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Symposium “Cultural Dimensions of Climate Change”  


The XVI International Conference of the Society for Human Ecology, "Integrative Thinking for Complex Futures: Creating Resilience in Human-Nature Systems," September 10 - 13, 2008, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, USA, Banner; http://www.societyforhumanecology.org/

 

Description and invitation

Up to now, climate change has been considered mostly from the perspective of the natural sciences. In this context, human beings and societies enter into the discussion as contributors to causal factors and as subject to changes in climatic conditions. Arguably the social sciences have a major role in the clarification of how individuals and societies can lower their contribution to the causal factors (mitigation), and how they can adapt to those consequences that are becoming inevitable (adaptation). The human sciences, moreover, should play an important role in the facilitation of reflection on our relationship to climate, on our capacity to act in the face of forceful natural phenomena exhibited in climate, and on our responsibilities with respect to present and future fellow human and non-human inhabitants of this planet.

This symposium takes the perspective that effective mitigation and adaptation requires that we consider climate change in view of the diversity of factors referred to by the term “culture” studied by the social and the human sciences. Culture is a concept that has been contested (see, e.g., Ingold 1994, Ortner 2006), especially among anthropologists and geographers, and has to be used with care in order to prevent confusion. With this in mind, participants are encouraged to make clear the use of the term within their discipline, as well as the particular use that they give it in their presentations.

I am supposing that, in general, the term “culture” refers to ways of living characterized by a systemic ensemble of, among other things, values, beliefs, practices, habits and material artefacts. The guiding idea is that for diverse groups of people individual motivations, social structuring of behaviours, economic determinants, and so on, are held together in distinctive ways, even while the culture of any group has to be conceived of as dynamic, subject to constant transformation and in regular interaction with that of other groups, especially given the inter-relationship of human populations in today’s increasingly globalizing context. One way to think of cultures is as frameworks through which behaviours, ways of knowing, ways of valuing, as well as social phenomena, are constructed and modified.

With regard to the topic of this Symposium, the proposal is to discuss the degree to which cultural patterns that distinguish human groups from each other may play crucial roles in the ability to cope with environmental changes of the sort that are manifested in climate change. Presentations are invited that address the cultural dimensions of climate change from a range of disciplinary perspectives: historical, prehistorical, archaeological, anthropological, sociological, literary, philosophical, and others. Inter-disciplinary perspectives are especially welcome.

Organiser: Thomas Heyd, Philosophy, University of Victoria, heydt@uvic.ca

 

References Cited

Ingold, Tim 1994. Companion encyclopaedia of anthropology: Humanity, culture and social life. London: Routledge.
Ortner, Sherry 2006. Anthropology and Social Theory: Culture, Power, and the Acting Subject. Duke University Press.



Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, USA

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