Sunday, 31 January 2010


The inability to meaningfully respond to the climatic and ecological challenges that face us is not always an expression of apathy. The intractable nature of the problems, the fact that they are tied to the very foundations of our present economy generates dilemmas not seen before in human history. People appear apathetic and disengaged with reality as it unfolds, but their detachment might be ecoparalysis rather than apathy or avoidance.

As we learn more about our carbon footprint it seems that every option to retain life as usual ends in contradiction. Even the idea that we save energy and hence carbon emissions by doing business and personal communication electronically runs into the uncomfortable truth that the annual amount of energy required to run the world-wide-web is roughly the equivalent to the annual energy use and carbon emissions of global air traffic. Not many people in rich, technologically sophisticated parts of the world are prepared to embrace the full implications of a severely carbon constrained world. While many now clearly see the extent and nature of the problem, future negative events, even those that will impact on their own children, are insufficient to change behaviour as usual. I suggest that such gaps between knowledge, values and behaviour are now sources of ecoanxiety and causes of ecoparalysis worldwide.

[concept first presented at the Cultures of Sustainability Conference RMIT 2008]