and buying smaller cars, and lobby politicians hard on the climate issue. If enough people do this they will be forced to take notice.

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  3. Here is a suggestion for EASY structural change in the US - the 88 major universities listed at help Republicans deny, spread misinformation, and obstruct action on global warming on the local and national level by broadcasting sports on 260 Rush Limbaugh talk radio stations. Those stations intimidate Republican politicians and scientists in media who would suggest global warming is real. They also help elect deniers.

    One major reason the US is so far behind is Republican talk radio. There are several hundred talk show hosts on 1200 to 1500 talk radio stations who would likely lose their jobs if they didn't deny global warming or at the very least attack green energy initiatives in their own communities by lying about job loss, etc. They reach 50 mil a week as a well-protected 20-1 monopoly.

    600 of those stations, including some of the loudest AM stations in the country, are headlined by the loudest and most powerful voice in Republican politics the last 30 years, Rush Limbaugh. All Republican talkers have to follow his lead. When the East Anglia emails were hacked by the Russians and taken out of context he spent a week 3 hrs/day calling them proof that climate change was a hoax. That ensured that no Republican and even some conservative Democrats could support Obama at Copenhagen a week later. He was calling the scientists 'traitors' and some got death threats. He and Trump still cite the East Anglia emails as 'hoax' proof. Some have suggested he has unknowingly been used by Putin on this and other issues.

    By broadcasting sports on those 260 stations, 88 universities (at least) help the stations attract advertisers and community credibility.

    Very few environmentalists, students, faculty at those 88 universities and in those communities listen to Republican talk radio. Most unaware of the associations or the significance and the part their universities are playing in supporting denial and undermining their activism and concern.

    All those universities are appropriate places to complain/protest until they begin looking for non-denying apolitical alternatives to broadcast sports on.

    When one university does the right thing others will follow.

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  4. I like the way they distinguish between individual change and systemic change in this video. However, the dietary advice given in this video is counter productive... really for the reasons given in the video itself actually.

    In reality it is the production methods used for all our foods that make them either carbon sources or sinks and to what degree. So in this case Miriam is correct. It is a structural problem that the individual consumer's choices have very little effect improving.

    Except that's not all there is to it. A person who doesn't eat meat can't use their power of consumer choice to change the way meat is raised. You are no longer a customer, and the meat industry no longer cares what your preferences would be. You don't eat meat, so therefor your opinion on how that food is raised no longer matters. It's a pity, but it is a fact of life.

    But someone who boycotts meat raised in a way that is a carbon source and instead eats only meat produced in a way that makes it a carbon sink, when multiplied many times over, will ultimately cause a one business model to be more successful than the other. The same goes for local organic fruit and vegetable foods too. As one business model becomes more popular and profitable, the producers will change their production models to fill this consumer demand. Again, it is consumer  demand they will ultimately meet. If you are no longer a consumer of their product, there is no consumer demand to meet. 

    This is how individual action repeated enough times can force systemic changes. 

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  5. certainot @3

    Have you tried contacting groups which regularly dig into stuff like this? I'm thinking for example of Desmog and/or Inside Climate News. They might be interested in checking this out if you dropped them a note.

    You could try via their contact-forms:

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  6. I have to say I think certainot @3 raises a good point. Is it just me or do others also think that the first amendment to the US constitution - the 'free speech one' - which I trust was originally brought in to allow honesty and truth and genuine information to be spread and not crushed by darker forces - is increasingly being abused to spread deceit, delusion and disinformation - in short, bad actor propaganda?

    I'm old enough to remember those times when people fought, and occasionally died, for the right to 'speak truth to power' without being stamped upon. I venture that literally none of those heroes went out to fight their good fight with the aim of bolstering indiviuals and organisations who lie and deceive and mislead and generally muddy the waters in the public arena

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  7. Nick Palmer @6, I agree the concept of free speech is being abused to justify spreading fake news, lies and deceit. I dont think the notion of free speech was ever meant to encourage this. Fake news and a lack of agreed basic facts is really dangerous for society for obvious reasons. It will undermine everything including on both sides of politics. There will be no winners out of this.

    Free speech is really about the right to express opinions and spread information freely without fear of legal retribution or violence, but is not open ended. For example society has all sorts of limits on free speech such as defamation law, time and place restrictions.

    The question is how to treat "dissinformation". Personally I would like to see people who spread serious dissinformation, particularly climate denialists thrown in jail, or fined or something, but it would be hard for central government to legislate against this missinformation as it would be hard to define and expensive for them to enforce themselves, but I notice that the social media have been shamed into removing some of the dissinformation and this public pressure is good. The more public pressure the better.

    Some of the things the Trump administration have done look like blatant attempts by them to muzzle free speech. Pages disappearing from climate websites, etc. 

    I feel free speech is a right, and with rights come unspoken responsibiliites to be honest and upfront and have good motives. As Google says dont be evil.

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  8. Individual action is great and puts us in the proper frame of mind but the heavy lifting can only be done by politicians.  No they don't have to actually do anything.  They just have to set the ground rules so that it happens naturally.  Such measures as taking off all government subsidies on fossil fuel and transfering them to renewables comes to mind but there are many other similar measures which would result in a rapid and smooth transition away from measures that add GHG to the atmosphere.  But as usual, this will not happen if the vested interests are still allowed to finance politicians.  Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune.  The one necessary measure to get to this situation is obvious.

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  9. Readers of this post may be interested in the paper 'Accelerating Sustainability: Integrating Context, Behavior, Technology, and Culture in Organizations' posted at this location:  The paper argues that individual and organizational change are interconnected and both must be addressed if we hope to make headway on climate but the underlying resource issues as well.

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