, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 643-666

Human Dimensions of Climate Change: Cultural Theory and Collective Action

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Abstract

Mobilizing collective action to cope with climate change is difficult at any level, but the larger the ‘community’ the more difficult the task. How to achieve cooperation in the common interest without imposing excessive governmental coercion is a fundamental political conundrum. Using the cultural typology suggested by Cultural Theory (CT), this paper explores diverse worldviews that inform individual and collective attitudes relevant to climate change. Responses from a sample of 441 individuals to statements drawn from the public discourse on environmental issues are used to classify respondents according to the cultural types posited by CT. Analysis indicates that most respondents mix elements of CT's egalitarianism, hierarchy, and individualism, though many individuals clearly lean toward one or another of the cultural types. There seems to be a melding of individualistic and hierarchic elements in opposition to egalitarian elements. Definitions of what is natural, fair and right – of equity – are fundamental issues between cultures, and non-coercive resolution of issues may be promoted by exploring cultural interstices, where cosmological boundaries are weakest. The cultural typology used in Cultural Theory, less spatially or temporally bound than some other typologies, promises to be a useful analytic tool in exploring cultural differences and overlaps.