The issue of climate change appears to be deeply systemic and radical: systemic because it questions all areas of social activity, and radical because it implies a return to the roots of our collective structures to define other ways of living together.
The issue of climate change
In this way, the climate challenge would be a political challenge. The possibility of successfully rising to the challenge would require efforts against the influence of market logic, in favor of the promotion of alternative ways of organizing society. However, although movements in favor of other collective arrangements have found a public voice, the discourse against the established order is generally discredited.
This is merely one illustration of the de-politicization of the climate change narrative, a process described by my work, starting with the French example. In particular, my information helps us to understand how, over a period of 20 years, climate issues have been framed to focus on individuals, thereby making them impervious to market-related criticism.
This scientific survey has also strived to examine how individuals view the issue of climate change and how they take it into account (or not) in their daily actions. The joint analysis of narratives and attitudes related to the issue thus explain why the de-politicization of the climate problem eventually strengthens the symbolic worth of lifestyles specific to the middle (and) upper classes, even while these lifestyles, despite good eco-citizen intentions, are generally the biggest producers of greenhouse gases.
Contrary to the dissociation of the individual and the community in accordance with the principle of de-politicizing ecological questions, the social sciences suggest that we consider the individual as a social recruit. To politicize the climate problem would be to consider it not so much as a moral, cultural, commercial or technological issue, but as one that questions head-on the structure of the social relations within which our aspirations, moods and understanding are shaped.
A sociological analysis of Place to B
In continuation of this work, I am interested more specifically in the efforts of citizens to enable a “transition” to post-carbon societies. In perfect step with Place to B, these movements seem to occupy the ground between activist organizations and conventional institutions (whether political, cultural or economic). As such, they lie at the crossroads of different conceptions, sometimes complementary and often opposed, of legitimate methods for this “transition.”
However, Place to B is also a cosmopolitan mechanism where traditions meet political fancies forged all over the world. In a certain way, by observing as closely as possible how the COPilots are together creating another narrative on the climate, we are trying to study the “international civil society” in the making.
We will, for example, pay special attention to the way in which the audiences targeted by this alternative narrative will be (more or less implicitly) defined. Do the COPilots want to talk to a globalized audience? Are they trying to take the cultural and social differences of their audience into account; and if so, how?
Because Place to B is really a factory producing an alternative system of representations. The idea is to take action on the cultural dimensions of change, of which we can challenge the presuppositions, outlines and issues, together with the differences and similarities compared with other narratives of societal transformation (whether those of NGOs or politicians).
Take part in the study
In order to respond methodically to these types of questions, we need to understand who these COPilots are and how they interact. That is why Tania Dufner and I need you to fill out this (anonymous and confidential) questionnaire. Your answers will enable us to better characterize the “Place to B” community.
We will conduct interviews and ethnographic observations with you in order to understand how the community/communities formed by the COPilots operate. Your answers will contribute to this sociological analysis by generating observations based on which we can explore collective behavior.
Jean-Baptiste Comby, author of La Question Climatique : genèse et dépolitisation d’un problème public (The Climate Question: origin and de-politicization of a public problem), Raisons d’Agir Publishing, 2015
Translation: Alix Kashdan, rereading: Martine Steyn
Picture by Julie Mallet