Among Bloggers, a Gender Gap on Peak Oil?
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
That's the question raised by National Post columnist Vanessa Farquharson. While male writers and bloggers focus on a Pandora's box of looming catastrophe, a storyline that likely leads to a sense of fatalism, female writers and bloggers focus more on practical adaptation and mitigation strategies that citizens can start doing today:
"...It's interesting to note that, for whatever reason, most of the voices behind this apocalyptic panic are male. But a growing collective of female bloggers are now writing about peak oil, more often in the context of how many strawberries we should dehydrate in order to be prepared for a crisis, and whether or not stocking up on brown rice is considered hoarding...
...Astyk [a female blogger] believes that if we keep focusing on predictions, models and hypotheses about peak oil, we're missing the point.
"Simply learning that we're in the midst of something very difficult is not the end of it," she says. "Learning about peak oil doesn't stop with 'We're doomed.' We're not doomed -- we're just facing very difficult times, and the way we face them will determine whether they're just hard or disastrous for us. There's an enormous amount of mitigation we can do, both on the community level and at the political level."
After expressing these sentiments on her blog, Astyk's readers responded in droves. One of them, Deanna Duke, ended up writing her own post about the topic on Crunchy Chicken, a green blog with a mostly female readership.
"Why does it seem like there's a strong gender difference in how people react to the coming energy crisis?" she asked. "I've heard many complaints [from readers] about the whole prediction that peak oil equals social and economic Armageddon ... But of the women writing about peak oil, the predictions are more metered and the conversation mostly revolves around preparation.
"I find it similar in concept to that whole 'nesting' period right before a woman gives birth," she adds. "It's like, instinctually, women know some trauma is coming and need to prepare by making the home comfortable and clean and storing up food and supplies. Nothing panicky, just getting things done."
What do readers think? Are men more likely to focus on catastrophe while women more likely to emphasize practical things that citizens can do to cope with the problem?
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