Glass ceilings or the great glass elevator?

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.

Ian PrestonGlass ceilings or the great glass elevator?


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  • Jon - July 7, 2009 reply

    Abraham Lincoln once said: “With public sentiment, anything is possible. Without it, nothing is possible. Therefore he who shapes and moulds public sentiment enacts far more than any statesman.”
    Not sure government is a good place to look for leadership…

  • Ian Preston - July 7, 2009 reply

    It most certainly isn’t. I was on a panel at a recent breakfast meeting at the Houses of Parliament & the Labour MP representing the Government said the proposed Private Members Bill on Fuel Poverty was too ambitious. If achieving their fuel poverty targets is too ambitious (some 5 million households), I dread to think what the climate change targets for the other 25 million are!

    So we definitely need to create the political space for this ambition, perhaps the anger the public recently aimed at our politicians can in someway be harnessed to make them deliver on their promises?

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