This blog was originally posted at Identity Campaigning.
Currently environmental and affluent identities share little common ground, with the later being predominantly driven by product, brand and consumption. For me there are two overarching possibilities for societal / identity change:
1. Government led change – the Government puts climate change and emissions at the heart of every single decision and policy across all departments (currently only DECC has this as a Public Service Agreement target). This creates the fertile bed for messaging and space to reframe values etc. i.e. no new runways sending out mixed messages.
2. Community inspired change – NGOs, third sector, charities etc. work with local community groups to create embedded behavioural change across all strands of sustainability (small steps to long journey) i.e. building on the Transition network, Ashton Hayes, Low Carbon West Oxford and many other exciting local projects.
A recent review of best practice for community action on climate change has highlighted the potential for community led initiatives to create embedded behavioural change across several strands of sustainability (i.e. energy use in the home, transport, recycling, and food). These projects help create local heroes, new social narratives and inspire others to act. However, local community projects may themselves face a glass ceiling of identity i.e. it will be hard for them to move beyond the aligned greens to the unengaged consumption-focussed. Political leadership and a commitment to resource our climate change targets are therefore a fundamental requirement for societal / identity change.
It’s argued that community led initiatives and campaigns help create the political space required for a significant shift in policy i.e. enabling Government to make brave and unpopular decisions. However, if a glass ceiling of identity truly exists for community led initiatives then I doubt they will make the leap from the predominantly middle class environmental movement to the wider population i.e. the unengaged consumption focussed.
After long deliberation I think we can change values and identities, but we need a political commitment that exceeds rhetoric and targets to do so i.e. consistency and delivery.