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Climates of ontological change: past wisdom in current binds?

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Abstract

Although considering questions of wisdom and humility in relation to climate change may seem like a soft theoretical topic for an issue that needs hard and clear responses, there is an increasing literature that suggests the global inability to agree on the nature of climate change and what a response entails may be grounded in modern ways of thinking and being—ways that have long marginalized such inquiries. The increasing power of science and computer modeling has not only give us new ways of thinking about our relation to climate, but also represents our entry into a new sense of being where we are aware of humanity's interconnection with an ever-changing climate system. Research with indigenous views of climate change and paleoclimatology are revealing historic insights on the evolving relation between the human mind and cycles of climate change. While such research can help situate our present realizations about human embeddedness within a longer history of human–climate relations, it is also necessary to recognize the unique dimensions of our current situation. This includes the increasing power of industrial humanity to destabilize global climate–human systems through greenhouse gas emissions; to technologically monitor those changes; and to promote changes in behavior that can be ethically responsive to global, not simply regional, climate–human relations. This article considers climate change as a challenge to modern ways of thinking and being, and concludes by contemplating some implications of returning to an older humility and wisdom. WIREs Clim Change 2014, 5:247–260. doi: 10.1002/wcc.267

Conflict of interest: The authors have declared no conflicts of interest for this article.

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