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Culture and Behavior May Clue Climate-Change Response

By       Message Arshad M Khan       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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Behavior acculturated to ancestral norms, originally necessitated by occupation, is the focus of a new study in China with interesting ramifications for climate change. In general, farming requires more stable relationships than, say, herding with the constant movement of animals. Now the authors have taken farming a step further:


They observed that Chinese northerners were three times more likely than southerners to push an obstructing chair in a Starbucks out of the way; southerners eased themselves around in order not to inconvenience whosoever had placed the chairs. The behaviors were true to type as northerners are considered brash and aggressive, while southerners are conflict-averse and deferential.


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The authors ascribe the behavior to ancestral occupation. Wheat is farmed in the north, and such dry-land farming is more individualized than rice farming in the south. The latter requires complex irrigation systems for paddies and forces cooperation and coordination among multiple families. The interdependence also means it is crucial not to offend anyone. This ancestral culture prevailed despite the fact that most descendants were no longer farmers.

The question of which people change their environment and who change themselves is an important one at a time when the world has to face the existential challenge of climate change. In the last couple of years we have seen a cooperative Europe facing a quintessential maverick, as in Donald Trump.


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Mr. Trump lives in his own world ignoring the mounting research and irrefragable evidence for climate change with its human fingerprint that can no longer be disputed. Worse still are the consequences and the inevitable danger of conflict fueled by resource needs. Thus the melting of Arctic ice has made possible new sea pathways, opening up oil and gas exploration, and pitting Russia, the U.S., Canada and other Arctic countries against each other.


China is now in virtual control of solar-panel manufacture through a heavily subsidized industry against which producers in other countries are unable to compete. The U.S. imposed tariffs in 2017 and India might follow suit.


As electric car use increases, the demand for the rare minerals necessary for their batteries has begun to soar. Unfortunately the Congo with its incessant tribal wars is by far the largest producer of cobalt. Nickel has varied sources including Indonesia and the Philippines although the largest reserves are in Australia, Brazil and Russia. Chile has the highest reserves of lithium followed by China, while Australia is the top current producer. The scramble for these resources is underway and producer countries have begun to guard their reserves through tariffs and controls.

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Perhaps the most fraught issue is that of sharing water. For millennia one country has relied on the Nile. The annual flooding in ancient Egypt brought new alluvial soil yielding rich harvests. Even now more than 95 percent of the country's mostly farmer population lives on the river's banks in an area approximately 5 percent of Egypt's land mass. That whole way of life could be in jeopardy depending on how quickly Ethiopia chooses to fill a huge reservoir behind a vast damn it is constructing.


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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
 

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