Looting the Ivory Tower “The work after ‘it’s too late’ to prevent dangerous #climate change

lootingivorytower(Blog posts about academic articles and what value they might have for activists.)


Moser SC. The work after “It’s too late” (to prevent dangerous climate change). WIREs Climate Change. 2020;11:e606. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.606


If you have read much on social and psychological responses to climate change you will have come across the work of Susanne Moser http://www.susannemoser.com/about.php

In this paper, part of a special issue on whether it’s too late to avoid 1.5 degree of warming she says (sort of – I paraphrase)

“We may or may not be toast (probs yes – but that the question is now legitimate is an interesting thing), but there’s stuff to be learnt from previous and ‘smaller’ endings. Meanwhile, we gotta do mitigation as if every degree mattered, and that means resilience building, “transformational adaptation” and “inner work.”

The argument in a tweet: (220ish characters)

It may be “too late”, but we gotta mitigate, adapt, do mitigation as if every degree mattered, end separation + ‘inner work’. #lootingivorytower

Should activists pay attention?  

Yes, this is a good pointer to recent literature and a contribution in its own right
The stuff on psychological responses to endings (section 3) is particularly neatly done. Also this-

4.3 | Resilience-building and transformational adaptation

With costly and deadly flooding in many countries, droughts expanding in time and space, wildfires consuming entire cities, and real-world adaptation limits increasingly recognized (IPCC, 2014), endings have become palpable. Calls for stepped-up resilience-building efforts and transformational adaptation are gaining in urgency because many adaptive efforts continue to be stalled by persistent barriers and most still aim at maintaining the status quo (Atteridge & Remling, 2018; IPCC, 2018; Juhola, Glaas, Linnér, & Neset, 2016; Moser, Coffee, & Seville, 2017). The work after “too late” requires serious grappling with what resilience actually means, conceptually and in practice (Moser, Meerow, Arnott, & Jack-Scott, 2019). It demands that meanings of resilience and desirable outcomes of resilience building are negotiated (Harris, Chu, & Ziervogel, 2018; Ziervogel et al., 2017). It means that the deep drivers of vulnerability, social injustice and environmental destruction must be challenged (Gillard, Gouldson, Paavola, & Van Alstine, 2016; Moser et al., 2017; Patterson et al., 2018).

How convincing is their methodology?

Moser has read heaps, cites lots of the recent stuff

What else could they have said?
Re: scientists and display of emotions –

  1. The self-censorship by scientists – well, there’s Orwell’s (ironically suppressed) introduction to Animal Farm
  2. And more recently/on point is Brysse et al. 2013 on scientists erring on the side of less drama.
  3. Though it is dubious, the whole ‘Spiral of Silence’ stuff too
  4. Hope versus courage – Kate Marvel
  5. Joanna Macey, especially the early stuff on ‘despair and empowerment in the Nuclear Age’
  6. Oh, and Nevil Shute’s “On the Beach” about how to face The End.

What else would a critic say?

Doesn’t engage with the long history of people saying ‘there may be trouble ahead’ on climate (see Lydia Dotto’s Thinking the Unthinkable from 1987) (but space is limited!)
Doesn’t really go into what we have been doing WRONG these last thirty years.

What are the implications for (Manchester-based/climate) activism?
Not so much specifically, but all grist for the mill.

What papers/books to do these people refer to that looks (or is) interesting?

Heaps – these leapt out at me

O’Brien, K., Selboe, E., & Hayward, B. M. (2018). Exploring youth activism on climate change: Dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent. Ecology and Society, 23, 42

Patterson, J. J., Thaler, T., Hoffmann, M., Hughes, S., Oels, A., Chu, E., … Jordan, A. (2018). Political feasibility of 1.5 C societal transformations: The role of social justice. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 31, 1–9

Sawin, E. (2018). The magic of “multisolving.” Stanford social innovation review, 16. Retrieved from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_magic_of_multisolving

Scheffer,  M.  (2016).  Anticipating  societal  collapse:  Hints  from  the  stone  age. Proceedings  of  the  National  Academy  of  Sciences, 113(39), 10733–10735.

Woodbury, Z. (2019). Climate trauma: Toward a new taxonomy of trauma. Ecopsychology, 11(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2018.0021   (sadly, paywalled)

Who should read this?
Pointy headed academics Yes
Activists wanting to get beyond the smugosphere Maybe
The (mythical?) generally curious and concerned citizens maybe

Looter: Dr Marc Hudson.

Depending on how relevant they are, these lootings may be posted on one or more of the following sites –

marchudson.net, manchesterclimatemonthly.net, climateemergencymanchester.net

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