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Today - Tactical Ninja

Jan. 25th, 2012

07:32 pm - Today

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We finished our poster. Thank fuck. I hope I never have to do that again - at least not in the contrived context of education. I'm fine with teamwork in the workplace but that works a whole lot differently. I guess I'm supposed to have learned something from it, but what I learned is that I'm pretty sure I can do a better job of such things on my own than working in a team, and enjoy the whole process more. As it is, I reckon the poster will pass but I doubt it'll pass well.

Meanhwhile, we learned about the psychology of people's response to climate change - about various values and barriers an interventions that fit with a particular theorist's view of what motivates people based in understanding, belonging, trusting and self-enhancing. There was also some stuff about normative social influence and how it works on individuals' psyches. It was more interesting than I've made it sound.

My question was about the intersection between an altruistic value base (which has been strongly correlated with giving a shit about climate change) and the temporal barrier that humans have in which we tend to overestimate the cost of action now, and underestimate the benefits of action later. Particularly with reference to some of the issues that international negotiators deal with - like, reducing emissions usually means reducing growth, which can lead to people suffering, and the altruist doesn't like this. I wanted to know if there was any work done on the way these two concepts relate to each other in terms of deciding between suffering now vs suffering later as part of international negotiations.

Sadly, I think that was too many concepts all at once and I didn't get an answer. Maybe my question was wrong?

Anyway, one thing he talked about was the way people don't believe that their behaviour has any influence on others, and how wrong that is. And it made me wonder about feedback. You see, the other day I estimated my carbon emissions and looked at ways I could reduce them to the required two tonnes/year. I blogged about it, and I spoke to people in class. On my blog, only one person responded. In class, everyone was really interested and said "I will go home and do that." But I have had no feedback to tell me if my saying "Hey this thing is cool" has caused anyone to change their behaviour, or even go have a look. Consequently I don't know if there's any point in doing these things.

And that, above, is exactly what he's talking about when he describes how people talk themselves out of doing things based on the behaviour of others. I got no feedback so I wonder why I'm bothering, so the word doesn't get spread so nothing happens.

But y'see, I was born with a large forehead and a quixotic attitude to brick walls. So I'm gonna keep doing it anyway. More fool me.

Gosh, that was all a bit negative, wasn't it? I'ma go watch me some SamnDean fanservice - it never fails to clear my head.

Comments:

From:caycos
Date:January 25th, 2012 08:01 am (UTC)
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The interesting thing about blogging is the lurker factor. There are so many reasons and ways that someone might see your post but not comment on it that I think, in isolation, lack of comments is not something to react to. Particularly because you clearly have a higher readership than many LJs these days - it might simply have been that everyone was a bit busy that day, or that people saw it as something to think about without having anything in particular to say..

I don't think it was a negative post, I think you were just sayin'.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 25th, 2012 08:56 am (UTC)
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Yeah - it's a weird thing with this blogging business. I know people say they don't care about comments but for me, I never kept a private journal because I didn't see any point, and I embraced LJ because it gave me a platform to voice journal-stuff in a way that I knew was exposed to the opinions of others. Therefore in a lot of respects comments do matter, or at least the knowledge that people are reading.

I've had people tell me that what I write has an impact on other people's lives, but when that guy said about the way people tend to assume their own behaviour doesn't affect anyone else, the lack of knowing whether the carbon footprint thing actually influenced anyone to look at their own emissions ran through my mind. And so clearly, I needed to write about it! ;-)

Thanks! This poster thing really got me down and had me wondering what was wrong with me that I found it so hard to work with other people on it. But you know, that's the first time it's happened so maybe it's not just me, eh?
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:January 25th, 2012 03:12 pm (UTC)
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I looked at mine but was missing a few pieces of critical data and didn't get a full result. I will ret again when I do.

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From:dragonvyxn
Date:January 25th, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
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i looked at the carbon calculator to try and figure out what my emissions are like... the only way for me to do anything to reduce it would be to change jobs so i walk to work instead of drive all day and get solar cells on the house. and stop flying. it seems like the universe will help with the less flying and the less driving in a few months, but that's not the point.... :-P i'll still fly to see family at holidays, though.
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:January 25th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
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also re the poster and group work at school - i have always always disliked group work. it's very unsatisfying both in terms of goal meeting and grade getting. sigh. i was wondering how you'd fare, and hoped you'd have a better time than i always did. i guess nothing changes about groupwork in the school setting.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 25th, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
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It felt like a shitfight. One group member was fine, the other was one of those who wanted things a certain way and the certain way, while OK, wasn't interesting, exciting or even (to my mine) particularly good academically. Unfortunately he was a determined talker-over-topper and eventually just wore me down so I couldn't be arsed arguing any more because it wasn't worth the effort*.

Consequently the poster contains a lot of my work with very little of my directive input - although since I did the layout all the grammar is right! ;-)

* anyone who knows me will know how out of character it is for me to let someone like this get their own way.
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:January 26th, 2012 06:23 am (UTC)
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yessss. that's wild. i can't imagine you doing that unless it was just annoying as fuck to try and get things done right.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 25th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, the Western lifestyle and infrastructure makes it quite difficult to reduce below a certain level, which is why I started to look at offsetting. I dunno what the rules in the US are, but here there are quite a few options of places you can just go plant trees (or give money to others to plant trees). Or even schemes to give money to projects that save other people's carbon (like large renewable power plants and the like).

Cos really, I can make the two tonnes but only if I live of asceticism, and one slip would put me over. So offsetting allows me a bit of room to occasionally fly/drive/eat steak, you know?
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:January 26th, 2012 06:22 am (UTC)
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yes - let's head back to the ages when we didn't use fossil fuels because that's the only way to not have a carbon footprint, basically...
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:January 26th, 2012 06:24 am (UTC)
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ugh. pardon the sarcasm. i'm really upset cause i got chomped by a rude malamute pup and had to boot him from class. my hands hurt. also, hormones... really having their way with me :-P
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From:tatjna
Date:January 26th, 2012 07:55 am (UTC)
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s'ok. The options other than the somewhat extremist hippie view of Going Back To The Arms Of Mother Nature Of Ye Olden Tymes, Man, haven't been made particularly clear and aren't particularly encouraging even though they exist.

And I hate getting bitten. *sympathy*
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From:tatjna
Date:January 26th, 2012 07:53 am (UTC)
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Well, not entirely. It's a bit like that at the moment because there's little incentive to adopt the existing technology that would begin to separate emissions from lifestyle on a mass scale with fossil fuels being so cheap and easy by comparison. As fossil fuels become more expensive, that will change. Our options will then become a) adopt carbon-free technology, or b) go back to medieval times. I'm pretty sure I know what most voters would prefer, and would probably be willing to pay for it too given the alternative.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 25th, 2012 07:23 pm (UTC)
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This is the publication list for the lecturer. He specialises in environmental psychology and seems to do a lot of work.

The lecture yesterday was 101 level stuff which I assume you've already covered pretty thoroughly, but he made particular reference to this paper, a 2009 one by a chap called Van Vugt, called "Averting the Tragedy of the Commons", about using social psychological methods to protect the environment.
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From:rivet
Date:January 25th, 2012 09:35 pm (UTC)
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Group work is frustrating. It's a test of my patience rather that my knowledge.
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From:ethel_aardvark
Date:January 26th, 2012 09:35 am (UTC)
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I've had about 3 goes at writing a comment on this. I wonder if a lot of people find individual action difficult because it's too prone, without social sanction or regulated requirements to behave in a particular way to lead to the person undertaking it to feel like they're sacrificing (steak/plane trips/whatever) while everyone else is continuing to drive their large fuck-off SUVs and really, what's the point?

I think individual action is prone to not working all that well without social pressure somehow, as without some sort of social something the individual (or small group of people) starts feeling frustrated and abandons whatever it is. Which I guess gets back to the does one's behavior has influence on others question. Without some sort of regulation, or social sanction, climate change action seems to suffer from the tragedy of the commons. But I don't know how you put in a social sanction on *everyone* so the SUV-idiots get it too, or you put pressure on govt to change vehicle standards so no-one can be an SUV driver or what. I don't know what the most effective thing to do to get people to do stuff is. It's almost like I feel somehow individual action without some sort of legislative action isn't going to help.

I feel like I'm rambling and not making much sense. If you have any thoughts I'd be interested.

FWIW I did the carbon footprint a while back and came out pretty low for an NZer. I think something like 4T and 2 planets.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 26th, 2012 09:42 am (UTC)
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I think you're dead right and the tragedy of the commons thing has come up several times in the course of this series of lectures as a big issue in relation to climate change.

One speaker made reference to smoking in passing, and it occurred to me that smoking is one of those situations where a campaign has successfully created a social sanction - it's now socially acceptable to bag on and marginalise smokers, and this is supported by legislation. But the legislation didn't come before a long campaign of cultural change designed to alter people's perception to one where smoking is dirty and inconsiderate and wrong.

And I guess it's hard for a government that's encouraging mining on one hand to credibly tell its citizens that marginalising emitters is ok on the other. I think you're right though - and for me, I think I'll just work at being more outspoken about it so other people know they aren't alone in their attempts.
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From:ethel_aardvark
Date:January 26th, 2012 09:45 am (UTC)
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I've pretty much stopped flying since then so would possibly come out lower now, but not sure how I would cut back my carbon emissions further short of not taking my kid to the swimming pool at the weekend, but I think that counts as my steak-equivalent in that I'm not really prepared to give it up.

I also sometimes wonder how much of the 'individual action' meme is big business trying to throw sh1t back on the individual: you spend all YOUR time trying to cut back while we just continue with business as usual... nothing to see here... i.e. getting everyone to focus on the plastic bags they take the shopping home in means no-ones focusing on the plastic that covers everything IN the shopping bags, or making the manufacturer do anything about that...
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From:tatjna
Date:January 26th, 2012 09:51 am (UTC)
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This is one of the reasons I liked the carbon footprint site I used - it took into account consumer decisions such as food choices, packaging, appliance purchases and the like. So my lifestyle came out as my single biggest emissions due to a variety of choices (over and above petrol, flying etc).

For example 'occasionally' going to the movies or a restaurant, it claimed accounted for a tonne of carbon. I'm pretty sure this is accounting for the fact that the movie industry is a high carbon one - therefore my tonne is simply a tonne of the carbon the movie industry creates (since my walking to the theatre and buying a ticket is unlikely to produce such an amount). That way, reducing my individual emissions is, in a way, 'doing my bit' towards reducing the 'business as usual' by not supporting it.

And in reality if people keep buying X, someone will keep making it as cheaply as possible to maximise their profits. So in a way, our individual choices about how we live are pretty much the only power we have to change things. Which takes us back to the tragedy of the commons. Still, 20 years ago I didn't give a flying fuck, now I do all I can. That's a real change.
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From:wildilocks
Date:January 29th, 2012 02:25 am (UTC)
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Firstly: only just saw this today as I am catching up on 2 weeks of LJ due to being at Kiwiburn last Sunday (my current usual LJ-reading day).

Sooooooooo my take is a little different to most of the above replies as to why you didn't get many comments, and perhaps my perspective is skewed, but to me it seemed your summer school group was a group of people all self-selected as having a current interest in learning more about Climate Change. This means, to me, than these people feel very interested at the moment, and having chosen a summer school on this topic, assumedly feel they are under-informed about this topic. So given new information from you about this, it makes perfect sense for them all to be very engaged and interested in what you have to say on this topic.

In contrast, the readers of your blog aren't necessarily filled with a burning interest in Climate Change right at this current moment. They may well have been in the past - and I guess I would put myself in this kind of category. I have done a variety of carbon calculators over the past 10-20 years. Heck, I was an activist fighting to save old growth forests in western australia in my early 20's, even in high school I was making art about chlorofurocarbons and the hole in the ozone layer! I've spent years on and off as a hippie, a vegan, not travelling ANYWHERE outside Perth for 10 years, not owning a car for all but 6 months of my life, walking, cycling or PTing to work my entire life, proselytizing til I was hoarse about electric bicycles and even doing a ride from Melbourne to Sydney to try and drum up interest in reducing frikkin carbon emissions.

So.... after a great big *yawn* being most I've got in response from most of my ranting about carbon emissions and alternatives to fossil fuels - ... I guess it gets very disheartening, and I'm burned out in regards to responding or engaging much on this topic. I sincerely doubt I am the only one in your well-educated intelligent LJ-friend pool who has done some form of climate change activism in the past, too. Doesn't mean I don't agree COMPLETELY with your POV, but I've gone through the wringer with this stuff and realised at some point humans as a whole don't want to hear stuff they don't like, and will stick their fingers in their ears unless forced by govt policy to change their behaviour, so why the fuck even bother talking about it any more, and why not do all you can now, before the tragedy of the commons chickens coming home to roost means everyone has less, or nothing?

But: I do still care. Currently, I am actually proud to still be an Australian citizen as this coming financial year, the carbon tax comes into effect and it's actually a half-way decent initiative to making us consider what we are using by hitting us where it matters - our wallets. AND the tax-free threshold is being tripled (something NZ doesn't even have at all btw) so the people at the bottom end, ESPECIALLY if they make their best attempts to be carbon-neutral, actually have a MAJOR incentive to start seriously curbing their emissions.

Unfortunately, I can't use this argument in NZ, because I have seriously fucking lost count with how many times I've been told that the solution for NZ's woes is NOT following in Australia's footsteps. ie: STFU, Aussie.

*rather large sigh* so ok maybe my perspective is more or less unique really. But I am sure most people are not ignorant or disinterested per se in climate change, they've likely looked into the issues in the past, and are just not in the right space to engage right now....
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