657.1 Operationalizing climate change reflexivity: New insights into social response

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 10:45 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Debra DAVIDSON , Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Rich STEDMAN , Cornell University
Several conceptual models have served as the mainstay of attitudinal and behavioural research on environmental risks, including climate change for several decades. While important findings have accumulated, this largely empirical project has not incorporated several theoretical advances in sociology, particularly renewed interest in agency, as expressed by a vibrant literature on reflexivity. As is often the case in sociology, there would appear to be an untapped opportunity for synergy between sociological theories that tend not to problematize social relationships with the natural world, and environmental sociologists who focus precisely on those relationships. We have attempted to breach one particular divide, by developing a survey intended to apply Margaret Archer’s theory of reflexivity to individual-level problematization of climate change. The survey was implemented among two discrete populations in Alberta, Canada. One consists of residents of forest-based communities who are both particularly sensitive to the impacts of climate change, and in a position to personally observe those impacts. The other consists of residents of Alberta’s two major cities, Edmonton and Calgary. Both of these populations are situated within a Provine which has hinged its future economic wellbeing on the development of unconcentional oil, which is associated with a higher intendity of greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. The province, furthermore, has been a staunch opponent of internationally-coordinated mitigation efforts. As postulated by reflexivity theory, we find that several internal reflexive predispositions have bearing on levels of concern that are not readily explained by socio-structural or social-psychological characteristics. The results confirm the value of continued efforts to understand individual and collective responses to climate change through the lens of reflexivity, while at the same time highlighting the advances that can be made to reflexivity theory with more concerted attention to societies’ integral relations with the natural world.