Transdisciplinary Design

What Can We Do About Climate Change

Posted on November 22, 2016 | posted by: zhanh246

how toWe have already warmed the climate by about one degree Celsius, and this one degree has already caused shrinkage in land mass, the escalating number of sea refugees, the loss of habitats, food security issues and so on. In the past 20 years, because of the too-long-delayed feedback from the planet and our underestimation, we didn’t think one degree Celsius would be enough to really change things.

Even worse, because we have already put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and heat into the ocean with emissions is still rising, and fossil fuel industry is still expanding, the escalation, being a reinforcing feedback loop of the planet’s physical system, will exponentially speed up climate change. The average temperature will rise right past three and four degrees Celsius at a faster speed. And if nothing is done, the spiral will be stopped by something’s collapse, and there are already thousands of people who have died from the heatwave in Europe. 

Although there is nothing that can be done to stop all this from happening, we can’t stop making progress just as we can’t stop loving all the things around us.

Top-down vs. Emergence

We have already seen the slowness and profit-driven nature of the top-down strategy: national level’s governance on climate change. At the COP(International Climate Conference) 2015 in Copenhagen, no one could decide what to do about climate change. Corporation-controlled parties deny the fossil fuel connection to climate change.

Luckily and certainly, emerging individuals, organizations, communities, small entrepreneurs and media (such as the documentary itself) are joining the battle against climate change. The indigenous people in Sarayaku were standing on the front lines, used their cameras to record the oil company with military forces, and intervened with the policy making by upgrading the case into the inter-American Court of Human Rights. These battlers are scattered around the world with the same strong purpose, and the number of them is growing because of the power of emergence.

Calculable Results vs. Incalculable Effects

As Donella pointed out in her book Thinking in Systems: “If we reward ourselves on our ability to produce quantity, then quantity will be the result.” The air pollution in China is the consequence of industrialization and the government’s single-minded pursuit of economic growth—the numbers.

Meanwhile we are fortunate to see that true democracy and environmental sustainability exist in some places in Vanuatu and Zambia. These places are more like organic environments, where they have more imprints of collective behaviors of local residents. Local residents debate and make their voices heard at the public square, and they behave from learning each other.

In the huge planet’s physical system, every single piece is interconnected with others in their own and/or crossing systems. Energy production is not isolated from social issues, economics, politics, even emotion’s system. We are trying to meet our emotional needs only with consumer goods, but they are not making us happier.

-Haijing Zhang