I am a scholar in Rhetoric, at the moment doing a research project on how citizens justify their climate non-action. This of course makes me unable to justify my own flying. In a pilot survey the most frequent situation where the informant report they acted against their own knowledge has to do with flying. The most common way of justifying it was by an idea of an environmental account. A simple example could be the person who bikes to work, meticulously recycles her waste and confesses to sustainable ideals, but goes on long journeys to Asia, and then legitimizes the journey with his biking and recycling. Climate friendly action is seen as “savings” and climate sins as “withdrawals”. The currency is on one side sacrifice and on the other satisfaction. An alternative currency could have been GHG emissions, but that would have cracked the logic, since it would take several years to recycle equivalent to the desired journey. My idea is that such legitimation structures, which we call topoi within Rhetoric, need to be understood, made visible and problematized. They also need to be addressed in climate development work.
My research is in rhetorical argumentation theory and more specifically the aristotelian teaching of topoi. The last year I have focused on how higher education can support the development of critical self-reflection in multifaceted and value-laden issues such as climate development.