Household Sustainability
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Household Sustainability

Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday Life

Chris Gibson, Carol Farbotko, Nicholas Gill, Lesley Head and Gordon Waitt

The authors engage critically, and constructively, with the proposition that households are a key scale of action on climate change. They confront dilemmas of practice and circumstance, and cultural norms of lifestyle and consumerism that are linked to troublesome environmental problems – and question whether they can be easily unsettled. The work also illuminates the informal and often unheralded work by households – frequently the poorest – in reducing their environmental burden. This important book is critical to understanding both the barriers to household sustainability and the ‘unsung’ sustainability work carried out by householders.
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Chapter 20: Conclusion

Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday Life

Chris Gibson, Carol Farbotko, Nicholas Gill, Lesley Head and Gordon Waitt


Kyoto to Copenhagen, Durban to Rio, international groupings of nation states have failed to deliver the climate change action that was widely hoped for, and for many politicians the issue has slipped into the ‘too hard’ basket for the time being. Nevertheless, as the writing of this book comes to a close, scientists have renewed concerns for urgent action. In 2012 Arctic sea ice melted to a record low, and the northern hemisphere experienced its hottest summer yet – breaking 3215 high-temperature records in June, in the United States alone (McKibben 2012). Scientists suggest key biophysical tipping points – irreversible melt of the Greenland ice sheet, resulting in leaking of billions of tonnes of methane currently trapped in that ice; equatorial moisture build-up, ‘loading the dice’ for more intense monsoons, hurricanes and devastating floods – will likely be passed somewhere between the years 2016 and 2030, well within the readable lifetime of this book. The Australian Government Climate Commission (2012) argues that the present decade – to 2020 – is critical if humans are to prevent logarithmic increases in CO2 emis- sions and global warming. Governments have introduced incentives for ‘green’ technological innovation, improved ecolabelling schemes and the like. Yet regulators have continued to open up new fossil fuel deposits for exploitation and there remain enormous (and growing) reserves of oil, coal and gas already factored into the asset sheets and investments of the world’s largest mining and oil corporations. The ‘distinction between knowing and doing’ (Davidson 2012, 112) persists: we know that climate change requires substantial action, but we continue to do unsustainable things.

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