Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Death of Environmentalism (2)

Right in the early days of this blog, I wrote about 'The Death of Environmentalism' by Michael Shellenburger and Ted Norhaus. a 2004 essay by a pair of US strategists and organizers , based on interviews with 25 leaders in the mainstream environmental movement.

Grist reported: 'The paper...argues that environmentalism is ill-equipped to face the massive global challenges of our day, particularly climate change.The movement has become a relic and a failure, the authors say, coasting on decades-old successes, bereft of new ideas, made fat and complacent by easy funding, narrowly defining "environmental" problems, and relying almost exclusively on short-sighted technical solutions. Mainstream green organizations' varied legislative and legal victories -- and their cumulative membership rolls of some 10 million-plus - don't cut it for S&N. These achievements, they claim, take place against the backdrop of a broader failure to offer the American people an expansive, inspiring, values-based vision. They conclude that the environmental movement should meet its re-maker, as it were, and give way to a more cohesive, coordinated, and ambitious progressive movement.’

See: Don't Fear The Reapers - Grist's on-going debate on this subject.

In a related development:

Painting the Town Green [published 16 January 2006} is the report of the Green-Engage project, set up with the backing of WWF, Transport 2000, Friends of the Earth, Sustain and Green-Alliance, and drawing on the the views, ideas and vision of around 60 key thinkers in environmental policy, campaigns and communication. It aims to create a blueprint for the ‘green movement’ in the widest sense to more effectively help and persuade people to adopt environmentally friendly behaviours.

It argues that public participation is essential if as a nation we are to meet our environmental objectives and it recommends deep changes in how the wider green movement communicates in order to achieve public behaviour change across 13 lifestyle areas, including transport, holidays and leisure, energy use, waste and recycling, food and water use.

Chief among the recommendations are:
- a move away from what is essentially exhortation to engagement on equal terms
-a halt to scare and guilt tactics
-the articulation of a positive vision for the future that’s desirable and realistic
- movement from a reliance on detailed information towards a real attempt to connect with people’s values, emotions and desires
- a focus on communication with people in ways that work for them rather than for the communicator
- new attempts to involve public role models and produce ‘soft messaging’ particularly through television;
- movement towards green living ‘on a plate’ where people can access green advice and services easily, cheaply and without fuss
- a shift in modus operandi for non-governmental organisations towards co-operation with decision makers and away from external campaigning and even public harassment
- the introduction of a national network of green ‘demonstration houses’ run by local authorities.

Stephen Hounsham, who researched and wrote the report and is also Communications Manager at Transport 2000, said:

“The public are crucial in the work of the green movement but we’ve a lot to learn in terms of how to engage with them. Indeed we sometimes tend to follow the Dad’s Army approach to changing lifestyles. It’s an unattractive combination of disaster prediction (Private Fraser’s ‘We’re all doomed!’), supercilious criticism (Sergeant Wilson’s ‘Do you really think that’s wise?’) and condemnation (Captain Mainwaring’s ‘You stupid boy!’). And what response do we often get? Yes, Warden Hodges said it: ‘Oi Napoleon! Who do you think you are?’

“Painting the Town Green represents a meeting point of public education, campaigning, psychology and creative marketing. It shows that with new approaches and a degree of imagination, the green movement could have much greater success in promoting environmentally friendly behaviours in all areas of life.

Painting the Town Green is available as a 148-page printed report at £20 post-free or as a pdf file, price £10, from Sales, Transport 2000, The Impact Centre, 12-18 Hoxton Street, London N1 6NG (cheques payable to Transport 2000). Credit and debit card holders can call 020 7613 0743 for immediate delivery or order online from the bookshop at www.transport2000.org For further information contact Stephen Hounsham, Co-ordinator of Green-Engage, on 020 7613 7716 or 07984 773468.

See also: Article on the report - 'The Art of Persuasion' by David Adam (The Guardian 25.1.06)

WORTH READING: 'It's capitalism or a habitable planet - you can't have both' by Robert Newman.
It begins: 'There is no meangful response to climate change without massive social change.'

No comments: