"People. The most powerful solution to climate change that exists." Dr. Karen O'Brien, a professor at the University of Oslo in Oslo, Norway was invited to Sonoma State University by the HUB to share her research on climate change. Because she teaches in the department of Sociology and Human Geography, her talk was based on our society and how we react towards climate change.
Going into this talk, I assumed that I would be learning about the science behind climate change but was pleasantly surprised with Dr. O'Brien's enlightened thinking towards this subject. I am definitely someone who was starting to become cynical about the fight for climate change and felt that this conference was much needed. I left the talk hopeful for our future and what we are capable of changing by simply impacting each other through small life changes.
Dr. O'Brien pondered questions such as:
- How do we take transformation seriously?
- How do we make a world that works for everyone?
In general, Dr. O'Brien emphasized that we as a society tend to be more negative and focus solely on the political and practical problems towards climate change, "we tend to resist adaptive challenges by diverting our problems elsewhere." Basically, it isn't natural for us to adapt to such large disputes in an optimistic manner. To support these findings, O'Brien noted how people become cynical when they see that our political structure does not always support environmental-friendly living and that as individuals, we may not be able to reduce climate change.
While it is easy to have a pessimistic view towards this subject, Dr. O'Brien feels bright about our future and what we are capable of as individuals. She explained how we should think of our society as collective and connected, and that we can impact each other in positive ways for the long haul. Our individual perspectives and values should encourage us to challenge assumptions about climate change and be the change, "We must adapt that we are the future and we have the power." She ended her lecture with a few lessons:
- Choice makes a difference - doing something as small as buying a water bottle can open the door to even more simple life changes.
- Social norms are powerful - Dr. O'Brien explained how vegetarianism and veganism was not very common in Norway, but after an excessive amount of demand almost all grocery stores offer vegan and vegetarian options because it has become more normal to our society.
- We influence others! - Our small choices can go a long way. For example, buying food locally can potentially influence your roommates to do the same, and so on.