Analysing responses to climate change through the lens of reflexivity


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Sociologists are increasingly directing attention toward social responses to climate change. As is true of any new field of inquiry, theoretical frameworks guiding the research to date have room for improvement. One advance could be achieved through closer engagement with Reflexivity Theory, particularly the work of Margaret Archer, who asks just how individuals come to give attention to certain problems, and formulate responses to them. Individuals vary significantly in regard to their understanding of and concern for anthropogenic climate change, and these standpoints in turn influence commitment to mitigation and adaptation. The emergent social interactions among all such agents in turn influence the morphogenetic trajectories through which social structures will evolve, but the role of ‘meta-reflexives’ is particularly crucial. Identifying pathways of individual climate change reflexivity can make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the potential for and nature of collective responses. In this paper, I explore climate change reflexivity, with particular attention to climate change meta-reflexives, through a qualitative analysis of personal interviews with residents of two small communities in Alberta, Canada. Applying Reflexivity Theory to this context articulates dimensions of reflexive processing not elaborated in current theoretical treatments, including future outlook and comfort with uncertainty, among others.