Navigating an uncertain future: SFU researcher explores how society copes with challenges
Human geographer Geoff Mann won a 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship in support of his work on the politics of climate change. A professor in Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Environment, Dr. Mann is exploring the uncertainty that we face today, especially around climate change, and how our attempts to manage that uncertainty – politically, economically, institutionally and culturally – are changing.
“I’m really interested in what at the broadest level you might call the problem of uncertainty. We’re in this moment, especially with the problem of climate change, where the future seems less and less manageable, and the past seems a less and less helpful set of tools to address it because the future is increasingly unlike anything we’ve experienced before.”
Dr. Mann is examining the way that economists, policymakers, scientists and politicians are trying to cope with this uncertainty. He thinks that much of the “far right reactionary” sentiment is driven by a desire to stop time, to return to a place that was more comfortable for some.
“I’m interested in capitalism,” he says, “the theory of it, the history of it, the politics, the economics. And lately that has turned to the problem of the relationship between capitalism and climate change and the way that we’re trying to use economic thinking as a way to manage or produce policy to confront the problem of climate change.
“I’m pretty big critic of the role of some climate economics in that I think it’s actually functioning as a kind of a palliative,” he adds. “It’s making us feel a lot less worried than we should be and suggests to us that we have answers that are actually nowhere near powerful enough to address the problem.”
In recent years, Dr. Mann has been writing in the popular press about what he sees as standard economic approaches to everything from inequality to monetary policy and climate change. With support from the Guggenheim Fellowship, he’ll be working on a new book about society’s frustrated attempts to manage the uncertainty of the moment.