According to a study conducted by University College of London psychologist John Barry and the Harry’s razor company, of 5,000 men surveyed, the greatest predictor of male happiness (by a wide margin) is job satisfaction, and more specifically whether they feel they are making a difference to their company’s success. “Men at work are more likely to be men at ease with themselves. Everything else- contentment at home, in relationships and friendships- flows down from men being satisfied at work… men derive happiness not from traditional notions of power and strength, but from the typically quieter task of doing meaningful work and contributing to the communities around them.”
As someone who’s mental health did a 180 when I exited a job where I felt completely out of control into a role where I had significantly more autonomy and influence, I, and my wife, can attest to the fact it made me a better person, husband, and father.
What does all this have to do with climate change?
Industries likely to be targeted as the biggest contributors to climate change are the same industries disproportionately represented by men. The following data is from the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics for 2018.
⦁ Petroleum and Coal products manufacturing – 84%
⦁ Mining – 86%
⦁ Construction – 90%
⦁ Manufacturing – 71%
⦁ Transportation – 75%
Any strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has to contend with the fact it is an attack on the gainful employment of men and their happiness and well-being.
It doesn’t particularly matter how compelling the science is. The sales pitch sucks. It says to men in these industries that their work effort isn’t valued, that they are destroying the planet, and they are the problem. These same men are proud husbands, fathers, brothers and sons looking to provide for their families and build something with their hands. The technology people use to articulate their concerns about the changing climate couldn’t be built without the products of these industries. Is it any surprise they deny climate change exists? If you have a narrow, non-transferable skill set and you are put out of work, climate change measures put your very survival at stake. And because work, more than anything else, injects meaning into the lives of men, solutions like a Universal Basic Income are an unattractive alternative.
If the world hopes to get any traction on climate change, the narrative has to move in a different direction. Now, in my opinion, catastrophic climate change is a tremendous threat to employment and business profitability in the long run. It’s not a problem that can be ignored outright. But it’s not a burden that can be foisted a single cohort of the population either. Any credible strategy has to have an answer to the social unrest displacing millions of men from their jobs will have on a nation.
Human ingenuity knows few bounds. Give individuals an opportunity to punch scarcity in the face and show how they can produce the same amount as they do today with less emissions, and you’ll see tremendous innovation. The narrative needs to shift to asking the employees of these industries for their opinions on combating pollution. What would they do differently if one of the conditions for a successful outcome was no harm to jobs in their industry? As it stands today, men in these industries are alienated from the conversation. And they’re rightfully angry.
The climate change issue I discuss above is a microcosm of the Us versus Them tribalism that has characterized the last few years. Tribalism is a disastrous recipe for progress. A starting point would be to talk less, and ask more questions instead. If diversity matters, then the perspectives of the ‘Them’ matters just as much as the perspectives of ‘Us’. I’m confident that if we can come together as humans, we can defeat the gravest of problems, climate change being no different than the rest.