Friday, November 6, 2009

Who will fare best as the climate continues to warm?

That's the topic in the article Coping With Climate Change. The article is filled with information worth reading, but one point in particular toward the end of the article jumped right out at me: societies that are relatively egalitarian are going to fare better than those in which there are gross inequalities. Here's the quote:
Another key component of climate fitness is the equality and empowerment of women and minority groups. Natalie Curtis, a senior press spokesman at Oxfam, said that sea level rise and an increase in extreme weather events in Bangladesh has been a “double-edged sword.” The impacts have been “horrific”, she said, but they have led to the creation of councils of women in every village “who are leading the efforts for community survival.”

Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New Orleans was also a stark example of climate weakness, as social inequality – and poor governance – led to tens of thousands of the city’s poorest residents being stranded for days.
There's a reason why I've tended to advocate here and elsewhere in favor of eliminating social inequalities - in the long run, such societies are ill-suited to handle climate-related catastrophes (and ours is going to have to do it with declining non-renewable resources available). I'd also suggest ditching the hyper-individualism that has characterized Euro-American society for the past generation. The "everyone's an island" approach to life might by merely dysfunctional under ideal circumstances, but won't leave its practitioners capable of pulling together when it's most needed. New Orleans and the surrounding region during the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina and the immediate (and long-term) aftermath should have served as the much-needed wake-up call that the status quo in the US is destined to failure, to unnecessary human suffering. To me it's no accident that there has been a resurgence of Marxist and various anarchist-collectivist social models since the 1990s, to the extent that such forms of social organization tend towards egalitarianism and a reduction hyper-individualism.
h/t The Oil Drum.

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