Why Different Cultures Have Conflicting Views on the Environment, Particularly Regarding Climate Change

Out of 40 nations that were polled in a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, most considered climate change a serious problem. Over 50% considered it a very serious problem. So, the good news is that across the globe, nations are decidedly in agreement about the impact that humans are having on Mother Nature.

CO2There’s bad news, though. The same survey revealed that China and the United States, two countries with the highest amount of CO2 emissions annually, are among the least concerned about what needs to be done about global warming.

Knowledge Does Not Equal Action

Out of the 40 countries surveyed, 39 reported that more than 50% of their citizens were definitely aware that climate change would cause them personal harm during their lifetime. Most of the world’s people know that the environment is in danger, and that the dangers have the potential to directly affect them. Yet not all enjoy the same level of gung-ho about actually doing something about it.

Destruction Of The PlanetSo what makes one nation more proactive than another? Which factors have the greatest influence on how a country’s leaders and citizens respond to the harm that’s being done to the environment? Why does one country care deeply about joining the environmentalist movement, and another… not so much?

Some speculate that it has to do with culture.

The Impact Of Culture

Most of us have never deeply studied culture, but we understand that cultural differences exist. Every day, we experience cross-cultural phenomena in many different ways – awkward handshakes, variations in holding eye contact, confusion about whether to stand or remain seated when certain people enter the room, etc. When it comes to how we respond to the environment, it turns out that there are several theories about the influence of culture on a nation’s response to climate change – or lack thereof.

Climate ControlMarianne Waas, energy and environment writer for the Chicago Policy Review, speculates that the cultural dimensions of “power distance” and individualism have the greatest influence on a country’s beliefs about what (if any) actions should be taken toward ecological efficiency.

Professor Geert Hofstede is one of the world’s leading experts in culture. In his 2010 book entitled, “Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind,” he – along with Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov – addresses issues that are relevant to the dimensions that distinguish one nation’s viewpoints from another’s. Hofstede defines power distance and individualism as follows:

Power Distance:

Power distance is defined as “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.” Countries with a small/low power distance believe that power is something that is to be spread among the people.

In contrast, countries that are described as being large/high power distance are characterized by the belief that less powerful people should be dependent, and those in power – such as teachers and doctors – should be held in very high regard, taking the initiative and being honored for their expertise. Power belongs to an individual, or a small group of individuals.

Individualism vs. Collectivism:

Countries that score high on individualism are those with “societies in which the ties between the individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him- or herself and his or her immediate family.”

Collectivist countries, on the other hand, are those in which “societies … from birth onward are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups which throughout people’s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.” Collectivists stick together.

What does all this have to do with the environment?

Global Thermal WarningWell, Waas – citing a 2013 study that ranked the ecologic efficiency of 72 countries – believes that the groupthink that’s inherent in collectivist cultures does little to encourage its people to take action in the direction of eco-efficiency. Individualist countries, in contrast, encourage citizens to have “a greater sense of duty and self-empowerment,” which has proven to result in (for most, at least) “a greater tendency toward environmentally conscious behavior.” Interesting.

CO2 Emissions: Examining The Biggest Offenders

Let’s first take a look at China. According to Hofstede’s cultural scales, China scores high on power distance with a score of 80 out of 100. Authority is highly valued, and not shared among the people. With an individualism score of only 20, however, China is “a highly collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group and not necessarily of themselves.”

Comparing these dimensions to the United States, we find that the U.S. scores much lower on power distance with a score of only 40, and much higher on individualism, with a whopping 91 out of 100.

Bad City AirPerhaps China’s “lack of concern” about CO2 emissions is due to its citizens’ lack of self-empowerment because of the highly collectivist culture, and the U.S.’s lack of concern is due to its low power distance culture? It gets pretty fuzzy pretty quickly.

This information demonstrates the complexity of culture, especially as it relates to environmental practices. In these cases – observing China and the U.S. – it is difficult to make sense of Waas’s observations that countries scoring high on power distance and individualism displayed a “greater tendency toward environmentally conscious behavior.” The study examined the relationship between the emissions of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, and four aspects of culture. But, even those researchers had to acknowledge that “it is apparent that not all cultural variables affect countries uniformly.”

Blame It On Another Dimension

Another cultural dimension may help us explain the behavior of individuals toward the environment: indulgence versus restraint. This dimension has not been written about often, but when applied to issues like climate change, eco-efficiency and environmental sustainability, one can arguably make some pretty accurate predictions about how they correlate.

Indulgence vs. Restraint:

Hofstede defines indulgence as “a tendency to allow relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun.” This is the category under which the enormously inefficient, but shiny, gas-guzzling Cadillac Escalade might fall.

JeansThe Huffington Post published a list of 14 “little” indulgences that are harming the planet, including buying multiple pairs of jeans (each of which require about 3,000 liters of water to make!) as well as consuming and disposing of beauty products. Indulgent cultures tend to throw caution to the wind for the sake of immediate gratification – often to the detriment of our air, water and ozone.

Restraint, in contrast, is defined as “a conviction that such gratification needs to be curbed and regulated by strict social norms.” Restraint is precisely the cultural dimension that the Environment Protection Agency aims to enforce through its policies.

The bottom line is this: Dr. Hannah Rudman, business transformation and change management specialist, says “climate change is anthropogenic: human-made,” so humans are the ones that need to do their part to fix it.

Great News: The Tide Is Turning

In his preface, Hofstede alludes to our ability to culturally “re-program,” loosely comparing the human brain to a computer. This comparison is the basis of the book’s subtitle, “Software of the Mind.” Unlike computers, however, humans can unlearn certain patterns, and we have the ability to “deviate from [patterns] and to react in ways that are new, creative, destructive or unexpected.” Therefore, culture is something that continues to transform.

We can change. And this is awesome news.

In April 2016, leaders from over 160 countries got together in New York to sign a document created at a December 2015 meeting in Paris, pledging to slow down their country’s greenhouse gas emissions. China and the U.S. were in the room … so it appears the apathy is surely dissipating. China committed to plateauing or reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, and it pledged to have at least 20% of its energy come from non-fossil fuel sources by that time, as well. The U.S. also made promises such as committing to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 26-28% by 2025.

End Of The WorldThe current presidential election may hugely impact America’s ability to follow through on its promise, however. Apparently, political affiliation is another factor that impacts our eco-friendliness. A March 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 74% of U.S. adults said “the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment,” while 23% said  “the country has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment.” The same study revealed that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to feel that the government should do “whatever it takes” to protect the environment.

Generationally, the same story exists. We see things differently. American millennials are less likely than older generations to identify as environmentalists. The next year will be very telling.

How To Do Your Part

How can you do your part? The answer seems to be a combination of individual and collective awareness coupled with decisive action, which can range from small steps to huge commitments. Rudman says, “The window for averting climate change is narrow. If we want to choose our own path, not have one forced upon us, we need to take responsibility and act now.”

Here Are Some Ways For Everyone To Begin Taking Individual Responsibility:

BryantHomeAirExperts-infographic-reduce-5-16-16In the age of information, it’s so much easier to find a ton of suggestions for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Let’s pay attention, let’s talk about, and let’s do something. Oh, and let’s stop buying so many jeans.

 

Why Evaporating Coils Need to be Replaced

Why They Matter To Your HVAC System

Imagine your skin feeling pasty and moist from sweat, the air around it thick and hot. You’re thrilled that breathing is involuntary… otherwise, you might choose to reject air itself for its offensively torrid existence. It’s officially summer, and the strategically-placed high-powered fans can no longer measure up to what Mother Nature is brewing. Your city’s temperatures have hit a level that your spouse finally deems worthy of the ultimate relief… turning on the air conditioner.

Wife Telling Her Husband What To DoEven the thought of cool air sends a calming wave across your flushed face. Slowly, you rise from your chair, conscious of the fact that walking is now legitimately considered overexertion. You take one sluggish step after the next, after the next… until you reach the thermostat. In one subtle and powerful motion, you shift the indicator from its neutral “OFF” position, slightly left to “COOL.” And then you wait.

It usually takes a few moments for the familiar hum to begin. Your eyes are closed in anticipation. You decide that even if you don’t feel the cool air right away, you’re fine knowing that it’s on its way. You stand there, patiently inhaling and exhaling, feeling proud about the money your family has saved by outlasting your neighbors (on both sides). They’d turned their units on weeks ago. Suckers.

As the seconds tick on, you realize that nothing’s happening. Nothing. You look up at the vent, as if flowing air will show itself to you even as it remains silent. It doesn’t. And you know instinctively that something is wrong. You reach for the thermostat again. “Perhaps turning it off, then back on, will reset it somehow,” you think. It doesn’t. You walk outside, almost in a panic, and find yourself staring at your central air conditioning unit. Besides being a bit dusty, it looks fine to you. What you’re about to discover is a problem happening just beneath the surface.

What Causes Damage To The Evaporating Coils?

As summer approaches, heat and humidity tend to follow. Just like we get our vehicles winterized in preparation for the cooling weather, our air conditioning units must be checked to make certain their cooling functions are working properly. One of the most important components of an air conditioning system is the cooling coil (evaporator coil). Air conditioners remove hot air from inside your home through these coils, and the hot air is cooled by refrigerant that flows from liquid to gaseous form through the coils. If these parts don’t work, it can result in a sweltering, miserable time indoors.

Evaporating CoilsSo, what causes coils to break down? There are a lot of factors that impact the effectiveness of coils, and the wear and tear that takes place as a result.

Geography ::: Although the standard life expectancy of cooling coils is around twenty years, geography has a definite impact. Areas with higher amounts of moisture in the air require lower coil temperatures. If the coils are unable to condense the moisture, it can cause “high humidity, mold, and human discomfort,” according to a 2016 article published by The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration NEWS online.

Leaks ::: Over time, cooling coils can develop holes through which refrigerant will leak. This can be a health and environmental hazard, so it is important to quickly seal the leak or replace the coils altogether. Leaking refrigerant oil will leave noticeable stains at the point of the leakage. TO see the leakage, you would have to remove the panel covering the inner workings of the unit, which isn’t recommended unless you’re a professional.

Blockages ::: There are several things that can block the flow of air through the coils, including ice/frost, dirt, and debris. Ice can be the result of incorrect refrigerant charge in your unit, and it can quickly accumulate, blocking the flow of air. Mold can also grow in the coil, closing the opening through which air and coolant are supposed to flow freely. Technicians carry small air flow meters with them, and can measure this with accuracy if you are not sure.

How You Know There Is A Problem

Most people aren’t HVAC experts, so it can be difficult to tell whether or not your cooling coils are in good shape. There are several clues that let you know that there may be a problem with your coils, here are a few:

  • A/C is on, but warm air is blowing out through air vents
  • A/C continually shuts on and off without cooling
  • A/C makes strange sounds such as a banging or hissing
  • There are leaks near the indoor unit
  • A/C will not turn on at all

What To Do When Your A/C Unit Stops Working

HVAC TechIf you notice any of these signs, contact a professional HVAC technician immediately. Turning on a malfunctioning – or worse… non-functioning – air conditioning unit in the midst of a blazing hot -summer is an uncomfortable misfortune. The longer you wait for repair or replacement, the greater the damage. The greater the damage, the more expensive the solution. And the only thing worse than paying a lot of money to fix a problem that could have been avoided… is being really hot while doing it. It’s hard to remember how valuable an efficient air conditioning system is until you are in the middle of your own nature-made sauna. Check your unit today. Don’t wait.

The Dangers of R-22 : Clean Air Controversy

While most of us go about our daily lives entrenched in our own activities and personal anxieties, others have committed theirs to monitoring and regulating what could be a very real danger to planet Earth – one that reaches every corner touched by the sun. The danger is not exactly an Armageddon-type quandary. There’s no threat of an asteroid destroying us in a single collision. It’s more like the slow drip that eventually causes a roof to collapse.

The Danger Of Ozone Depletion

The danger to which we are referring is ozone depletion[1]. There are different layers surrounding the Earth’s atmosphere, including the troposphere in which nearly all human activity takes place (altitude of up to 6 miles), and the stratosphere which extends between 6 to 31 miles from the planet’s surface. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency[2] (EPA), the ozone is the layer of the stratosphere between about 9-18 miles from the Earth’s surface, and it “protects all life from the sun’s harmful radiation.”

Here’s the problem: While scientific researchers have discovered that the ozone layer[3] has historically depleted and recovered on its own, tests run during the 1970s revealed that “the ozone shield was being depleted well beyond natural processes,” allowing harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays to penetrate. The cause of the exponential increase in depletion? Human activity.

The ozone is like a protective force field, so its depletion means that higher amounts of UVB rays[4] from the sun have been able to penetrate. UVB rays have been linked to higher cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and cataracts in humans, as well as additional harm to plants and marine life. While the EPA has successfully phased out many of the most dangerous substances over the past few decades, there are several still in use today.

The Montreal Protocol

In response to the global increase in harmful ozone-depleting substances[5] (ODS), the United States joined a host of other countries at the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer[6], held in 1985. The Convention was the first of its kind, and the result was a signed multi-country agreement entitled The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer[7]. Finalized in 1987, the Montreal Protocol is a document that brings the countries of the world together under a singular purpose – to replenish the ozone layer by reducing the amounts of ozone depleting substances (ODS) in the earth’s atmosphere.

The Many Layers of the OzoneSince its inception, the Protocol has been adjusted to include different types of substances[8] targeted for elimination as scientists have made new discoveries through more robust research. Included among the culprits[9] are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs – eliminated by 1996), carbon tetrachloride (eliminated by 1996), halons (eliminated by 1994), methyl chloroform (eliminated by 1996), methyl bromide (eliminated by 2005), and others equally difficult to spell and pronounce. If all continues as planned, the EPA predicts that the ozone layer will be fully healed[10] around the mid-21st century.

Economic Impact From Phasing Out R-22

Few altruistic pursuits are without critics, and the governmental phase out of ODS is no exception. Not everyone is pleased with the way decisions have been made, as many manufacturers have come to rely on the very substances being wiped out. The next to be disposed of are Hydrochloroflorocarbons[11] (HCFC), the most popular of which is R-22 refrigerant[12]. R-22 is used by heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) companies, and it can be found in everything from air conditioners to freezers, to dehumidifiers, to heat pumps. By January 1, 2020, the EPA will no longer allow the production or importing of R-22, a decision that is causing the cost of its use to skyrocket.

FoxNews.com published an article in April[13] 2015 about the EPA’s phase out plans, citing business owners’ resistance to the changes because of the anticipated economic impact. In response to news that the rules associated with R-22 would be implemented as early as January 2016, Stephen Yurek, President an CEO of the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute said, “That [deadline] puts everyone in a difficult position, with manufacturers not knowing how to spend their resources and dollars.”

While the government’s efforts are certainly noble, some argue that it is difficult to keep up with what is acceptable… and what is not. The rules appear to change on a pretty consistent basis. The Montreal Protocol has had several amendments over the past 20+ years, leaving those required to comply with a feeling of being pushed around a bit. At the time that that Protocol was originally signed, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were presented as a safer alternative. Now, as the demand for HFCs has enormously risen, they have become the new environmental enemy. The EPA has estimated that commercial refrigeration is responsible for an approximate 32 percent of global HFC use, contributing over 1,430 times more damage to the earth’s climate than carbon dioxide.

Many businesses are feeling as though they have not been given enough time to adjust to the changes, and this scrambling may ultimately cause more harm than good. Serving as a sort of liaison between the EPA and the businesses impacted by its decisions, Chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, Rep. Kyle Whitfield, R-Ky., wrote a letter to the EPA, stating “I understand the consensus among the affected companies in the refrigeration, motor vehicle and insulation industries is that the proposed compliance requirement would cause considerable economic harm and job losses, and may increase rather then reduce safety for the American public.”

Some are attempting to profit off of companies’ and individuals’ needs for a cheaper refrigerant. On March 17, 2016, Michael Wagner of Metairie, LA[14] was arrested for selling tens of thousands of dollars worth of a product called “Super-Freeze 22A” through eBay, Amazon, and his own website. The refrigerant was unapproved by the FDA and contained propane, which could lead to fire or explosion if handled improperly. Wagner, knowing the financial woes faced by those who have long relied on R-22, offered his substitute for a lower cost, and successfully sold it to naïve customers between 2012 and 2016.

Alternatives to R-22

The EPA is trying to address the concerns of users of R-22 by offering alternatives. There are some approved environmentally-friendly substitutes being produced, including R410A[15], also called Puron[16], which is an HFC that emerged as a replacement for R-22 in the mid-1990s.

In a 2-page fact sheet[17] aimed at educating citizens on Title VI of the Clean Air Act[18], an amendment finalized in 1990, the EPA explicitly addresses the possibility for rising R-22 prices: “Even though there is no immediate need for change, [R-22] supply will decline over the next few years, and prices may rise. By asking your service technician to check for leaks and perform preventive maintenance, you can help keep your refrigerant emissions down and reduce the need to purchase additional [R-22].”

ToxicIndustry leaders like Jon Melchi, Vice President of Government Affairs and Business Development for Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI)[19], are doing their best to comply, even as they are painfully aware of the consequences of these changes. In a 2016 article[20] published by The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration NEWS[21], Melchi said “As the reduction of the R-22 supply continues, there becomes an increased likelihood for illegally imported or counterfeit refrigerant.”

Resistant Compliance

Ultimately, it seems that beneath the frustrated murmuring, there exists a collective agreement that this is for the best. HVAC professionals are spreading the word for people to educate themselves, get their units checked regularly, and do their best to remain ahead of the changes that are taking place. They’re communicating with each other, and sharing information as it comes available. “As the phaseout of R-22 progresses, it behooves contractors to strategically partner with their suppliers so that they have someone whom they know and trust to keep them informed of the market conditions and realities throughout the year,” says Stefanie Kopchick[22], North America Marketing Manager for Refrigerants at The Chemours Co[23].

Purse strings are being pulled, but few will argue against the claim that the end result will be to everyone’s benefit. We’d all like to continue enjoying our days in the sun.

Sources

[1]ozone depletion [2]Environmental Protection Agency [3]ozone layer [4]UVB rays [5]ozone-depleting substances [6]Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer [7]The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer [8]different types of substances [9]culprits [10]fully healed [11]Hydrochloroflorocarbons [12]R-22 refrigerant [13]article in April 2015 [14]Michael Wagner of Metairie, LA [15]R410A [16]Puron [17]2-page fact sheet [18]Title VI of the Clean Air Act [19](HARDI) [20]2016 article [21]The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration NEWS {22]Stefanie Kopchick [23]The Chemours Co