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Climate Change and Culture-Shift as Forcing Factors: Objective Threat Confronts Subjectived Culture In an Axial Century

Authors: Brent Hedquist*, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Jim Norwine, Professor Emeritus & Regents Professor, Texas A&M University System, John Davenport, Missouri Southern University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Climatology and Meteorology, Environmental Perception
Keywords: climate change, worldviews, environmental values, post-Anthropocene
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Climate change—i.e., the threat of anthropogenic planetary heating--and culture-shift will transform ways of living, being and thinking such that the 21st century is likely be one of only a handful of axial periods in the entirety of the human experience. These intertwined forcing factors will very likely give rise to a 22nd century—and beyond-- almost unimaginably transformed. Humankind, we will suggest, faces difficult choices about our responses a. to climate change and b. to choice itself, that is, to the emergence of “saving Earth” as a value privileged even above choice, heretofore postmodernity’s “sacred” value. We briefly review contributions by key social scientists, philosophers and others, to understanding the rise of a worldview of subjective self-referentiality and, more particularly, the recent “death of evidence”. Reference is made to the findings of our 30-year worldwide study of undergraduate student worldviews, especially regarding the environment, along with similar studies. We document that environmental well-being is emerging among rising generations as a better-than value and “true”. If we are correct, the environmentalism of late modernity is not merely as a challenge to the primacy of choice, but potentially to the hegemony of horizontal-value theory more generally. We conclude by speculating that such value trends along with our response, or lack thereof, to threats like climate change and super weapons, all point to several possible (i.e., put too simplistically, ) futures, several unpleasant indeed but at least one in which Tuan’s worlds of human-nature and nature-nature have transformed into a new kind beings altogether.

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