CSU, Chico News

Former CSU, Chico Sustainability Director Publishes Book on Climate Change

Date: 01-20-2011

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs

The new book “Rapid Climate Change” addresses some of the hardest questions surrounding the challenges of climate change. Published this month, the supplemental text for students was written by Scott G. McNall, California State University, Chico sociology professor and former director of the Institute for Sustainable Development. The book is part of a series published by the Routledge Social Issues Collection on today’s social issues by leading scholars.

McNall brings his background as a social scientist to an encompassing exploration of the science, the politics and the social science of climate change. He reviews the science of climate change and the ways it is bound up with other problems of population growth, environmental degradation and world problems of social and economic inequality. Designed as a college text, “Rapid Climate Change” is also accessible reading for the general public.

For three years, McNall has been co-teaching a class in the Honors Program called “Men, Women and the Land” with Professor Sally McNall. The class explores where ideas about nature come from and how peoples’ ideas can be framed so that they are more likely to take care of the natural world on which our lives depend. The class helped McNall to research the various factors that contribute to our understanding of climate change.

One phenomenon that McNall examined was why people resist the scientific research, even as the evidence of climate change builds. He concluded two things: 1) K–12 and colleges are doing a poor job of teaching science, and 2) many people deny the science because of what it implies. If it is true, people will have to change the way they live, and that is “morally challenging.”

In regard to the challenges faced by educators, McNall said, “Science isn’t just another idea. People have come to believe that their ideas are just as good as ideas that are tested repeatedly by communities of scientists who are working to disprove a theory.” McNall suggests that students from a young age should be exposed to the scientific method, what scientific support is and how scientists arrive at conclusions.

McNall hopes that his book will help educate readers about science and the basic laws of the universe. He presents the complexities of the climate change problem and solutions to address it. He suggests that technology alone won’t solve the problem and that we need to act soon to preserve biodiversity, protect the oceans and conserve scarce natural resources.

McNall is working on another book about the concept of resilience, titled “Resilience in Human, Environmental and Economic Systems.” We have many stories about the indomitable spirit of human beings, said McNall, but not enough information about what makes economic and biological systems resilient.