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Climate Change and Cultural Cooperation

Climate change and the earth
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Climate change is a hotly debated global topic, which is expected to impact poor and low income nations first, and will eventually affect every nation.

While this issue is largely in the hands of wealthy nations and the UN, it will eventually take a toll on the entire global population, and thus it has the potential to be an issue around which all peoples and cultures can rally.

Global temperature increase since the industrial revolution. (Author not specified, image provided by wikimedia commons)
Global temperature increase since the industrial revolution. (Image via wikimedia commons)

Joseph Champ, a journalism professor and specialist in environmental communications said: “The longer we go [without finding a solution to climate change], the deeper the hole we are going to dig for future generations, but if we really want to do something — to bring about real change — we are capable of doing that. That is my belief.”

Cross-cultural communication

In order to effectively find a solution to this problem, the basis of compromise must be cross-cultural communication. This solution must come from collaboration between wealthy, highly polluting nations and the poorer nations that often suffer from the resulting changes to the environment.

The longer we go [without finding a solution to climate change], the deeper the hole we are going to dig for future generations.

Prof. Joseph Champ

“We need to make demands on our legislators that they collaborate with other nations, small and large, and they do it immediately and effectively, and they do it quickly” Champ said. “If we demand that they do that, they must do it.”

Bikes in Amsterdam. Image provided by tddthien on Pixabay.
Bikes in Amsterdam. Image provided by tddthien on Pixabay.

Culturally, it’s countries not far from the poles that have the most intensive and effective environmental policies. Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Slovenia make up the top five, according to the environmental performance index.

These areas have made sustainability a national goal, and the cultures within those countries seek to maintain this attitude. In Scandinavia they use “all sorts of public transportation, they are harvesting wind power, they are using solar arrays wherever they can find a good place for the panels” according to Champ.

“There is a fair bit of social pressure to behave in an environmentally responsible manner in places like Sweden, where such behavior is now simply part of the social contract, like stopping at a stop sign or standing in line to buy a ticket,” according to an article in YaleEnvironment360.

Cultural norms like using reusable bags, the high price of gas, biking and living with limited hot water and electricity make it much simpler to be green. Living in these areas not only demands a sustainable mindset, it is also built into the very fabric of society.

China and climate change

Another excellent example is China, but it’s a different aspect of their culture that causes them to strive for sustainability. Due to a powerful government, change comes easily within Chinese society. Without democratic principles the country is able to easily implement climate initiatives to clean up cities, decrease overpopulation and reduce air smog.

A photo taken from NASA's Aqua satellite shows smog over Eastern China.
A photo taken from NASA‘s Aqua satellite shows smog over Eastern China.

Champ notes that the success of the Chinese does not require that the United States or other nations forfeit their democratic systems, but he notes that within the U.S., “we need to start to move away from a knee-jerk negative response to any sort of government regulation.”

Of course, the answer to such massive global issues is not as simple as mere compromise. Each country will continue to maintain its personal goals, and climate regulation often can get in the way of these.

We need to start to move away from a knee-jerk negative response to any sort of government regulation.

Prof. Joseph Champ

Steve Jennings, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, discussed these challenges.

Kwashiorkor children who have not received enough protein in their dietary intake. These issues plague low income nations, making climate change a difficult thing to focus on. Image by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kwashiorkor children who have not received enough protein in their dietary intake. These issues plague low income nations, making climate change a difficult thing to focus on. (Image credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

“Places in the world that are developing aspire to have the things that countries like the United States have,” he said. “This involves the use of more fuel for things like operating private cars and generating electricity to power more and more devices. There is resentment when developed countries tell developing countries that globally there needs to be reduction of fossil fuel use. The developing countries perceive that they are being denied a chance to improve their standard of living.”

Developing countries have a culture of rich art and traditions and the same desire for a high standard of living as wealthy nations, but they are set back by minimal resources and high death rates. These low standards of living make it much harder for these areas to focus on global goals, rather than local ones.

Despite many potential setbacks, Professor Champ insists that he believes global change is possible:

It is the broad-based and regular, consistent ‘chatter’ of particular ideas that over time start to bring change in a society — that may bring us to a tipping point, an eventual change. So I think that points toward, in fact, communicating between cultures about climate change. Let’s get a conversation going, and let’s keep it going.

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3 comments

  1. I’ve never thought about addressing climate change through the lens of cultural communication. It’s a very interesting aspect, and I honestly agree – the key to communicating with different nations is through culture, because it is the very soul of a country. Cultural humility is an important skill that not every person has; but, if world leaders are able to adopt this trait and effectively communicate and understand one another through the context of culture, I am confident that the world will be able to effectively combat climate change in such a way that all nations are doing their part without the cost of development.

  2. This article focuses on something I am very passionate about, that being climate change and sustainability. It was interesting to see how this article displayed examples of countries that have witnessed success with changing living methods, yet there are still countries struggling to follow in their footsteps. The usage of cross cultural communication to inspire change is really engaging. It is giving people around the world the chance to voice their experiences with climate change to produce a possible change for the environment. I do think it is tremendously important that more countries start to follow in the footsteps of Scandinavian countries. They have proven there can be beneficial change that can be implemented into everyday life to promote positive environmental changes. The only thing stopping other countries is their leaders and deep rooted societal foundations. With this article, it was also incredibly interesting to see how impoverished countries are greatly impacted by climate change. If the world attempted to collaborate more, and find solutions to global climate change, I believe that each nation would be far better off.

  3. This article brings up some valid points when it comes to how intercultural communication helps fight against climate change and its related risks. I was raised on a large tree farm and attended an American Indigenous intercultural school, both of which gave me some great environmental knowledge on how to successfully thrive alongside your environment, which also thrives. It is so important that scientific and indigenous knowledge from societies around the globe come together to collab on solutions for our environmental crisis. When combined, this information may help those societies most at risk, as the societies creating this crisis will become more aware of just how damaging it is. Now, it just comes down to the international and local economic and political nuances that are hindering humanity and the environment’s health.

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