Social Tipping Points

Global Tipping Points is a climate research project led by Professor Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute.  The Global Tipping Points Report was launched during COP28. This report expands our understanding about the interdependence of social systems and Earth-systems. A social tipping point could impact an Earth-systems tipping point. More specifically, the report identifies anomie as a negative social tipping point. Let me pull out some key points from the report.

What are tipping points? When an earth-system tipping point occurs, an earth-system system becomes self-perpetuating beyond a threshold, leading to substantial, widespread,  frequently abrupt and often irreversible impact (Lenton et al., 2023).

What is a social tipping point?  According to Spaiser et al (2023), it refers to “a critical thresholds in a social system at which a small change can trigger a significant and often irreversible phase transition in the social system because of self-amplifying, non-linear feedback(s) within the social system. Social tipping points can be both positive (beneficial to humans) and negative. Anomie is identified as a social tipping point that could exacerbate the risk of earth-system tipping points (Spaiser et al, 2023).  

What is anomie?  The concept of anomie was theorized by Durkheim (1893), who describes anomie as the breakdown of norms and social order, that manifests in suicide patterns. Spaiser et al (2023 ) define anomie as a state of a society or community that is characterised by a breakdown of social norms, social ties and social reality, resulting in social disorder and disconnection manifesting as mental health deterioration, increased suicide rates, and/or increased deviant behaviour.

The term environmental anomie refers to the disorientation of a society or community after sudden changes to landscapes from a severe weather event. Some people may experience loss of capacity to comprehend and function in their environment. There is evidence that anomic experiences are affecting young people and children, contributing to a mental health crisis.

You can read the report at this link: Next week I will write about the emerging field of Climate Psychology and its contribution to therapeutic interventions for climate despair and anxiety.

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