For whatever reason, I think that whoever is reading my blog should be informed about some of my thoughts on environmental problems, how we construct and address them, and sort of my reasoning for joining the Peace Corps.
I apologize for not citing references!!! Many of the ideas I am sharing here are not my own, and were taught to me at the UW, or else ware.
Environmental problems are social constructs, meaning that we create and identify problems based on our perception and judgment of environmental conditions. As individuals we each see those conditions differently, and so our construction of problems varies. Let me give an example: When somebody at a chemical company was attempting to create a new gaseous coolant and instead created Teflon, he could have viewed the conditions as a failure, a problem, but instead they noticed that the surface was slippery and saw the conditions differently, as an opportunity.
Environmental problems are similarly created, and viewed in our mind. We take factual data from the environment and view it through a lens. The accuracy of the lens is wholly dependent on our understanding of the data and how we interpret its interactions with other data we have. And importantly, because our understanding is never perfect, our lens is not only likely flawed, but can be actively distorted through messaging from various sources that influence how we value the bits of information we have.
Let me try to explain this:
When DDT was created to kill insects, we valued its killing ability greatly and it was a solution to insect infestation. Then we read Silent Spring and our lens’s changed, we started to understand that we didn’t have all the facts about what DDT does, we started to be able to value its negative externalities, and we started to view DDT as a problem.
SO although we had the same environmental conditions on the farm or wherever, one day we thought DDT was a solution and the next, it was a problem. Think about using fossil fuel, fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline, nuclear energy, marijuana, LSD, Alcohol, corporal punishment, logging, mining… you get the picture, you make the judgment (you probably just did), and you designate something problematic or not, actionable or not.
And so, based on my view of the world, my construction, I think one of our core problems is climate change. I believe we (as a population) miss value its impact, and so our construction is not aligned with our facts. I want to address this, not by getting bent out of shape about fracking, which may or may not be a good way of accessing natural gas, or pipelines, which may or may not be a good may of moving oil, but rather by getting bent on addressing the root of climate change; fossil fuel use. And so to learn how to get American’s to drive less, to turn of light, etc… I am going first, to learn how to get people to act on more clearly defined and apparent problems than the mysterious “climate change”.
I hope that by learning about another culture, and a different set of problems, I pick up the tools to influence people’s lenses.
Well that’s enough of that..