Sociology of Government-led Climate Change Denial

Photo via Flickr
Photo via Flickr

The Abbott Government in Australia has previously stated it does not believe in climate change and it has significantly withdrawn funding for this line of research in its latest Budget (along with funding for most non-medical scientific research). A recent change on the Department of Environment’s website has removed a reference to the link between extreme weather conditions and climate change. The Department says this change reflects the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is incorrect. In order to provide some context for my post, it’s best to understand the Abbott Government’s historical and current position on climate change. I specifically focus on the public discourse by Abbott and his Ministers. They discuss climate change science as both something that is open to interpretation and something that can be fought with selective use of science.

The IPCC describes climate change as:

a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.

Climate change action is an interdisciplinary effort, requiring the knowledge and contribution of scientists, community planners and health workers, and other experts from many fields. It requires research as well as social policy intervention at the local community, state, federal and international levels.

I wrote part of this post on my Google+ and I encountered much push-back from a vocal minority of individuals vehemently opposed to the science of climate change.* As such, I wanted to expand on my original argument, and put climate change denial in sociological context. Research shows that political interests shape the extent to which climate change science is rejected, particularly when individuals have a direct or vested interest in an economy of fossil fuels, or where they have an ideological opposition to renewable energy and social change more broadly.  My focus is on the sociological consequences of extreme weather events, specifically on community planning and community resilience (the knowledge, resources and planning necessary to deal with extreme events). Continue reading Sociology of Government-led Climate Change Denial

Samoa Loses a Day: Sociology of Time

Samoa (Credit: sarah|rose, Flickr. CC)

The island nation of Samoa wants to improve its trade relations with Australia, New Zealand and China. As such, it is getting set to lose a day in order to align its time zone with its trade partners. Tomorrow, on what should have been Friday the 30th of December in Samoa, time on this island will jump ahead to Saturday the 31st of December.

I want to explore this shift in time in Samoa through the broader lens of the sociology of time. The theory of social construction states that the things that we take for granted as ordinary, mundane or commonsense are actually social ideas shaped by culture. The idea of temporal time is measured through our watches, calendars and other scientific instruments and technologies. As such, the passing of time is perceived as an unremarkable fact of life. The social meaning of time in different cultures varies. The idea of time as a fixed entity is actually a social illusion. I will show how history, social forces and life situations shape our ideas about time. I include a case study of ‘island time’ to show the variability of how time is understood and valued in island nations such as Samoa and Gabriola Island in British Columbia, Canada. I use the impending time change in Samoa to introduce the idea of ‘social time’, which is a useful way to understand how people in different cultures organise and think about time.

Continue reading Samoa Loses a Day: Sociology of Time