Hypatia Symposium – Interview with Nancy Tuana

Nancy Tuana, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Rock Institute for Ethics at Pennsylvania State University, discusses important themes in gender and climate change for the Hypatia Special Issue on Climate change, which she co-edited with Chris Cuomo.

Browse the entire special issue of Hypatia here

 

 

Interview conducted by C. Shaheen Moosa.

 

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Hypatia Symposium – Only Resist: Feminist Ecological Citizenship and the Post-politics of Climate Change by SHERILYN MACGREGOR

Only Resist: Feminist Ecological Citizenship and the Post-politics of Climate Change

hypatia_coverMacGregor_SherilynSHERILYN MACGREGOR

Lecturer in Environmental Politics in SPIRE, Keele University

 

 The following is an EXCERPT, click here to read the full article

Browse the entire special issue here

 

Soon after the dust of Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth had settled, another eco-blockbuster film took British audiences by storm. The Age of Stupid offers a dystopian image of a devastated world in 2055 and a backwards look at missed opportunities for averting the “suicide of the species.” It is a cautionary tale about the price that future generations will pay for the ignorance of current generations. To tell the tale, the keeper of a global archive, the last man on earth, shows a video montage of the lives of six real people living in 2008 who are in different ways affected by, or implicated in, global climate change. The Archivist wonders: “what state of mind were we in, to face extinction and simply shrug it off?” The answer is, of course, that we were stupid. The film is hip and engaging, using wry humor and edgy music to call viewers to act before it is too late. It led to the creation of the “10:10” campaign, which has convinced hundreds of thousands of individuals and institutions in the UK to pledge to cut their carbon emissions by ten per cent per year. The campaign’s website appeals for members with the argument that “politicians have so far failed to do what needs to be done, so it’s time for ordinary people to step in and show that we’re ready to defend our children’s futures. It’s now or never for the climate.” 10:10 lists ten simple ways to cut carbon, advice for the kind of individual lifestyle changes (for example, “drive less, don’t waste water,” and so on) that the environmental movement has been espousing since the 1970s. But this time the message is slick and well marketed, with celebrity endorsements and jewelry to wear as a statement of having taken the pledge. One could make an interesting study of the introduction of personal pledge-taking to environmental politics, but what prompts the discussion in this essay is that the campaign vows to stay out of politics. One of its “ten tenets” reads, “10:10 is a campaign for immediate reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and should not be used to push any other moral, social or political agenda.” And, worryingly, the word “citizen” is nowhere to be found.

As The Age of Stupid and the 10:10 campaign seem to illustrate, the climate crisis is changing the nature of environmentalism in the UK, and arguably in other parts of the affluent world. Although climate change may be a complex political issue, its command of the global agenda and its apocalyptic framing in the dominant discourse are symptomatic of what some European theorists call “the post-political condition” (Rancière 2001; Žižek 2002; Mouffe 2005). It is a condition, felt acutely in the West, that has been brought about by decades of neoliberal hegemony where manufactured agreement on economic, ecological, and political issues has led to the replacement of democratic politics by expert administration and consensual governance. The space of the political, where fundamental questions can be debated, such as “how should we live?,” has been narrowed in the name of solving urgent problems with the best available policies and minimal dissent. British theorist Erik Swyngedouw has applied the post-political thesis to the issue of climate change and offers some persuasive arguments for why we ought to be concerned, not only by the extreme weather and ecological disasters that climate change is bringing, but also by its implications for democratic debate about the future of human–nature relations on the planet.

In this essay, I consider what a post-political analysis of climate change might mean for feminist green politics. I argue that it prompts some specifically ecofeminist questions about the rise of climate change to the top of the global environmental agenda and about the scope for political action within this new hegemonic frame. In particular, I consider the implications for ecofeminism of what Swyngedouw calls a depoliticizing climate consensus that appears to erase social difference, to cast nature as an external threat to be endured, and to replace democratic public debate with expert administration and individual behavior change. So, on top of recognizing the impacts of climate change on the world’s vulnerable people, the majority of whom are women, racialized, and poor, we should also pause to wonder how it might challenge ecofeminism: what hope is there for radical political theories and social movements in times like these?

The discussion has three parts. First, I explain how the post-political condition can be used as a theoretical framework for understanding climate change. Here I summarize Swyngedouw’s recent work, because he has explored this approach more than any other theorist to date (Swyngedouw 20102011). His analysis does not include references to feminist theories or politics, however, so, in part two, I consider what might be the strategic, epistemological, and normative implications for feminist green politics of the dominant climate narrative. In the final part of the essay, I consider how an agonistic project of feminist ecological citizenship might be deployed as a means of resistance to the homogenizing discourse of climate crisis in this post-political “age of stupid.”

Climate Change and the Post-Political Condition

In “Apocalypse Forever? Post-political Populism and the Spectre of Climate Change,” Swyngedouw identifies the conjuncture of two phenomena: the construction of global climate consensus and the “increasing evacuation of the proper political from the public terrain” (Swyngedouw 2010, 214). The latter is the subject of concern for a number of European philosophers, such as Slavoj Žižek, Chantal Mouffe, and Jacques Rancière, who have written of a gradual process of depoliticization that has resulted in a post-political condition in the affluent world. These theorists define “the political” as a space of contestation through which citizens enact “the right to dissent, the right to argue against a particular consensus, the right to engage in antagonistic relations, the right to be alternative” (Kythreotis 2012, 549). The loss of this space and these rights calls into question the very existence of political democracy; this is a dangerous situation that requires urgent attention. It is important to understand that these theorists have not given up on politics, but rather their deep commitment to the political leads them to lament its erosion under neoliberalism. In my view, the value of the concept of “post-politics” is its ability to provoke debate and to reinvigorate ideas of resistance and citizenship.

The driving force behind the depoliticization process, the post-political analysis goes, is the “hegemonic grip that neoliberal ideas have over public affairs” (Catney and Doyle 2011, 178). In particular, the economic reasoning of neoliberalism, as expressed by such institutions as the World Bank and the IMF, makes good governance synonymous with arrangements that maximize efficient policy solutions while minimizing obstacles to their implementation. Dissent interferes with the free running of markets; the capitalist market economy is the foundation of socioeconomic order and individual freedom. Governing has become all about promoting consensus so that policy processes can be left to experts and bureaucrats. Citizens may be invited into governance processes via participatory mechanisms (for example, stakeholder consultations), but these are meant to manufacture popular consent to decisions that serve the interests of an elite minority rather than to promote democracy (Catney and Doyle 2011). Swyngedouw quotes Žižek to explain that “the ultimate sign of post-politics in all Western countries is the growth of a managerial approach to government: government is reconceived as a managerial function, deprived of its proper political dimension” (Swyngedouw 2011, 266). When the aim of management is to avoid making decisions that cause social unrest, compromise and expert administration are central. And this amounts to the end of politics (Rancière 2001).

How might we understand climate change through this post-political lens? Doing so requires acceptance of a constructivist analysis of climate change, seeing it as a “normatively charged” social construction where the scientific facts about climate change are “facts for social purposes” (Nicholas Onuf in Pettinger 2007, xiv). This analysis uncovers the interests and power relations operating behind an issue that, on the surface, appears to be highly politicized. Swyngedouw lists four key characteristics or symptoms to explain how the social construction of climate change can be presented as a process of depoliticization. First, there is widespread consensus that the global climate crisis is real, an imminent threat to the future of human civilization, and that it requires radical changes in how we live. It is “a consensus that is now largely shared by most political elites from a variety of positions, business leaders, activists, and the scientific community. The few remaining sceptics are increasingly marginalized as either maverick hardliners or conservative bullies” (Swyngedouw2010, 215). If there is legitimate disagreement, then it is primarily about which technologies to use, how to implement adaptation policies, and what arrangements provide the most effective policing. Although there may be competing interpretations of, and uncertainty about, the scientific data, there is little serious debate about the framing of the crisis itself or about the kinds of socio-ecological futures that might result from climate policy.

Second, the climate crisis is increasingly presented as a threat to humanity as a whole, as a “universal humanitarian threat” in which “we are all potential victims” (Swyngedouw 2011, 268). In 2009 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that, “amid all our difficulties,” we must remember that climate change is “the one true existential threat to our planet” (UN Press Release 2009; my emphasis). Even though there are competing framings of climate change, some of which foreground global divisions and disparities between colonizing and colonized people in the global North and South (the discourse of ecological debt and of “common but differentiated responsibilities” are good examples), the rhetoric of common existential threat suggests that material and ideological differences between people are well-nigh irrelevant in the face of natural forces beyond our control. It says that, when we are all in the same leaking boat careening toward the apocalypse, there is no space, time, or need for politics. Swyngedouw argues that this universalizing discourse currently drowns out the rest.

Third, scientific experts present climate change as a crisis that requires immediate action, predominantly in the form of governance-beyond-the-state. National political processes and international negotiations have proven to be too slow and cumbersome to deal with urgent needs: what is needed is decentered, participatory governance that rests on “self-management… and controlled self-disciplining, under the aegis of a non-disputed liberal-capitalist order” (Swyngedouw 2011, 270). So, rather than operate in the public spaces of politics, individuals are admonished to accept personal responsibility for reducing CO2 emissions. Through a neoliberal, disciplining process that some have called “responsibilization” (Rose 1999), we pledge to change our behavior rather than question the global and local asymmetries and inequities that create, sustain, and legalize institutional forms of environmental exploitation.

The fourth sign that the dominant framing of climate change is post-political, according to Swyngedouw, can be found in the power of scientific discourse not only to define the problem itself but also how we ought to relate to the natural world. Here I will sidestep the philosophical debate about whether there is such a thing as “nature” and how discursive constructions and the material facts presented by the natural sciences may or may not be related (but see Morton 2007). The main issue for the post-political thesis is that dominant climate narratives have fear as a central trope, which leads to a profoundly depoliticized imaginary. Swyngedouw writes: “apocalyptic imaginaries are extraordinarily powerful in disavowing or displacing social conflict and antagonisms. As such, apocalyptic imaginations foreclose a proper political framing” (Swyngedouw 2011, 263). Dystopian and apocalyptic narratives of natural disasters, chronic resource shortages, global pandemics and perpetual war—such as those shown vividly in The Age of Stupid—help to create acceptance of the need for extreme measures and radical policies (for example, on population growth). These narratives are not merely the stuff of science fiction: further examples can be found in the communications of UN conferences and grassroots organizations. One could look, for example, at the opening ceremony of the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, which included Please Save the World, a video depicting a child’s nightmare about climate change, or at the publications of the Transition Town Movement, which is founded on predictions of civilizational collapse (Smith 2011). It has been argued that levels of public concern about climate change have declined in the US as a result of “apocalypse fatigue” (Nordhaus and Shellenberger 2008). Not only do apocalyptic climate narratives create a sense of emergency, they also cast the human–nature relationship as one of antagonism and conflict, where nature is threatening and out of control, and where societies must prepare themselves to withstand its wrath (Doyle and Chaturveydi 2010). Although Swyngedouw does not make this point, I would argue that this narrative gives rise to the concept of “climate resilience” that now pervades UN and NGO discourse. There has been a gradual policy shift from mitigation to resilience, which can be read as prioritizing the protection of people from climate-related disasters over the protection of the environment from human-related disasters of contamination, extraction, and extinction. As such, the dominant framing of climate change has produced a depoliticizing view of nature as the enemy, which can only serve to reduce further the political potential of environmentalism as a social movement that is dedicated to remedying destructive human–nature relations.

Hypatia Symposium – Indigenous Women, Climate Change Impacts, & Collective Action by KYLE POWYS WHYTE

Indigenous Women, Climate Change Impacts, & Collective Action

hypatia_coverkyle_powys_whyteKYLE POWYS WHYTE
Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University

 

The following is an excerpt, click here to read the full article

Browse the entire special issue here

1. Introduction

Indigenous peoples encompass the 370 million persons globally whose communities exercised systems of self-government derived from their own cosmologies before an ended or ongoing period of colonization. Indigenous peoples now live within areas where states, like Australia or Canada, are recognized internationally as the preeminent sovereigns (Anaya 2004). Like other communities, indigenous peoples must adapt to climate-induced ecological variations like sea-level rise, glacier retreat, and shifts in the habitat ranges of different species. Climate change adaptation refers to adjustments that populations make in response to such variations, which include actions and policies from weather-protection programs to permanent relocation. Indigenous peoples are also engaged in efforts to mitigate climate change, like transitioning to renewable sources of energy and contesting incursions of fossil-fuel-burning industries into their territories. Climate change mitigation refers to actions and policies that attempt to curtail certain variations from occurring in some way in the first place. Some indigenous peoples see adaptation and mitigation as crucial endeavors because climate variations can disrupt the systems of responsibilities their community members self-consciously rely on for living lives closely connected to the earth and its many living, nonliving, and spiritual beings, like animal species and sacred places, and interconnected collectives, like forests and water systems (Osofsky 2006; Salick and Byg 2007; Cordalis and Suagee 2008; Krakoff 2008; Macchi et al. 2008; Tauli-Corpuz and Lynge 2008; UNPFII 2008; Wildcat 2009; Kronik and Verner 2010; Tsosie 2010; Voggesser 2010; Krakoff 2011; Shearer 2011; Tebtebba 2011; Willox et al. 2011; Grossman and Parker 2012; Roehr 2012; Abate and Kronk 2013; Maldonado, Pandya, and Colombi 2013; Wotkyns 2013). Such systems include those that persist from time immemorial, like webs of reciprocal relationships between a particular community and the aquatic and terrestrial plant and animal species in their homeland. They also include systems of responsibilities emerging more recently from creative, indigenous-led efforts to establish political relationships of peaceful coexistence among neighbors like nation-states, settler towns, nongovernmental and religious organizations, subnational governments like provinces, and international bodies like the United Nations (UN). Examples include treaties, formal agreements, schedules of indigenous rights, and other political instruments that increase respect, mutual understanding, and accountability among indigenous parties and parties of other heritages and nations.

In ongoing conversations on climate change, some indigenous women articulate how seriously they take the specific responsibilities they perceive themselves to have within the systems of responsibilities that matter to their communities. Such responsibilities can range from acting as custodians and teachers of local ecological knowledge to acting as conveners of political movements aiming at respectful coexistence with neighbors. For these indigenous women, the responsibilities that they assume in their communities can expose them to harms stemming from climate change and other environmental alterations. Yet at the same time, their commitment to these responsibilities motivates them to serve as enablers of adaptation and mitigation efforts (LaDuke 1999; Denton 2002; Yanez 2009; Glazebrook 2011; Tebtebba 2011). Not all indigenous women share this view, of course; however, I show why, at least for some indigenous women, this is an important way of framing their actual and potential experiences of climate change impacts (sections II and III).

I then outline an implication of this framing for theories of political responsibility between indigenous women and parties like governments and organizations in adaptation and mitigation contexts (section IV). Political responsibilities are the attitudes and patterns of behavior that various parties are expected to express through the structure and implementation strategies of political institutions like laws, courts, policies, mandates, agencies, departments, treaties, declarations, schedules of rights, codes of ethics, agreements, memoranda of understanding, and so on. The nature and expression of these responsibilities depend on the assumptions that parties make about their roles in relation to one another. I offer a starting point for the following positions: Some indigenous women have their own unique capacities for collective action that advance adaptation and mitigation. Non-indigenous parties’ political responsibilities include deferring to indigenous women’s own knowledges of and motivations for such capacities for collective action. Deference can be expressed through political institutions that bolster the conditions needed to support indigenous women’s collective action (section IV). In many cases, this political responsibility is incumbent on indigenous national governments (for example, US federally recognized tribes) and political organizations (for example, Union of Ontario Indians). The positions in this paper seek to complement the work of environmental philosophers Chris Cuomo, Robert Figueroa, and Patricia Glazebrook, who have recently argued that responsibility must be thought of in terms of the unique agencies of indigenous and other populations—instead of focusing only on vulnerabilities (Cuomo 2011; Figueroa2011; Glazebrook 2011).1 More work beyond this paper should seek to further clarify the political reforms needed to support indigenous women’s collective agencies for adapting to and mitigating climate change (section V).

2. Climate Change Impacts, Collective Continuance, and Indigenous Peoples

Section I cited the growing academic, policy, and grey literature (informally published written material) documenting actual and potential climate change impacts on indigenous peoples. A key dimension of this literature concerns how climate change impacts affect the various culturally derived responsibilities assumed by some indigenous persons as participants in particular communities. In this section, I describe the basics of why these cultural effects matter. This view arises from my perspective and particular experiences as a Potawatomi Indian living in the US, from my conversations and collaborations regarding climate change with numerous indigenous persons within and outside of North America, and from engagement with relevant academic literature from several disciplines. Although this view may not reflect the diversity of views among all indigenous peoples about climate change, I feel it nonetheless highlights important elements of the discourses cited in section I and in which I am involved as a participant.

Impacts include variations of the patterns of community relations of diverse entities. These patterns are the structures of organization, which include political, societal, cultural, religious, and familial institutions that tie together humans and multiple living, non-living, and spiritual beings, and natural interdependent collectives (forested areas, species habitats, water cycles, and so on). Climate-induced variations—or climate change impacts—are the impacts arising based on the capacity of patterns of community relations to absorb local ecological alterations stemming from climate change (Liu et al. 2007; Cuomo 2011). Climate change impacts are disruptive when structures of organization can absorb the ecological changes only by changing key components of the structures themselves. For example, sea-level rise may force a community to relocate and adopt a new economy. Shifting growing seasons may require a community to change its diet. Climate-enabled invasive species may require a community to adopt new and more attentive environmental stewardship. Such disruptions are often experienced as harmful to certain values (as in the case of a changing diet), but can also serve as a motivation for improvements (as in the case of more attentive environmental stewardship).

Many indigenous persons interpret climate change impacts as jeopardizing the values associated with the collective continuance of the communities in which they participate. Collective continuance is a community’s aptitude for being adaptive in ways sufficient for the livelihoods of its members to flourish into the future. The flourishing of livelihoods refers to both indigenous conceptions of (1) how to contest colonial hardships, like religious discrimination and disrespect for treaty rights, and (2) how to pursue comprehensive aims at robust living, like building cohesive societies, vibrant cultures, strong subsistence and commercial economies, and peaceful relations with a range of neighbors, from settler towns to nation-states to the United Nations (UN). Given (1) and (2), indigenous collective continuance can be seen as a community’s fitness for making adjustments to current or predicted change in ways that contest colonial hardships and embolden comprehensive aims at robust living (Whyte 2013).

Climate change impacts can be understood as affecting the quality of the relationships that constitute collective continuance. According to this view, collective continuance is composed of and oriented around the many relationships within single communities and amid neighboring communities that persons assume based on their culturally framed perceptions of what matters. The capacity to contest colonial hardships, for example, may require relationships of solidarity among community members that cultivate political action, furnish healing from colonial traumas (like boarding schools), and ignite spiritual awakening (Ortiz and Chino 1980; Alfred 1999; LaDuke 1999; Tinker 2004; Green 2007). It may also require establishing relationships of trust and common political purpose across indigenous peoples who face similar hardships (Mayer 2007; Grossman 2008). The capacity to build cohesive societies, vibrant cultures, and subsistence economies may require close-knit family and social relationships, such as strong intergenerational ties and shared experiences between elders and youth and sustainable regimes of land-tenure (Merculieff 2007; Trosper 2009; Wildcat 2009; Tebtebba2011). Emotion-laden relationships among species and with features of the land (like rivers or mountains) and natural interdependent collectives may also be required (Willox et al. 2011). Commercial economies require relationships that generate feasible, culturally appropriate opportunities and relationships that regulate economic production (Trosper 2007; Ranco et al. 2011). Peaceful relations with neighbors require relationships that respect the differences of each community in terms of culture, relative power to exploit one another, specific needs, and capacities to exercise agency (Alfred 1999; Holmes, Lickers, and Barkley 2002; Napoleon 2005; Turner 2006; Davis2010; Ross et al. 2010; Middleton 2011).

The significances of these relationships are realized through the responsibilities incumbent on the parties to the relationships. That is, to be in a relationship is to have responsibilities toward the others in the relationship. Many indigenous authors have described the idea of responsibility. I interpret them as seeing responsibilities as the reciprocal (though not necessarily equal) attitudes and patterns of behavior that are expected by and of various parties by virtue of the assumptions made about how the parties relate to one another within a community context (Weaver 1996; Alfred 1999; LaDuke 1999; Kimmerer 2000; Pierotti and Wildcat 2000; Borrows 2002; Mayer 2007; McGregor 2009; Wildcat 2009). For example, elders may assume responsibilities to mentor youth by passing on wisdom or leading certain ceremonies; younger generations are, in turn, responsible for learning actively from the elders about the nonhuman, spiritual, and ritualistic dimensions of the community and its conception of the earth, its living, nonliving, and spiritual beings, and natural interdependent collectives. A community may have a responsibility to care for salmon habitat; salmon, in turn, may provide food and support for other species. Community members may be responsible for kindling spirituality by not evaluating their fellow community members according to colonial stereotypes about indigenous women or by visibly standing up against policies that victimize some people because they are indigenous women (Smith 2005). Such may be understood as a mutual responsibility of honor and respect among community members. International bodies like the UN may have responsibilities to respect emerging norms that acknowledge the special needs and knowledges of indigenous peoples (Anaya 2004; Mauro and Hardison 2000). These and other similar responsibilities are among the constitutive features of collective continuance because—on this view—they enable the contesting of colonial hardships and the pursuit of robust living. Some indigenous people’s concern with collective continuance has to do with maintaining the capacity to be adaptive with respect to relational responsibilities, or all those relationships and their corresponding responsibilities that facilitate the future flourishing of indigenous lives that are closely connected to the earth and its many living and nonliving beings and natural interdependent collectives. I refer to relational responsibilities as responsibilities in the rest of the paper.

Responsibilities constitute collective continuance as part of larger systems of interconnected responsibilities. Systems of responsibilitiesare the actual schemes of roles and relationships that serve as the background against which particular responsibilities stand out as meaningful and binding. For example, a responsibility to maintain species habitat is part of a more comprehensive web of interspecies responsibilities that are tied to a community’s cosmology. Cosmology refers to the fundamental way in which community members, in common, experience everything around them as endowed or not with agency, spirituality, and connectedness. Systems of responsibilities have intrinsic value and instrumental value for communities. For example, in Wabanaki culture the responsibilities surrounding berry plants have intrinsic value because they are integral to customs and rituals and establish part of the cultural status of Wabanaki women (Lynn et al. 2013). Thus, an entire system of responsibilities is embedded in and permeates everything about the berry plants. The system has intrinsic value because it is essential for framing certain dimensions of Wabanaki existence. The berry plants have instrumental value because they are superfoods, according to nutritionists, having health benefits like cardiovascular protection. Even systems of responsibilities amid communities have both kinds of value. For example, the government-to-government relation between the US and federally recognized tribes has intrinsic value because it can honor, at least in part, indigenous senses of nationhood. It also has instrumental value because respecting tribal sovereignty is considered to be the best way to formulate, implement, and assess policies (Lynn et al. 2013; Whyte 2013).

The concept of collective continuance identifies a range of values that some indigenous persons hold in relation to the patterns of community life in which they participate. The relationships and responsibilities constitutive of collective continuance can be disrupted by climate change impacts. A reason for this is that climate change impacts can alter the ecological contexts in which systems of responsibilities are meaningful. Changes in landscapes may engender fewer opportunities for elders to assume the responsibility to teach youth in practical situations. Climate change may affect the range, quality, and quantity of species like berries, making it more difficult or even impossible for tribal members to assume the responsibilities they perceive themselves to have toward those species (Lynn et al. 2013). Anishinaabe scholar Deborah McGregor, for example, discusses how variable weather patterns, invasive species, and widely fluctuating temperatures are engendering spring conditions that make it hard to have sensitive knowledge about when to begin or stop tapping maple trees for syrup. Making syrup is a traditional cultural and familial activity that spans generations and provides a source of nourishment for family and community members. Multiple, interconnected responsibilities are bound up in this activity, among young and old, siblings, between humans and trees, and natural interconnected collectives (GLIFWC 2006; Cave et al. 2011). Disruptions of webs of responsibilities involved in relations with elders, berries, and maple trees jeopardize some of what is valued intrinsically and extrinsically by certain indigenous peoples. The severity of disruption is of course influenced and amplified by the obstructive political orders rooted in colonialism, industrialization, imperialism, and globalization to which many indigenous peoples are subject. I treat these obstructive circumstances in more detail elsewhere, though I do not discuss them in any substantial detail here (Whyte 2013).

Hypatia Symposium – Climate Change Science & Responsible Trust: A Situated Approach by HEIDI GRASSWICK

Climate Change Science and Responsible Trust: A Situated Approach

hypatia_coverheidi_grasswickHEIDI GRASSWICK
Professor, Department of Philosophy, Middlebury College

 

The following is an EXCERPT, click here to read the full article

Browse the entire special issue here

Introduction

In a world rife with specialized knowledge, a responsible trust placed in other knowers or institutions of knowledge production is crucial to our capacity to know things ourselves. In the case of climate change science, the stakes of our trust or distrust are very high. Our beliefs about climate change shape both our behavior and policy development, and those beliefs are formed in part by the degree of trust we place in climate change science and the institutions that produce such science. Although the credibility of climate change science has received a good deal of attention recently, most of the discussion has adapted a generic approach to knowing, considering whether members of a generic public do and/or should trust the science.1 Here, I extend a feminist situated knowledge approach to the conditions of responsible trust and/or distrust in climate change science. As it has been developed and argued for by both standpoint theorists and epistemologists of ignorance, a situated approach to both knowing and ignorance takes seriously the idea that one’s social location both limits and shapes one’s knowing, and further argues that these shapings are often best understood by considering the lines of power that differentiate our social positions. My interest is not just in the presence of differential degrees of trust in climate change science across the public, but rather how we are to understand what constitutes good knowing and inquiry on behalf of particularly situated laypersons when matters of trust are involved. That is to say, there will always be cases of misplaced epistemic trust and distrust, and many laypersons will not be motivated to try to know well regarding certain issues. But for those who do seek to know well, an understanding of how positionality is implicated in matters of epistemic trust is important. Whereas feminist work on trust in science has focused on the marginalized and contexts of reasonable distrust in scientific institutions (Scheman 2001), here I focus on the implications of a situated approach for understanding trust and distrust from the position of the privileged using the case of climate change. There is evidence that white males in the United States are more likely to distrust or disavow climate science than are other demographic groups. On a situated approach, an assessment of whether such distrust could be a responsible distrust must consider the possible relevance of the privileged social location of white males. The logic of feminist standpoint theory and the epistemologies of ignorance suggests that a critical reflexivity of social position is required in order to produce knowledge well, and I argue that this insight holds as well in the case ofknowing through trust. If laypersons in privileged social locations are going to know well, there will be many contexts in which it will be important for them to consider the levels of trust that those in differently situated positions place in the science under examination.

The Credibility of Climate Science

Matters of trust permeate our interactions with scientific institutions and research communities of all sorts and at all levels, but there are certain features of climate change science that make it particularly vexing with respect to trust. Among these, it is exceptionally complex and operates within a context of uncertainty; it attempts to predict climates into the long-term future while accounting for yet unknown human responses to climate change. Additionally, as a global phenomenon, climate change is often not locally observable or easy to reconcile with laypersons’ local experiences, making its seriousness sometimes challenging to convey. Finally, climate change science has been identified as a paradigm case of “post-normal science” (Saloranta 2001; Hulme 2009). In contexts of post-normal science, the public does not simply expect science to produce factual answers to questions. Rather it expects to be able to apply the science to public issues under circumstances in which “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent” (Funtowicz and Ravetz1993). Post-normal science presents particular challenges for laypersons, who must find ways to responsibly trust scientific institutions, since the boundaries between the knowledge produced and policy implications begin to blur and with that, political interests play a prominent role in the development and presentation of the knowledge.

For feminist epistemologists interested in knowledge-based trust issues, climate change science is also a particularly interesting and challenging case to examine for additional reasons: the cornerstone of feminist epistemologies has been the adoption of a situated approach to knowing, that is, recognizing that one’s knowledge possibilities are shaped and limited by particular social locations (Grasswick 2011). Alison Wylie has argued further that to understand exactly how and when social location makes a difference to particular knowledge endeavors, we must examine them contextually (Wylie 2003). The context of climate change is interesting to consider through a situated approach because it is both global and locally differentiated. On the one hand, it can be considered maximally global because it is a crisis argued to have significance for everyone, including future generations and nonhuman life. This suggests that with respect to climate change we human beings may share a certain “global location.” On the other hand, it is well recognized that the actual problem of climate change will likely affect certain groups of people, particularly the globally marginalized, more significantly and more rapidly than others, positioning people differently as stakeholders. Indeed, much of the recent work on gender and climate change has focused on how many women in the world may have a higher vulnerability to the early repercussions of climate change because of their relative lack of power in a patriarchal world (Denton 2002; Terry 2009). Interests also differ across social location in terms of how much one has to lose if early mitigation measures for climate change are adopted. I am interested in how we humans might be differently situated with respect to how we confront the science of climate change, and what a situated approach can contribute to understanding responsible knowing practices in this case.2

Attitudes and Levels of Trust in Climate Change Science: The White Male Effect

There has been much lament over the apparent disconnect between the level of consensus among climate scientists and the public’s level of trust in the “facts” of climate science. This is especially so in the United States, where the public’s views do not match the views of the experts very well. The top scientists working on climate change are in broad agreement that anthropogenic climate change is happening and that it is a serious problem (Oreskes 2004). The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations” (with “very likely” being defined as over 90% probability) (IPCC 2007). The IPCC has been called “one of the most inclusive and transparent exercises in international science consensus building the world has ever seen” (Jasanoff 2011, 130) with over 2,000 contributing scientists. Moreover, a recent study found that only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers, as ranked by expertise, were unconvinced by the evidence for climate change (Anderegg et al. 2010). Yet when it comes to public perceptions of climate change, the situation is quite different.

According to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, in 2012 only 66% of Americans believed global warming is happening, with only 46% saying that if global warming is happening, it is caused mostly by human activities (Yale Project 2012).3 Furthermore, only 35% of Americans agreed that most scientists think global warming is happening, whereas 41% say there is “a lot of disagreement” among scientists whether or not global warming is happening. Though survey results fluctuate somewhat, what remains steady is the fact that the public belief in anthropogenic climate change lags well behind the consensus of the climate change scientific community.

Although this literature gives a general sense of the disconnect between the beliefs of climate change scientists (the experts) and the public in the United States, a situated approach suggests the importance of investigating the possibility of social differences in beliefs in and trust of climate change science. Interestingly, empirical research has shown a statistically significant gender gap in the belief in and concern with global warming. Prominent in this area is the work of Aaron M. McCright, who has found that American women have a higher level of knowledge with respect to the facts about climate change, and a higher level of concern than do men about climate change. Analysis of eight years of Gallup polls shows that a greater percentage of women than men believe global warming is happening now (59% to 54%) and is primarily caused by human activities (64% to 56%). More American women than men worry about global warming a great deal (35% to 29%), believe global warming will threaten their way of life during their lifetime (37% to 28%), and believe the seriousness of global warming is underestimated in the news (35% to 28%) (McCright 2010). This gender gap is statistically significant and consistent over time (McCright 2010), though as McCright notes it is not overwhelming in size compared with such characteristics as party affiliation, with Republicans much more likely to be skeptical of the presence of global warming and its links to human activities (see Dunlap and McCright 2008).4

But the story becomes more interesting when McCright’s results are considered in combination with other angles of research concerningwhite men. For example, in considering relationships between values and environmental outlooks (a much broader category than simply climate change) Linda Kalof, Thomas Dietz, Gregory Guagnano, and Paul C. Stern found that the values and beliefs of white men were “substantially different” from those of the other subgroups studied (black women and men, Hispanic women and men, and white women). “White men placed substantially less importance on altruism, self-interest, and traditionalism than did White women, and White men were less likely than White women to endorse proenvironmental beliefs” (Kalof et al. 2002, 122). Interpreting their results, they suggest that “the key variable associated with environmentalism and altruism may be membership in the most advantaged social structural or cultural group in the society, rather than race or gender per se” (122). This suspicion is consistent with feminist epistemological arguments that the relevance of social location to epistemic pursuits depends most prominently on contingent and complex intertwining social systems of privilege and disadvantage and is not dependent on there being inherent differences in epistemic capacities of different groups. It is differences in social privilege that are of primary interest to feminist epistemologists, and that serve as the focal point for this paper.

There is now a substantial body of research demonstrating what has been termed the “white-male effect”: the tendency for white males to perceive risk as much lower than do other demographic groups. Recalling that climate change is a prime example of post-normal science, in which there are high stakes, high uncertainty, and a close connection between the demands for knowledge and the demands for policy, these findings of low risk perception in white males are important in understanding the dynamics of climate change belief and trust. The white-male effect was discovered when researchers found that across twenty-five hazard items, including climate change (and many other environmental hazards), white males consistently perceived the risks of these hazards as lower than other groups did (Flynn, Slovic, and Mertz 1994). More interesting still, they found that the significant difference between white males and others was accounted for by a sub-group consisting of about 30% of the white male subjects. This sub-group had very low risk-perception scores, and were differentiated from other white males in terms of being better educated, having higher household incomes, and being politically more conservative (Slovic 1999). This has come to be known by some as the “conservative white male effect.” Furthermore, strong evidence has been found for a conservative white male effect on climate change denial (McCright and Dunlap 2011).

Explanations from social psychology for the conservative white male effect on risk perception in general and climate change denial in particular has focused on two complementary theses. The first, the identity-protective cognition thesis, draws on the work of cultural cognition, according to which subjects’ cognition is oriented according to their cultural worldviews. Specifically, cultural cognition theorists divide cultural worldviews along two axes: hierarchical versus egalitarian orientations, and individualistic versus communitarian orientations, arguing that one’s cultural worldview affects how one receives information. In the case of risk perception, these cultural worldviews interact with the impact of race and gender, such that the white-male effect on risk perception results in part from those white men who hold hierarchical and individualistic worldviews (Kahan et al. 2007). The thesis of identity-protective cognition suggests an explanation: subjects exhibit a kind of motivated cognition that “serves to protect the status and self-esteem that individuals receive from group membership” (McCright and Dunlap 2011, 1165). For hierarchical, individualistic, white males, environmental risk and climate change risk would threaten their group’s activities and beliefs with the possibility of environmental regulation, making them more likely to take positions of risk skepticism, or outright climate change denial (McCright and Dunlap 2011). The second thesis offered as a partial explanation of the white-male effect is the system-justifying attitude thesis, according to which conservatives have stronger tendencies than liberals to justify and defend the current social and economic system, resisting change to the status quo (Jost et al. 2008). As McCright and Dunlap note, “conservative white males are likely to favor protection of the current industrial capitalist order which has historically served them well” (McCright and Dunlap 2011, 1165). These two theses complement the more theoretical arguments of many feminist epistemologists who point out the ways in which those occupying privileged social positions may have difficulties recognizing features of oppression and exploitation because they are invested in the system being and remaining as it is. In the case of climate change, they may have difficulties recognizing the threat and the need for mitigation efforts, given that they both have much to lose by such mitigation efforts that threaten current social structures that serve the privileged well, and they are the least vulnerable to the immediate effects of climate change.

To say that a group (white men) are more likely to be climate change deniers, or to perceive the risk of climate change as lower than others do, is not quite the same thing as claiming that they have a lower level of trust in the institutions that are producing this knowledge and conveying it, though there is obviously a close link. For example, one survey by the Brookings Institution found that of those who do not think that global warming is occurring, eight out of ten also believe that “scientists are overstating evidence about global warming for their own interest.” In contrast, of those who do believe global warming is occurring, only three out of ten believe scientists are overstating the case to serve their interests (Borick and Rabe 2012). Some have argued that in the highly politicized and public space in which climate change discussions occur, laypersons actually experience a “bifurcated flow of information” consisting of roughly two camps: those who argue for the seriousness of climate change and its human causes, including many natural scientists (such as the IPCC members), environmental advocacy groups, and some Democratic party politicians, and those who are skeptical of the reality, seriousness, and human causes of climate change, including certain contrarian scientists, several right-wing advocacy groups, some Republican politicians, and several conservative media personalities (Malka, Krosnick, and Langer 2009).5 When laypersons are faced with such a “bifurcated flow of information” they are likely to rely on those sources they trust most, rejecting the information from the other flow (Malka, Krosnick, and Langer 2009). Those who rely on the climate skeptics for their information are in essence distrusting the mainstream institutions of climate change science by rejecting their climate change information in favor of information provided by the other flow of information.

The empirical work on the white-male effect and trust when faced with a bifurcated flow of information suggests that the story of how social location affects people’s trust in climate change science is complex, and I submit that we should expect nothing less given the variety of ways in which the claims of climate change can interact with our other beliefs, values, and practices, alongside our structures of knowledge production and dissemination. But the evidence suggesting that white men are at least more likely to distrust climate change science than are other demographic groups, coupled with the connections drawn between positions of privilege and patterns of trust and belief, motivates my next question of what feminist analyses of situated knowing can offer to an understanding of the parameters of responsible lay knowing from positions of social privilege.

Hypatia Symposium – Climate Change—Editors’ Introduction by NANCY TUANA and CHRIS J. CUOMO

Climate Change—Editors’ Introduction

hypatia_coverTuanaCUOMOphoto

 

 

 

 

 

NANCY TUANA

Professor, Department of Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University

CHRIS J. CUOMO

Professor, Department of Philosophy and Institute for Women’s Studies, The University of Georgia

 

Browse the entire special issue here

 

In the midst of our putting the final touches on this special issue of Hypatia on climate change, the level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere passed the critical threshold of 400 parts per million, as measured by the monitoring station atop Mauna Loa, Hawai’i on May 9, 2013. This is the highest concentration of CO2 the Earth has sustained in three million years and is a clear signal of the negative impact of human actions on our climate systems. Our dependence on fossil fuels and other pollutants has resulted in a 41% increase in heat-trapping gases and the current state of climate chaos and uncertainty. Given the weak political response to climate change, many worry that the percentage increase could more than double within this century, risking even more damaging changes in the climate, significant sea level rise, and ensuing, unpredictable environmental and social harms for many.

The United Nations Environmental Program released a report in 2012 warning that greenhouse gas emission levels were approximately fourteen percent higher than would be required by the end of the decade in order to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the limit agreed upon by signatories to the Kyoto Protocol as necessary to avoid dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Following quickly on the heels of this report, the World Bank issued Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided. This report documented that even under the unlikely scenario that countries fulfilled the emission reductions currently pledged, “the world is likely to warm by more than 3°C above the preindustrial climate” and there is a “20 percent likelihood of exceeding 4°C by 2100” (World Bank 2012, xii).

Although the extent and intensity of impacts from climate change will most likely increase dramatically with higher levels of global warming, it is important to underscore that even with a 2°C increase in average global temperatures, more regions will experience life-threatening effects from sea level rise, dramatic changes in precipitation levels, and more and more intense extreme weather events such as heat waves and tropical cyclones (Seager 2009). Clearly, if the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions is not successfully curtailed, over time the harms of climate change are likely to affect almost everyone, almost everywhere. In addition, the negative impacts of a changing climate are already having disproportionate effects on the poor and disenfranchised, particularly those living in vulnerable geographical locations or who are citizens of poorer countries with fewer resources for adaptation and for cultivating resilience in the face of uncertain change.

A global climate justice movement has emerged that is focused on the intersections of existing structural inequalities and climate-related pressures. This movement is committed to returning greenhouse gas levels to safer levels as soon as possible. In academic and policy spheres, ethicists and political theorists are examining how best to respond to inequalities in impacts both in terms of regions (spatial inequalities) and in terms of the impacts on future generations (temporal inequalities). There is a growing literature concerning historical responsibility for pollution and the fact that those least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming are most likely to experience the highest negative impacts of climate change (cf. Kasperson and Kasperson 2001; Adger 2005; Page 1999; Stern2007; Vanderheiden 2008; Gardiner et al. 2010; Harris 2010; Posner and Weisbach 2010; Arnold 2011; Gardiner 2011).

Despite the fact that the past decade has witnessed a similarly dramatic increase in research examining the ways in which gender roles and gendered divisions of labor, as well as various cultural, economic, and political factors, can result in gender differences in climate change impacts and responses, a gender-justice perspective remains marginalized in mainstream climate justice theory and policy (Masika 2002; Brody et al. 2008; WEDO 2008; Aguilar 2009; Gender and Development 2009; Hunter and David 2009; Salleh 2009; Terry2009; UNDP 2009; Dankelman 2010; Alston and Whittenbury 2013). Given the particular experiences, capacities, and vulnerabilities of women in their diversity in relation to climate change, it is perhaps not surprising that there are growing efforts to bring serious attention to gender to grassroots-level adaptation projects, and to international negotiations and policy-making at the highest levels. For example, at the recent (2012) meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the final decision included a provision agreed upon by all parties (194 UN member states plus the European Union), establishing the issue of gender and climate change as a standing item on the agenda of future meetings, and committing to “promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of Parties in bodies established pursuant to the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol” (United Nations Framework Convention 2013).

Feminist philosophy has long been attentive to the conceptual and material relationships and interdependencies among industrial “development,” male dominance, and the devaluation and destruction of nature. From Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex to Sherry B. Ortner’s essay on the gendered aspects of the dominant Western nature/culture divide (Gilman1915/1998; Beauvoir 1949/2011; Ortner 1974), critical examination of the connections between women’s subordination and their association with particular understandings of nature has provided a ground note for modern feminisms. Along with the influence of environmental studies and ecology, figures such as Rachel Carson, Helen Caldicott, Alice Walker, and Wangari Matthei also helped inspire the development of ecofeminism as a distinct branch of feminist theory and activism in particular and catalyzed feminist work on environmental issues in general (cf. Haraway 1990; Warren 1990; Gaard and Gruen 1993; Mies and Shiva 1993; Plumwood 1994). Critical of distorted representations of women as closer to nature than men, but also critical of distorted representations of humans as separate from and inherently superior to nonhuman nature, such approaches are particularly well-positioned to help us gain critical understanding of some salient aspects of climate change.

Similarly, as we believe the essays and reviews in this issue make quite clear, feminist philosophical approaches provide immensely valuable resources for anyone concerned about the ethical and epistemological issues at the nexus of issues of justice and global climate change. The essays brought together in this special issue acknowledge and incorporate the fact of climate change’s disproportionately negative impacts on women and others who are geographically or economically disadvantaged, but they also look beyond and behind that data, asking key questions about values, environmental politics, scientific practice, ontology, collective responsibility, and culture. As this work shows, gendered constructions permeate climate change knowledge (in science and beyond) and practices (from individual actions to global policies) in ways less transparent than the differential impacts of climate change on the lives of women and men, or gender differences in lived experiences of climate phenomena. Climate change discourses themselves, including scientific, economic, and activist discourses, have gendered dimensions. Understanding those dimensions, their repercussions, and their connections with social and environmental justice calls for feminist philosophical investigations across a range of topics.

Voicing clear concern about what appears to be humanity’s multidimensional inertia regarding the changes needed to fight climate change, the authors brought together here raise important questions about responsibility and meaningful action. Heidi Grasswick highlights an important dimension of responsible action in light of climate change by exploring the complexity of enacting appropriate trust when we must rely on relatively high-powered institutions for information about climate change, but “the trustworthiness of these institutions depends on their ability to fulfill these expectations within a highly politicized context of competing interests” (XX). Sherilyn MacGregor discusses the relevance for climate justice of the loss of effective political spheres that function as a space of contestation, engagement, and dissent, and argues in response for a revitalized feminist conception of environmental citizenship. Astrida Neimanis and Rachel Walker consider how an alternative ontology that conceives of the self as weathering body might invite less hubristic engagements with nature. Michael Doan seeks out a more helpful understanding of the phenomenon of complacency, offering a diagnosis that clarifies some of what appears to be the extraordinary failure of many of us to act effectively for our collective interests. But as Kyle Powys Whyte shows in “Indigenous Women, Climate Change Impacts, and Collective Action,” cultural values and identities shape other ethical responses and understandings of what it means to take responsibility for the common good, and hence the importance of carefully situating a critique like Doan’s. Collective efforts such as the Women’s Water Commission of the Anishinabek Nation maintain important traditions and vital relationships in light of present and future challenges, and should be acknowledged and supported accordingly.

Feminist philosophical analyses also aid in the understanding of influential movements and discourses that fail to adequately address social and gender justice. In “Climate Change, Buen Vivir, and the Dialectic of Enlightenment,” Regina Cochrane examines the gendered and romantic assumptions behind the popular Latin American environmentalist concept of “buen vivir,” and brings together the work of Val Plumwood, Max Horkheimer, and Theodor Adorno to develop a more effective conception of ecological rationality. Christopher Preston, Holly Buck, and Andrea Gammon draw attention to how a masculinist framing of global climate change as “fixable” through technological solutions provides a troubling foundation for the development of geoengineering projects that are likely to exacerbate rather than ameliorate environmental harms and human suffering.

In spite, or perhaps because, of the insights that feminist analyses and attention to gender and social power provide as we try to understand and address climate change, thus far there has been a lack of attention to gender differences in climate change impacts within the very literature that purports to be examining issues of justice in the context of climate change. Even with a virtual explosion of work on gender and climate change (for example, Cannon 2002; Denton 2002; Lambrou and Piana 2005; Brody, Demetriades, and Esplen 2008; Aguilar 2009; Ahmed and Fajber 2009; Alaimo 2009; Enarson and Chakrabarti 2009; Hemmati and Rohr 2009; Terry 2009; Dankelman 2010; Goldsworthy 2010) and a vocal and visible activist movement calling attention to the fact that climate justice requires gender justice (GenderCC; WEDO), gender has been virtually ignored in books published on the general topic of climate ethics or climate justice since 2010 (for example, Gardiner 2010; Arnold 2011; Broome 2012; Brown 2012; Thompson and Bendik-Keymer 2012). We see this as simply one dimension of a larger and more complex pattern of ignoring the significance of the gendered dimensions of what we do and do not know, and what actions we do and do not take in the context of anthropocentric climate change. This persistent omission of gender in studies of climate ethics and climate justice evinces a form of gender amnesia too profound to be attributed to benign neglect. The ignoring of gender in the context of climate change is kept in place by a persistent valuation of certain types of lives and certain types of experiences as those that count. In this way, the lives and experiences of women and other “others” can be ignored without those in privileged positions even realizing that they are doing so.

As Charles Mills has argued with respect to race in Europe and the United States (Mills 1997), there is an “inverted” epistemology, what he calls an “epistemology of ignorance,” in which ignorance is actively produced and linked to issues of cognitive authority, trust, credibility, and uncertainty. With such an epistemology of ignorance, there is a “pattern of localized and global cognitive dysfunctions (which are psychologically and socially functional), producing the ironic outcome that whites [those in positions of power] will in general be unable to understand the world they themselves have made” (Mills 1997, 18). In her Musings column in this issue, Lorraine Code discusses related questions about epistemological culpability in relation to knowledge about climate change, and the possibility of “refusing to participate in social ignorance, across a range of epistemically irresponsible practices” (X). Such ignorance is at work with the gender amnesia currently limiting work on climate ethics and climate justice. Although perhaps not a conscious denial of the importance of the experiences and lives of women and other others in the context of a changing climate, there is nonetheless a persistent and willful attention only to certain types of lives and a narrow set of experiences, which serves to ensure that only certain interests or concerns will be taken seriously even in the very literature that aims to identify and rectify climate injustices.

Clearly it is important to examine and understand the complex ways in which women and men are, or are not, differentially affected by climate change impacts such as droughts, extreme weather events, or precipitation changes, but such studies on their own are not sufficient to fully appreciate the role of gender in the context of climate change. We also have to understand all the domains in which gender is relevant to our responses to climate change, from the affective dimensions of how women and men respond to climate change (Alston 2006; Alston and Kent 2008; Tschakert and Tutu 2010) to gender differences in the perception of risks related to climate impacts (Flynn et al. 1994; Davidson and Freudenburg 1996; Slovic 1999). Such divergences in reactions and perceptions can lead to differences in attitudes concerning how best to respond to climate change and thus have an impact on climate justice. Even more complex are the ways in which values embedded in the climate sciences, including studies of mitigation, adaptation, and geoengineering, have gendered dimensions that can lead to very different impacts for certain groups of women and men. As we see in the essays collected here (and in light of the past three decades of feminist scholarship), any effort to address issues of justice in the context of climate change must also take into consideration not just gender, but other relevant factors such as class, race, age, disability, and indigeneity. Gender and sexual difference cannot be adequately examined in isolation from these other forms of power and identity, and this lesson is robustly underscored when examining the impacts of climate change. How exposures to both slow onset as well as extreme climate events will affect any individual or a group is highly dependent on their gender, class, education level, and race. Although the fact and impact of such identities and factors are often difficult to trace, an appreciation of their role is a key to understanding and moving toward global climate justice.

We have benefited greatly from discussing and thinking together about these questions, in the company of the authors of the excellent work on gender and climate change that was submitted for this special issue of Hypatia, and in the company of others with whom we have worked on questions and issues related to climate justice over the last decade or so. When Nancy turned to Chris at some point during the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, and suggested the idea of a special issue of Hypatia on climate change and justice, it was in the hope that more feminist philosophical work on these questions could inform important decisions about practical and policy matters like mitigation and adaptation funding. In developing our own understandings of these issues, we have both benefited greatly from conversations and collaborations with Margaret Alston, Carolyn Sachs, Asuncion St. Clair, Petra Tschakert, and other members of the Worldwide Universities Network project on gender and climate change, and the workshop on transformative change sponsored by the Norwegian Center for International Climate and Energy Research. Abundant thanks also go to the special issue managing editor Christina Shaheen Moosa, and to Asia Ferrin, Hypatia‘s managing editor, for their dedicated work on this special issue, and to Hypatia‘s editors and editorial board, for their enthusiasm and support.