Social implications of climate change - Margaret Alston

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  • 1. Social implications of Climate Change Professor Margaret Alston, OAM Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability (GLASS) Monash University Melbourne
  • 2. Summary
    • Introducing social impacts
    • Why are social factors important?
    • About the social relations of agriculture
    • Climate change impacts
    • Socio-economic factors
    • Service providers
    • Policy shortcomings
    • Current adaptations
    • A vision for a more positive future
  • 3. Dominance of economic and environmental perspectives in policy Boil over in M-DB
  • 4. There are people and communities at the end of the policy line
  • 5. Underplaying social impacts can lead to significant political/policy consequences
  • 6.
    • ‘ Institutional miscreancy’ - or lazy politics
    • Policy constructed without due attention to the social - > ongoing benign neglect of rural people and places
    • Implicit expectation that rural will absorb the burden of CC actions unrealistic and unfair
    • (quoting Molnar 2010)
  • 7. Rural restructuring not new
    • Ongoing restructuring
    • Population shifts and declines
    • Long-term service infrastructure erosion
    • Climate uncertainties adding to rapid change
    • Policy responses must address long-standing issues as well as current uncertainties
  • 8. Why social factors are important
    • Environmental stewardship
    • People are dealing with climate change
    • Biosecurity
    • Citizenship rights
    • Human capital depletion
    • Rural people need certainty
  • 9.
    • Rural people have not been successful in capturing public attention / imagination
    • Room for movement between farming organisations and environmental activists
  • 10. But all acknowledge the pivotal role that agriculture must play to feed the world into the future
    • No other industry sector is subject to such vagaries and variances of production conditions
    • Food security is now a real issue confronting countries around the world
    • This is driving a nationalistic approach to farm ownership, we see countries such as China and the Arab countries actively acquiring large farming enterprises in Australia
  • 11.
    • And yet at the heart of agriculture is the family farm and rural communities
    • These must be nurtured
  • 12. Australian studies
    • Several years and across Australia
    • Social impacts of drought 2003-4
    • Rural women’s access to services study - 2004
    • Impact of drought on rural and remote young people’s access to education 2006
    • Rural maternity services study 2007
    • Declining water availability M-DB 2008
    • Declining water in Murray River communities 2009
    • Rural women and CC 2009/10
  • 13. International studies India - FAO Africa – UN-Habitat Pacific - UNESCO Bangladesh March 2011 - Oxfam
  • 14. Australia’s Rural places
    • 16% of Australians in inland agricultural regions
    • Divergent trends
    • Remote – bigger farms, declining populations and services
    • Peri-urban growth – well-serviced communities, resources, off-farm income, cultural clashes
  • 15. Climate change trends
    • Rising temperatures, climate variability, cyclones, rainfall variations, erosion, storm surges, bushfires
    • Incremental – drought
    • Cataclysmic – bushfires, floods
  • 16. Incremental - Drought – up to 10 years
  • 17. January 2011 floods
  • 18. Diversity of people affected
    • People affected feel disenfranchised from policy
    • Indigenous people – Boomanulla statement
  • 19. Socio-economic factors
    • Farm families dominate agricultural production
    • Bigger than family farms in remote – issues for families / workers / communities
    • Issues with remote education and services
    • Peri-urban – rich growth, cultural factors
    • Bulk of family farms fall between
  • 20.
    • Significance of off-farm income for the bulk of farm families – has gendered consequences
    • Volunteer work declining
    • Decline in numbers of young people from rural areas accessing higher education
    • Loss of workers – loss of teachers etc
  • 21. Socio-economic factors
    • Rural over-represented in lower SEIFA
    • High levels of rural poverty
    • Out-migration
    • Remote communities – masculinised
    • Higher unemployment
    • Poorer health
    • Lower levels of education
    • Higher levels of ageing
    • Poorer service infrastructure
    • Greater proportion of Indigenous people in more remote communities
    • Drift of welfare dependent people
    • The more remote the greater the levels of social exclusion
  • 22. Social Adaptations
      • generating income off-farm to ensure the family can remain in farming;
      • men working in isolation while their families live and work away;
      • reduced attention to health care;
      • rising levels of mental health and stress but a lack of help-seeking behaviour;
      • alcohol and drugs being used for self-medication for stress;
      • young people leaving for a future elsewhere;
      • young people dropping out of school;
      • small business closures or reduction / casualisation of employees;
      • small businesses operating as quasi-banks; and
      • gender implications leading to differential experiences for men and women
  • 23.
    • Resistance to exit packages
  • 24. Positive adaptations
    • Leasing in peri-urban to increase productive capacity
    • Changing production
    • Water efficiencies
    • ‘ children’ returning in their 30s+
  • 25. Positive adaptations to rural disasters
    • Community cohesion
    • Responsiveness of emergency services
    • Widespread community giving
    Lifeline community care tee-shirt
  • 26. Rural Services
    • Poor transport and telecommunications
    • Basic health services often lacking
    • Mental health services poor
  • 27. Climate change impacts
    • Further destabilisation
    • Rise in number of weather related events
    • Loss of certainty in production
    • Perceived government inaction
    • Disaffection and alienation
    • Unpredictability of climate events – declining resilience
  • 28. Service providers
    • Stretched
    • Under-resourced
    • High case loads
    • Extensive geographical areas
    • Administered from regional areas
    • Charities bearing larger than normal burden
    • Innovative service delivery – evident and provides valuable learning
    • Workers report – low mood of communities, high levels of suicide, self-medication, effects on children
  • 29. Policy shortcomings
    • MDB guide a catalyst to simmering anger
    • Top-down policy
    • Perceived lack of community consultation
    • Market driven
    • Lack of understanding of rural culture
    • Rural policy equated with agricultural policy problematic!
  • 30. Policy shortcomings
    • Benign neglect and active exploitation (Molnar 2010)
    • Lack of attention to ‘place-shaping’ (Shucksmith 2009)
    • Sectoral rather than territorial basis to policy
    • Ignores multifunctionality
  • 31. Resilience
    • Ability to respond to adversity in positive ways
    • Failure of metagovernance is harming resilience of rural people
    • Need to ‘bring government back in’ (Bell and Quiggin 2008) to work in partnership
    • goal setting, coordination, information exchange, risk management and resourcing
    • Inclusive partnerships such as Landcare
  • 32. Vision for rural Australia
    • CC social impacts addressed
    • Citizenship rights acknowledged
    • Environmental, economic and social factors acknowledged as equally important
    • Resilience enhanced
    • Need for dedicated research to develop informed understanding of current and potential social impacts of CC
  • 33. Immediate policies
    • Access to Youth Allowance
    • Access to health and welfare services
    • Transport and infrastructure
  • 34. Medium term policies
    • Local governments funded to form social inclusion committees, employ community development workers, develop plans on future viability, potential areas of growth and human and social capital needs
  • 35. Long-term policy
    • a vision for rural and remote areas;
    • an assessment of the areas, communities, services and commodities that have long-term viability and those that do not;
    • a vision that acknowledges diversity in agriculture, small business and rural communities;
    • a vision that prioritises people;
    • a vision that enhances resilience, family well-being and community capacity;
    • social inclusion strategies;
    • new models of governance characterised by inclusive partnerships between governments, non-government organisations and the private sector;
    • greater community participation in policy and place shaping, and an acknowledgement that rural people are experts in their own lives;
  • 36.
    • thick and comprehensive human services and supported environments for human service workers;
    • a commitment to rural people and communities through a vision for transition and change;
    • the supports - financial, services and infrastructure - that will be needed to assist people to informed choices about their futures;
    • a plan for the future of rural and remote areas;
    • an acknowledgement that the people in these communities cannot address the future unaided because of uncertainty;
    • an investment in human capital so that people in rural areas can achieve their potential and access education / retraining to achieve their ambitions;
  • 37.
    • a fund that provides investment into rural communities to establish new directions for change;
    • a social taskforce to be established to oversee the vision, the investment in rural people and communities and the change management process; and
    • the establishment of a new, well-funded model of Human Services practice that values and builds rural community capacity and acknowledges and values voluntary contributions through workforce practices.
  • 38. Partnerships
    • Governments, farming organisations, women’s organisations, community groups, businesses, farm families and individuals
  • 39. Conclusion
    • Climate change has exposed deficiencies in attention to the social
    • Rural people expect no more than their citizenship rights
    • Sustainability of our landscapes is dependent on resilient people and places
    • Greater certainty through visionary policy and partnerships needed
    • Enhancement of positive adaptations critical
  • 40. Take home message
    • CC has significant social consequences for rural women and men
    • The old and the young are affected
    • Social impacts are deeply spiritual
    • Policy must acknowledge there are people at the end of the policy line …..