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In this talk, Gail presents the contours of the challenge that is climate change — namely how to grasp in meaning or action such a wicked problem and hyperobject: something not directly seen and experienced, so radically nonlocal and involving of multiple disciplines, that exists on timeline we can’t easily conceive of, and regarding a future we can only approximate. Making sense of an issue this complex is slippery and plastic, and how we then engage it even more so.
The talk presents some good news about the climate change field at present, describes certain gaps that persist, and then dives into the avant-garde of where we may venture in terms of cc engagement in the future.
The good news includes the fascinating fact that unlike as recently as 10 years ago, human dimensions are now seen to be important in climate change: there exists nuance and recognition of how climate change affects people psychologically and emotionally, how meaning-making on climate change is diverse and how narrative matters, and how awareness and emotional responses are linked to our sense of agency. Second, there’s a strong commitment to transdisciplinarity, recognizing the need for disciplines to be situated in dialogue with each other. Third, action is intergovernmental—most governments are on board, inquiring how not whether. For those still questioning whether, they are being rendered irrelevant. Finally, the science is where we need it to be, and integrating technology in exciting ways
The gaps, however, are that we have not tetra-meshed, that there remains a glaring flatland in what is actually a multilayered depth of consciousness in the meaning-making and subsequent actions taken about climate change. Moreover, scales are conflated in an unhelpful way. We haven’t fully recognized that adaptation in a climate change context can’t just be about technical problem solving—it can’t just be about farmers adapting to a dysfunctional, unjust system, occurring at a larger-scale, which produces climate change and vulnerability in the first place—rather this involves construing the problem, life, society and self in entirely new ways. That is, adaptation has stretch to include transformation.
Following on that, she goes into the avant-garde, moving from dust to Divinity, conceiving of how we cannot turn away when asked to show up, and back again, seeking to not leave out even the most vulnerable.
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About Gail Hochachka
Gail has 20 years of experience bridging research and practice in sustainable development in Africa, Latin America and North America. Her enduring interest is on how to better understand and integrate the human dimensions of global environmental change, in approaches that are commensurate with the complexity of the issues today.