Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Climate policy prospects and politeness

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-05-25

The success or failure of politics in the face of climate change can be guessed at by visiting any major railway station, and observe not the quality of the infrastructure, but the actions of people.

In Australia, at least, it doesn’t look good.

We know that it isn’t going to be easy to get people to act (especially vote) responsibly in the face of climate change – because it requires people to curtail their guilty carbon pleasures for the common good.

But what are the chances of useful changes when people won’t act in ways that serve themselves in the short term, as well as everybody else?

Have you tried getting off a train at a major railway station lately?  Apart from a few people, most of those wanting to board the train crowd around the doorways, preventing passengers from getting off the train.

Why does this happen?  I cannot figure out why people do this, when trying to do this actually slows everyone down, including themselves.

If we lack the sense and courtesy that in this instance provides greater immediate convenience, then there is no hope that we will be able to be more responsible when the payoff is much later.


3 Responses to “Climate policy prospects and politeness”

  1. Jacques Chester said

    In Perth they form two mobs on either side of the door markings on the platform, leaving a space about two shoulder-widths.

    Occasionally someone breaks this emergent social order and stands in the “empty” space, thus forcing everyone leaving the train to bunch up through a bottleneck one shoulder-width wide.

    Whenever I see this happening, I ask them if they can step back. They almost always do.

  2. Dave Bath said

    JC@1: lucky you. Perhaps some sociologist can see if there is an inverse, inverse square or whatever relationshid between population of a town v proportion of those who wait. Personally, i’d reckon above 40k and it goes downhill fast. Country comparisons would be interesting, esp correlated to crime, litter, etc.

  3. Jacques Chester said

    I suspect it’s more down to the dumb luck of local custom. In Perth the custom is to stand clear, new people see everyone standing clear, and so they act the same.

    Tradition is a lot like standing waves in a fluid. The individual particles may have their own chaotic ends, but they follow the same basic path.

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