‘Conflict’ sometimes needed for meaningful change, says climate scientist

How do you convince people to make changes for the good of the planet, or adapt to the growing climate problems we’ll be facing?

At a packed Science City event at the RiAus Science Exchange, University of Adelaide Associate Professor Douglas Bardsley dived into these questions.

“In many ways, people are confronted with having to transform their systems,” he said.

“They’re presented with the idea that what they’ve done in the past can’t go on into the future and people don’t like that. People are generally conservative in their ways – they like what they do – and suddenly some scientist tells them that they’ve got to transform things, it’s not easy.”

As someone who works in environmental policy both in Australia and internationally, Bardsley is no stranger to conflict. His work involves convincing people to use less land, adjust and adapt to a world that is rapidly changing – even if they don’t want to.

“Always, when you’re asking people about change, there’s conflicts involved,” he said.

“[We need to look at] what’s generating the conflict, how can we support the good sides of the change, and how can we mitigate or reduce the negative impacts?”

Although we might think of these adaption issues as mostly an issue for the developing world, Bardsley’s recent work in Sweden suggests that these problems are going to affect us all. 

“You might have heard recently that they evacuated an entire village in Graubünden. And that’s because they’re permafrosts are melting,” he said.

“A project we’ve just finished up is working with the Forest, Snow and Landscape Institute in Switzerland. They are really interested in what’s going on in relation to environmental risks.”

These challenges are going to be difficult, and there will be problems and conflict along the way. However, that’s not to say that conflict should be avoided – or worse, overlooked.

“Those conflicts have to be recognised and acknowledged if we’re going to get major transformations,” he said.  

“There are alternatives for a lot of these ways of doing things. But they involve changes. And those costs often are borne by the farmers or the individuals who have the least resources to make the changes.”

“To facilitate change and make these transformations for better outcomes, that needs to be a ‘whole of society’ discussion,” he added.

Please login to favourite this article.