Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Climate disruptions to the status quo

Rachel Godfrey Wood in the Poverty Matters blog in the Guardian (UK) mentions a book that's clearly pertinent to this blog: It's not always a great idea to acknowledge that bad things can create opportunities – but they can. Bad things cause suffering and tragedy, but they can also destabilise the status quo, open space for new discussions, and give an impetus to groups looking for positive change.

This is particularly relevant for climate change, which is likely to challenge governments and social systems in a way that has never happened before. This point has been made by Mark Pelling, who in his new book, Adaptation to Climate Change: From Resilience to Transformation, argues that adapting to climate change should be seen as an opportunity to challenge existing social contracts and unequal relationships.

A good example is the discussion over climate change and its potential to cause "instability" and threat to "security". This issue has apparently been rising up the priority list of military establishments and has been used by some environmentalists to advocate mitigation policies.

Aside from the debate over whether the climate "threat" to security is actually significant, there is a need to question the assumption that all forms of instability are bad. In fact, a quick glance of history shows us that environmental shocks have led to sweeping political changes, some of which were positive. Pelling himself identifies Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Mexico as countries that saw an opening of democratic space following natural disasters….

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