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6.4 The role of governments and business

Despite all the possibilities for individual and group action to lighten carbon footprints, there will still be people, groups and organisations who will not be doing much. Many individuals limit themselves to ‘every little bit helps’, with relatively minor effects on their carbon footprint, like reusing plastic bags or recycling paper. This avoids having to consider more significant changes in car and air travel, home energy use, diet or shopping. Others will simply carry on producing an
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6.3 The role of active citizens and communities

Few people agree that individuals should take the main responsibility for tackling environmental issues. For example, in a 2007 poll of over 2000 UK citizens, 70% agreed that the government should take a lead in combating climate change, even if it means using the law to change people's behaviour. However, over 60% disagreed that there was nothing they could do to avert climate change and over half agreed that they would do more if others did more too, although 40% thought that recycling was
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6.2 The role of individuals and households

You've been considering how to reduce your own carbon footprint to help tackle the worst effects of climate and other environmental changes. To that extent, ‘I’ as an individual consumer has a role to play.

But unless you live alone, you share your household with other people, a group that could be called ‘we’. Everyone in the household may have similar views on living lightly. But, even within a household, there may be different views and priorities about what, if anything, sho
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5.3 Moving towards a sustainable carbon footprint

So far, you've been considering reductions in average individual or household carbon footprints by 20% to 30% or more.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that this will not be enough. As I mentioned in Section 4, developed countries, like Britain, Germany and America, will have to reduce their CO2e emissions by 60% to 80% or more by 2050 to prevent climate change running out of control, while at the same time allowing the growing populations of Africa, India and China to r
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4.1 Your carbon footprint

Most of this section requires you to continue using the Quick Carbon Calculator (linked in the box below).

If you've completed the carbon calculator , you'll have a good idea of your carbon footprint and the relative contribution to the total load made by different components of consumption. You'll also know how your footprint compares to that of an average person in the UK.

If you live outside the UK, you may have used a calculator that provides somewhat different information abo
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2.8 End of unit question

Question 12

The writer and campaigner George Monbiot wrote the following (in The Guardian Weekly, 10 February 2000): ‘Every time someone in the West switches on a kettle, he or she is helpting to flood Bangladesh’. What is th
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2.5.2 Environmental indicators

The notion of a link between climatic conditions and the behaviour of plants and animals (e.g. the growth of trees or coral) and the composition of natural communities or ecosystems (the type of vegetation in a given area, say) is fundamental to the use of proxy data to reconstruct past climates. Some examples of biological responses to recent climate change were included in Box 9. Here we should be wary of jumping to conclusions. Such changes involve complex living systems that can respond i
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2.2.1 Long-term rhythms in the climate

The instrumental record referred to above is based on direct temperature measurements (using thermometers), and extends back only 150 years or so. Temperatures further back in time are reconstructed from a variety of proxy data. These include historical documents, together with natural archives of climate-sensitive phenomena, such as the growth or retreat of glaciers, tree rings, corals, sediments and ice cores (see Author(s): The Open University

2.1 Preamble

Here are some quotes from the ‘Summary for Policymakers’ (SPM) included in the report from the scientific working group in the IPCC TAR (IPCC, 2001a):

  • The Earth's climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era, with some of these changes attributable to human activities.

  • Globally, it is very likely that the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the instru
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Acknowledgements

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this unit:

The content acknowledged below is Proprietary and used under licence (not subject to Creative Commons licence). See Terms and Conditions.

Text

Box 1: ‘O sweet spontaneous’. Copyright 1923. Trustees for the E E Cummings Trust.

Box 5: Maugh, T H (2008) ‘The MIT Meteorologist’s theory
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References

Capra, F. (1996) The Web of Life. Used by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., and, in the UK, reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Capra, F. (2002) The Hidden Connections: Integrating the Biological, Cognitive, and Social Dimension of Life into a Science of Sustainability. Used by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., and, in the UK, reprin
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2.2 Environmental pragmatism: positioning expert support

I believe that the principal task for an environmental pragmatism is not to reengage the … debates in environmental ethics but rather to impress upon environmental philosophers the need to take up the largely empirical question of what morally motivates humans to change their attitudes, behaviours, and policy preferences toward those more supportive of long-term environmental sustainability.

(Light, 2002, p. 446)


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1.4.3 Framing reality from a critical perspective

The question arising from the previous two imperatives of systems thinking – dealing with holism and engaging with multiple perspectives – is how we might develop frameworks that deal responsibly with our inevitable limitations on being holistically comprehensive and epistemologically ‘multiverse’. Ulrich reminds us that a ‘systems approach’ to environmental responsibility is perhaps not quite the panacea that it so often mistakenly promises to be. Take, for example, the ‘ecosys
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1.2 A framing paradox: experiencing nature with cognitive tools

Whilst language tools are helpful in conveying meaning in conversation amongst humans, establishing what matters in ‘conversation’ between human and non-human nature, or amongst non-human living entities, requires different cognitive tools. Cognition refers to the way in which external information from the environment is processed. As sentient beings, humans and some other animals are able to experience wellbeing and suffering. In the next reading, Ronald Moore examines how we engage with
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Introduction

This unit explores conceptual tools for assisting our thinking and deliberation on what matters. In Section 1, a reading by Ronald Moore introduces the notion of 'framing' nature, raising the perceived paradox of inevitably devaluing an aesthetically pleasing unframed entity. Three further readings, two from Fritjof Capra and one from Werner Ulrick (all of which are quite short and markedly reduced from their original courses), provide an understanding of systems thinking for explicitly frami
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1.5 Conclusion

Throughout this unit, a major concern has been to show how the demand of the antisweatshop movement that we not only respond to, but take responsibility for, economic injustices, no matter how distant, is an intensely controversial one. Claims by campaigning groups such as Oxfam and Christian Aid that consumer demand for cheap branded goods perpetuates poverty wage levels in the sweatshop industries are countered by claims from the pro-market lobby which point in an altogether differen
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1.4.4 Summary

  • The question of who is responsible for factory sweatshops in the poorer regions of the globe remains a passionate political issue, in North America and beyond. Views on how responsibility for overseas sweatshops should be exercised differ between those who believe that it should be left to market forces to improve conditions and those who consider that everyone, as a consumer, bears some responsibility for their perpetuation and should intervene to bring abo
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1.4.1 Introduction

Up to now I have focused on the claims of the antisweatshop movement and the counter-claims of those who contest the purely negative conclusions drawn about the exploitation of another country's poor. To that end, I have, at various moments, touched on issues of demands to take responsibility: whether, for instance, responsibility for sweatshops should be divided up in some way between all those connected to the market system which gives rise to them, or placed firmly at the door of the big r
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1.3.8 Summary of section

  • During the 1970s and 1980s, countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan benefited from their low-cost advantages in the new global division of labour. Now, however, the gap between rich and poor nations is wider and competition in the world economy greater, prompting campaigning groups to argue that contemporary low-wage economies do not have the options for economic development that their predecessors had.

  • In the face of market fragment
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1.3.7 Corporate connections continued

One issue that might be added by a workers' organisation or trade union, for instance, might be that of freedom of association and the right of workers to organise. Another might be the right to collective bargaining. In fact, the coverage of the codes of conduct vary considerably depending on who instigated the code and the parties involved (Pearson and Seyfang, 2001). Most codes of conduct, it seems, are top-down affairs, drawn up by the companies involved or by trade associations. Some hav
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