Human civilization has now irrevocably altered basic Earth systems. Two centuries of industrialisation and economic globalization based upon the rapacious exploitation of fossil fuels, and the destruction of forests, lands, oceans and cultures has disrupted the Earth’s atmosphere and ice caps and devastated the biosphere. This has occurred at such a scale and pace that Earth scientists argue we are leaving the Holocene geological epoch and entering the more volatile ‘Anthropocene’.
Earlier this week I participated in a fascinating symposium organised by the Gold Coast Waterways Authority on ‘Resilience, Climate Change and Coastal Communities’. Queensland’s Gold Coast is one of the more vulnerable locations along Australia’s east coast, having experienced a long history of extreme weather events, coastal erosion and loss of life and property. Climate change is likely to take this vulnerability to a whole new level with storms and cyclones of increasing ferocity, flooding, extreme heat and escalating sea-level rise.
Last week the Sydney Environment Institute and the Balanced Enterprise Research Network at the University of Sydney Business School hosted a visit to Australia by world-renowned climate scientist Professor Michael Mann. Professor Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC).
The following is a Call for Papers for a Special Issue of the academic journal Organization. Full paper submission deadline is 28th February 2017.
‘Human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of Nature’ (Steffen, et al., 2007)
Through the rapacious consumption of fossil fuels, industrial activities and the destruction of forests, oceans and natural resources, humans have fundamentally changed basic Earth systems. This has occurred at such a scale and pace that Earth System scientists argue we are leaving the Holocene geological epoch and entering the more volatile ‘Anthropocene’. This is a period in which human activity has discernibly affected the Earth’s global functioning to such an extent it is now operating outside the range of any previous natural variability (Crutzen, 2002; Hamilton, 2015; Steffen, et al., 2007). These changes reduce the ‘safe operating space for humanity’ (Rockström, et al., 2009), and include: a likely step-change in the average temperature of the planet this century of around 4 degrees Celsius (New, et al., 2011); the sixth great species extinction in the geological record (Kolbert, 2014); the acidification of our oceans; the disruption of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; and the pollution of air and water with a range of chemical toxins (Whiteman, et al., 2013). Extreme weather events, sea-level rise, food and water shortages, and accompanying political conflicts and wars suggest that life this century for much of the planet’s population will be ugly, violent and precarious (Dyer, 2010). The implications for organizations and organizing could not be more profound. Continue reading Call for Papers: ‘Organizing and the Anthropocene’
As many Australian readers will know, ‘energy security’ has become the latest buzzword in government and industry circles. Much of this new focus has been driven by the political fallout following October’s catastrophic storms in South Australia and a state-wide power blackout. In the political recrimination that followed, the Federal Government and some media outlets argued that state government policies favouring renewable energy were (in part) to blame. Both the Prime Minister and the Federal Energy Minister quickly labelled energy security their ‘number one priority’ and established an energy security review to be chaired by the nations’ Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel. Interestingly however, the meaning of the term ‘energy security’ is itself open to multiple interpretations. To a large extent this ‘framing’ of ‘energy security’ reflects a number of developments that are playing out globally in the areas of energy and environmental policy. Continue reading Energy Security: The New Black!
As a growing number of studies have demonstrated, climate change poses a significant threat to future social and economic activities. Indeed, the language of ‘risk’ has become a perennial theme in discussions of future climate change impacts and a central construct for how businesses respond to and ‘manage’ climate change.
Recently Daniel Nyberg and I had an article accepted for publication in the journal Organization exploring how corporations have responded to climate uncertainties and threats as ‘risks’ (pre-print PDF here). Conventional cognitive-scientific depictions of risk see organisations as ontologically separate from the risk they act upon. The core assumption underlying risk management is that risk is ‘out there’ and it just has to be ‘found’ and ‘captured’ by professional experts using statistical tools and analysis.
So it has come to this. Despite a mountain of scientific evidence emphasising the catastrophic implications of human-induced climate change, governments seem unable to take any significant steps to break humanity’s addiction to fossil fuels. As Chris Hayes recently noted, having been confronted with the fact of our addiction we now are in the full throws of denial; ‘it’s not that bad’, ‘we need fossil fuels to prosper and grow’, ‘one more fossil fuel development won’t matter’, ‘how bad can it be?’ etc. For governments and politicians long inculcated in the interests of the market and short-term corporate profit, the maintenance of a habitable atmosphere now appears something we are willing to forgo.