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An Ontology of Climate Change: Integral Pluralism and the Enactment of Multiple Objects (Excerpt) by Sean Esbjörn-Hargens
February 08, 2011 14:46

An Ontology of Climate Change: Integral Pluralism and the Enactment of Multiple Objects (Excerpt)
Sean Esbjörn-Hargens

What is the ontological status of climate change? Is it real or not? Is it happening at an alarming apocalyptic rate or is it environmental hype driven by special eco-interests? Or is it somewhere in-between or some mix thereof? Or might it be something altogether different than what this common binary framing can allow? What if it was very real but not real in the way that we typically think (or feel) about "things out there" in the external world?

In this excerpt from the March 2010 issue of the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, Sean Esbjorn-Hargens shows us how to make sense of all these apparently conflicting perspectives, offering one of the most sophisticated approaches to the problem of climate change that we've ever seen.

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ABSTRACT: Climate change is a complex phenomenon that is enacted by multiple methodologies from various disciplines. No single method by itself can "see" or reveal climate change in its entirety. This raises the issue of the ontological status of climate change and to what degree are the data from these methodological traditons pointing to a singular or multiple object. This article explores the ontology of climate change. First, the notion of ontological pluralism is introduced and linked to climate change. Next, the role of enactment and performativity is explored in the context of climate change. As a result of this analysis, climate change is presented as a multiple object with overlapping and divergent dimensions. Issues of hybridity and multiplicity are linked to climate change action. Lastly, a framework of Integral Pluralism is presented that addresses the relationship between epistemological distance (the Who), methodological variety (the How), and ontological complexity (the What). In conclusion, this article presents five reasons why it is advantageous—philosophically and pragmatically—to relate to climate change as an ontological plurality.

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