- Nov 2021
Many high-carbon activities are also highly routinized. From a psychological perspective, this bears the hallmarks of habitual behavior, in that environmentally significant actions are often stable, persistent, and an automatic response to particular contexts (159), e.g., commuting by car repeatedly over many months or years. Theories of social practice offer a contrasting account in which routines coevolve with infrastructures, competencies, conventions, and expectations (160). For example, developments in urban infrastructure, everyday routines, and the shifting social significance of private transport have culminated in the car becoming a dominant mode of mobility (161). Elsewhere, coordinated developments across spheres of production and consumption have led to the freezer becoming regarded as a domestic necessity (162), and changing patterns of domestic labor and shifts toward sedentary recreation have contributed to the rise in indoor temperature control (163). Although such assemblages shift over time, policy and action intended to reduce emissions have been ineffective in coordinating changes throughout these social and material configurations. As a consequence, routinized, commonplace, and largely unconscious behaviors remain mostly unaffected, with many high-carbon activities even growing and expanding (e.g., frequent flying).
New stories and narratives, in other words, new social imaginaries of viable low carbon life styles can help bring about a shift. By adopting the viable story, it primes individuals to seek technology elements that are designed to fit that new social imaginary.
As mentioned above, community economists Michael Shuman demonstrates how relocalizing can create new patterns of behavior consistent with a desirable future.
We must engage film-makers, artists, playwrights to create stories of such alternative futures of living within planetary boundaries, doughnut economics and eco-civilizations.
As the emerging field of energy humanities (168) is beginning to show, the traditions, cultures, and beliefs of contemporary, industrial societies are deeply entangled with fossil fuels in what have been called petrocultures and carbonscapes (169). Future visions are dominated by such constrained social imaginaries (170), and hence rarely offer a “radical departure from the past” (171, p. 138).
Constructing social imaginaries that are alternatives to the petrocutultural, carbonscape ones is critical to shift the mindset.
Carbon pollution cannot be disentangled from colonialism and social imaginaries must consist of stories that tell alternative futures narratives that address both simultaneously.
Replace petroculture with ecoculture, doughnut economics, living within planetary boundaries and eco-civilization
- michael shuman
- planetary boundaries
- habitual high carbon behavior
- doughnut economics
- social imaginaries
- 2000 watt society
- energy humanities
- social imaginary