Will climate change lead to culture change?

Some worry that society will have to suffer total collapse and rebuild itself in the face of climate change. But does it really have to be that drastic?

Brian Peterson/AP/Star Tribune
Dark rain clouds pass through Centerville, Minn., Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011. The author argues that adapting to climate change can happen gradually, and not as the result of societal collapse.

This will be a petty (but insightful) blog post about another author thinking about how will adapt to climate change. Paul Gilding (ex-Greenpeace thinker) anticipates that climate change and resource depletion will force us to cast away our old consumption based "American Dream" conception of the "good life" and embrace a more Berkeley lifestyle. Apparently, he believes that a silver lining of mass destruction caused by climate change is that a new culture will emerge that will drop "shopping" cold turkey.
Here is a quote from his press people.

"It’s time to stop just worrying about climate change, says Paul Gilding. We need instead to brace for impact because global crisis is no longer avoidable. This Great Disruption started in 2008, with spiking food and oil prices and dramatic ecological changes, such as the melting ice caps. It is not simply about fossil fuels and carbon footprints. We have come to the end of Economic Growth, Version 1.0, a world economy based on consumption and waste, where we lived beyond the means of our planet’s ecosystems and resources.The Great Disruption offers a stark and unflinching look at the challenge humanity faces-yet also a deeply optimistic message. The coming decades will see loss, suffering, and conflict as our planetary overdraft is paid; however, they will also bring out the best humanity can offer: compassion, innovation, resilience, and adaptability. Gilding tells us how to fight-and win-what he calls The One Degree War to prevent catastrophic warming of the earth, and how to start today.The crisis represents a rare chance to replace our addiction to growth with an ethic of sustainability, and it’s already happening. It’s also an unmatched business opportunity: Old industries will collapse while new companies will literally reshape our economy. In the aftermath of the Great Disruption, we will measure “growth” in a new way. It will mean not quantity of stuff but quality and happiness of life. Yes, there is life after shopping."

Who is this wise gent?

"An activist and social entrepreneur for 35 years, Paul’s purpose is to lead, inspire and motivate action globally on the transition of society and the economy to sustainability. He pursues this purpose across all sectors, working around the world with individuals, businesses, NGOs, entrepreneurs, academia and government."

Both Gilding and I are optimistic about our future but he predicts that we must suffer a day of reckoning in order to be "born again" and embrace a new culture. I do not believe that such "shock and awe" is necessary. He ignores the fact that many people are able to form expectations of the future and to learn about current trends. If the world is growing warmer, and riskier in terms of climate conditions, then we will seek out coping strategies. This will create challenges and opportunities but capitalism is great at evolving to meet new challenges. His vision is dramatic but borders on evangelical as he appears to believe that we need to have a "near death" experience to be born again. The transition will be smoother than his "razor's edge" model for our globe.

Our ability to anticipate danger and form expectations of the future distinguishes us from other creatures. Yes, some people will embrace the "Berkeley lifestyle" and I for one try to live my life in this way but I do not believe that we will be required by worldwide scarcity to do so.

For the nerds out there, learn about the 2011 Nobel Prize in Economics and the role of expectations in influencing investment today by reading this.

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