11 July 2009

Buy This Book

Mike Hulme of the University of East Anglia has a new book out with Cambridge University Press titled, Why We Disagree About Climate Change. It will be on my fall syllabus (hint, hint incoming students). I asked Mike why people should read his book and he responded with the following. Do read it, it is excellent.
Why We Disagree About Climate Change - the plot

Climate change is not 'a problem' waiting for 'a solution'. It is an environmental, cultural and political phenomenon which is re-shaping the waywe think about ourselves, about our societies and about humanity's place on Earth. Why We Disagree About Climate Change is a book about this idea of climate change ... where it came from, what it means to different people in different places and why we disagree about it. It is a book which also develops a different way of approaching the idea of climate change and of working with it.

I deliberately present climate change as an idea to be debated, refined and used, as much as I that treat it as a physical phenomenon that can be observed, quantified and measured. These two ways of seeing climate change are very different. As we have slowly and, at times, reluctantly realised that humanity has become an active agent in the re-shaping of physical climates around the world, so our cultural, social, political and ethical practices are re-interpreting what climate change means. Far from simply being a change in physical climates - a change in the sequences of weather experienced in given places - climate change has become an idea that now travels well beyond its origins in the natural sciences. And as this idea meets new cultures on its travels and encounters the worlds of politics, economics, popular culture, commerce, international diplomacy and religion - often through the interposing role of the media - climate change takes on new meanings and serves new purposes.

Drawing upon my 25 years of work as a professional climate change researcher, university educator and public commentator, in Why We Disagree About Climate Change I examine this mutating idea of climate change. I do so using the concepts, tools and languages of the sciences, social sciencesand humanities and the discourses and practices of economics, politics and religion. As climate change is examined from these different vantage points it becomes possible to see that depending on who one is and where one stands the idea of climate change carries quite different meanings and seems to imply quite different courses of action. Our discordant conversations about climate change reveal at a deeper level all that makes for diversity, creativity and conflict within the human story - our different attitudes to risk, technology and well-being; our different ethical, ideological and political beliefs; our different interpretations of the past and our competing visions of the future. If we are to understand climate change and if we are to use climate change constructively in our politics, we must first hear and understand these discordant voices, these multifarious human beliefs, values, attitudes, aspirations and behaviours.