Solitaire’s skin crawls at identity campaigning

This blog was originally posted on Identity Campaigning.

Solitaire Townsend, Director of Futerra ‘Sustainability Communications’, writes:

The notion of changing the audience rather than the message is at the heart of the ‘identity campaigning’ concept led by WWF. Identity campaigning argues that we shouldn’t accept the basic psychology of our audience – but seek to change it.

This means re-programming people’s values away from consumption, status and selfish desires and towards collective awareness and a closer relationship with our place in the natural world. Actually this drives us bonkers, especially because implicit is the message ‘if only everyone else thought and acted like us everything would be okay’.

That makes our skin crawl a bit, and we know the majority public audience hates environmental worthies suggesting there’s not only something wrong with their footprint: there’s something wrong with their personality.


Unfortunately, Soli, like it or not, the message does, inescapably, change the audience. Every effective politician knows it (Thatcher – “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul”) every marketer knows it (“we shape culture”).


Also unfortunately, today’s dominant messages (to which you do your best to add) change the audience in the wrong way. For example, being bombarded by 5000 advertisements a day – often without any choice in whether or not I see them – changes the way I think, and what I value. This leaves me caring less about other people, and less about our environment. And you’d use the same techniques – further embedding those values – to ‘sell’ green living.



There’s a war about values going on, and you are on the wrong side.

Tom CromptonSolitaire’s skin crawls at identity campaigning


Join the conversation
  • Renee Lertzman - December 12, 2009 reply

    Interesting. I actually do not feel what appealing to particular values which may not currently be supported- through cultural practices, etc- is the same as changing the audience. I guess my view is that it is about appealing to values which are already there- but may need to be encouraged, coaxed, supported and invited in as pleasurable a way as possible. What this work is about is at least acknowledging the fundamental split- or contradiction, disavowal, however you put it – that lies at the heart of green marketing, that encourages people to swap their consumption habits to green products. In this sense it seems more honest, and therefore more respectful. I don’t argue whatsoever the fastest and more efficient ways to effect change at the moment is to swap over different materials without addressing the values underlying them. Naturally this makes sense; no real change has to take place. It’s “painless”. This does get results. But I think we need to stop this either-or mode of discussion. Can these approaches be complementary… I think they can.

    In my own work I am exploring how we can access and touch into these impulses which are arguably there. That is, capacities for concern and the desire and indeed pleasure, in participating in change. Unfortunately the way most people can effect change these days, is through buying one product or another.

  • Graham Game - December 12, 2009 reply

    Soli is absolutely spot on. I’ve been active in the green movement for decades, & I often despair at the basic ignorance & gross arrogance many ‘environmentalists’ display with their ‘Be like me’ campaigns. Wake up people, wer’e losing the war here & it’s OUR fault – not ‘climategate’. Talk to ordinary folks in the pubs, hairdressers, shops etc., & you will find that climate change skepticism is now the default – why? because ‘we’ have failed to take people with us.

  • Tom - December 12, 2009 reply

    Hi Graham.

    Well if that was all Soli was saying, I’d agree with her, of course.

    Climate change isn’t an ‘environmental’ problem – as ‘environment’ is usually construed. And the ‘environment’ can’t be birds and trees ‘out there’. To the extent that it is currently seen as an ‘environmental’ problem, I agree that this is very problematic.

    But is our only hope therefore to engage your “folks in the pubs, hairdressers, shops etc.” by appealing to – and reinforcing – their consumer identities, as Soli advocates?

    Or do we rather appeal to other aspects of people’s identities? That is, aspects of identity that actually offer some hope of building a more durable and systemic concern about a range of ‘bigger-than-self’ problems (including problems currently seen as ‘environmental’)?

    From what I’ve seen of your work, you are only too aware of the limitations of green consumerism?


  • Graham Game - December 12, 2009 reply

    In truth Tom, we probably need a bit of both. But I really do feel, as I have said, that we need to go to where people are. I deliberately don’t work much with environmentalists any more – on these difficult climate issues psychologists are better equipped to advise us on how to change attitudes & behaviours. Soli, Ed & the Futerra people recognised this some time ago, & that is reflected in much of their work. We have reached a watershed this last few weeks – business as usual is not an option. Maybe we should organise a conference / event soon to thrash these ideas out?

  • Renee Lertzman - December 13, 2009 reply

    Let me be a bit more clear in my comment.
    Addressing people ‘where they are’ is compelling and a short-term approach to shifting the tides in the direction we want.
    However, by appealing to values underlying current status-quo ways of being, we are essentially glossing over the uncomfortable and inevitable confrontation with what led us here in the first place.
    This is not a minor point; rather, it’s a fundamental point. It is a misinterpretation of the work of Identity Campaigning and Tom’s efforts to equate this with the slow, slog of trying to shift people’s fundamental values. We all know value changes take often generations to shift.
    However, what I believe this work IS about is tapping into values that are present, and yet may be dormant. It is about speaking truth to the way in which a consumptive lifestyle is often escapist and based on erroneous worldviews that place humans and nature at odds, or otherwise disassociates from the fact our goods come at the expense of others, human and nonhuman alike.
    My point is that we need both views; and to present them as antithetical is not constructive. However, I take issue with Graham’s comment; it is not about the either-or of ideological evangelism of some environmentalists or going with the green consumption game. These issues are more nuanced than this. If we neglect to draw out and foster values that will inform deeply ecological behaviour, we are truly barking up the wrong tree. As I said before we need all approaches, all the time.

  • Joe Brewer - December 13, 2009 reply

    I am really glad to see this debate starting to unfold here. We all owe Tom a considerable debt for taking so much care to lay out how fundamental identities shape environmental (and all other kinds of) behavior.

    At the same time, there is a need to clarify and unpack more of what we’re talking about with Identity Campaigning because there remain many deep misunderstandings of what Tom and I are advocating for.

    First off, we are NOT suggesting that people should be manipulated with invasive tactics that “get under their skin” and change their values. That kind of tactics are far too pervasive today. Our work on Identity Campaigns seeks to replace such deplorable tactics with a framework that promotes authentic communication while getting at root causes of environmental and other societal problems.

    So what we argue FOR is the recognition that social institutions influence and perpetuate the values people express in their attitudes and behaviors. Adam Curtis’ documentary series, The Century of the Self, presents an in-depth expose of how manipulative tactics have been used to promote habitual consumption across society. The basic truth of this phenomenon is well documented in fields as disparate as media studies, communications, psychology, sociology, and linguistics.

    Building on this insight, we are advocating for campaigns directed at social change (which includes environmental campaigns and efforts in many other issue areas) that recognize the deep aspects of identity that shape how people think, feel, and act. Current campaigns remain mostly at the surface and fail to engage the value-systems, moral worldviews, pro-social tendencies, and cultural narratives that are part of the “culture wars” in political discourse.

    For example, most Democrats in the U.S. attempt to present facts and arguments to convince the populace while their opposition has laid the groundwork through many decades of strategic investments and communications to undermine the morality of political liberals. As a result, the arguments are perceived as coming from politicians thought to be unpatriotic, immoral, untrustworthy, and in some cases downright evil. Facts and graphs don’t get very far when deep level attacks are waged against people at the level of moral identity.

    We are advocating for the antidote to this kind of vitriolic attacks. We are also advocating for the recognition that core values and identity are enmeshed in the environmental debate and need to be recognized for the vital roles they play in keeping people from shifting their behaviors on scales sufficient to address the major challenges of the 21st Century.

  • Jon Alexander - December 13, 2009 reply

    I’m not sure I see this as a war about values. I tend to see this in a similar way to Renee, and to David Taylor who has commented on the Futerra blog. The approach outlined in Soli’s report – of painting a positive vision of the future – may well be a valid one. But a few important points:
    1) As David Taylor aptly points out, Soli has completely misrepresented identity campaigning by saying glibly that it implies a critique of people’s personalities. It’s great that he’s done such a good job of this in the first comment on that blog.
    2) Starting from where people are doesn’t have to mean accepting consumerism; as Soli’s mentor Jonathon Porritt has repeatedly pointed out, we need to consume less, not just different. So while the approach Futerra advocate (envisioning a positive future) is probably a pretty good one, we shouldn’t shy away from asking deeper questions. A vision of a positive future doesn’t have to be consumerist to start from where people are. People want to be happy, they want to have meaning in their lives… that is where we all are, and where we can all start from. Graham, you saw my presentation at the Wilderness Foundation gig – I think this would be consistent with starting from where people are?
    3) Infighting is probably the least helpful thing we can all do. We are all trying to achieve the same end, so just because Soli feels the need to pull other approaches through the dirt in order to make a pitch for her own, there should be no need to respond in kind.

  • Rosemary Randall - December 13, 2009 reply

    I’m with Renee on this one. None of us are consistent, rational, unitary characters. Most people’s values contain contradictory and inconsistent views. If you engage more deeply with the hairdressers and the blokes in pubs you will find that like most of us they are pulled in several directions and that it sometimes requires support and confidence before they will speak from the part of themselves that is uncertain or unhappy about consumerism – that’s the power of the dominant culture. Helping people get in touch with the best of themselves rather than the worst is important. We can do it through outreach work in the communities we are part of, but it also requires leadership – at all levels of society – that makes clear that this is an issue about justice, fairness, morality and the kind of society we want to live in.Identity is not fixed, but it is fragile, and without both leadership that inspires confidence and support that rewards action, we are unlikely to make much progress.
    It’s tempting to break down into infighting about whose approach is the right one. It’s usually a sign that people are under more stress and are more anxious than usual when you start to attack your friends rather than those you oppose. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that this has erupted during the period of the Copenhagen negotiations, when so much is at stake.

  • Jon Alexander - December 13, 2009 reply

    One last thing I meant to say… the idea that any human being is essentially, at the deepest part of her personality, to be defined as a consumer, is the only thing in all this that makes my skin crawl!! I don’t think anyone, of any demographic, looks into the crib at their newborn and thinks, “I hope he’ll grow to be a good consumer”…! If that is truly where we’re starting from, I think I might give up now!

  • Graham Game - December 13, 2009 reply

    Renee – I hear what you say about values & deep ecology & I consider myself an ardent ‘deep ecologist’ but with climate change such an pressing issue, I worry that we just don’t have the time to tease out these deeper values. Anyway, if we do, how do you think we can do it? Fascinating debate by the way!

  • Joe Brewer - December 13, 2009 reply

    I agree with Jon that we need to advance frames that promote cooperation and mutual understanding. The tactic (used by Soli) that paints various other projects with straw men and then criticizes them based on the misrepresentations these straw men symbolize is not the way to (a) look for synergies with potential partners, or (b) design a coherent set of solutions for the deep challenges we all face.

    As a process comment, I’ve noticed a particular frame that often comes up in our discussions here that might be worth unpacking a bit for our own clarity. The chicken vs. egg debate around whether to create new values or engage existing values seems to keep emerging in one form or other. I tend to think of this in the same way the nature-nurture debate continued in academic circles for years after it was actually resolved… by a transcendent understanding that human development is a combination and integration of innate and learned that is mischaracterized by the creation of distinct categories for reasoning about development. This kind of frame effect, the tendency to reason within concepts that assert particular structures to one’s interpretations of the world, is going to happen in every conversation – including this one.

    To ameliorate the influence of such frame effects, we can be more clear that we all tend to agree that there exist cultural values and narratives that can be engaged at a deep level. We can also agree that some of these values and narratives lead to harmful outcomes for society. And we can agree that some key ideas and values may be largely absent from social discourse such that they need to be introduced effectively as we go through the difficult transitions that lie ahead.

    All of this is just a long-winded way of saying that I agree with all the comments about needing to both (a) engage people where they are and (b) apply communication strategies that strengthen the expression of existing values and frames so that shifts in deeper cultural narratives emerge over time.

    One example is the way markets are thought about. If we continue to allow notions of “rugged individualism” to shape our understandings of markets (which leads to the tendency to overlook the vital role of public infrastructure and other key commons that allow people to increase personal wealth), then we place our views about the positive role of effective government and adequately structured markets in a weaker position.

    This is about more than just engaging current understandings of markets and evoking them. It goes deeper to questions about what it means to be a good person (e.g., responsible citizen? hard working individual? some combination of these? etc.) and what it means to be a prosperous society. Questions like these are about the deep sense of identity that shapes how people understand themselves and the larger communities they participate in. How we answer such questions will have significant consequences in the way we manage the great challenges confronting us. (And the ways we’ve gone about campaigning in the past all-too-often don’t go deep enough to bring such questions to light).

    Excellent discussion!

  • Jon Alexander - December 13, 2009 reply

    Graham – I’ve just finished reading Arne Naess’ ‘Ecology, Community and Lifestyle’ and I’d highly recommend it. He talks a lot about time. Paraphrasing one thing that stuck very firm in my mind, “One should never redefine the problem in order to make an easier solution acceptable.” Slightly Obi Wan Kenobi I admit, but perhaps a useful one to mull…

  • Peter Lipman - December 13, 2009 reply

    Renee – could you clarify what you mean when you say “My point is that we need both views; and to present them as antithetical is not constructive” and then “As I said before we need all approaches, all the time”?
    While I’d agree that its very useful to look for common ground and to avoid falling into good/bad, right/wrong analyses, in this case it seems to me that there’s a fundamental and crucial distinction between the identity campaigning approach and that advocated by Soli. Wouldn’t trying to use both simply risk them cancelling each other out?

  • Tom Crompton - December 13, 2009 reply

    Many of the comments above are quite right to be so concilatory. There is so much here that we agree on:

    (i) The need to get out of an environment box – Nordhaus and Shellenberger got this right in ‘Death of Environmentalism’ (even if they were wrong on so much else).

    (ii) The need for a positive and inspiring vision of the future, while avoiding the trap of naive feel-goodism.

    (iii) The need to meet people where they are and journey with them, and to work with aspects of their existing identities in doing so – this is so not about moulding people in the image of environmentalists!

    These things are key to identity campaigning, and we have failed to communicate the essence of identity campaigning to anyone who thinks otherwise.

    But… Peter is dead right in the comment above this one. There is a crucial difference that can’t be papered over.

    The extensive evidence that identity campaigning draws together from psychology research makes it clear that campaigns for ‘green consumerism’ are likely to contribute to undermining the emergence of systemic concern about ‘bigger-than-self’ problems – like climate change (or, for that matter, world poverty or racism).

    However concilatory we might seek to be, there is no ducking this.

    Tim Kasser calls this the ‘iatrogenic’ impact of campaigning for green consumerism solutions – you think you’re helping to fix the problem, but you are inadvertently making it worse.

  • Joe Brewer - December 13, 2009 reply

    Thanks, Tom, for bringing up the iatrogenic effect. This is critically important and central to our discussion.

    We really have our work cut out for us because we need to both engage the core identities people have at the level of values and narrative self while avoiding unintended harmful consequences. One critical component of this (out of many) is the way our brains learn to match and activate patterns from the lived experience.

    The experiences people have through advocacy campaigns will contribute to how they understand both how the world works and what is appropriate for them to do in it. This means we need to take care that we understand which values we are promoting and what the societal implications of those values are if they were strengthened in the world.

  • Ciaran Mundy - December 14, 2009 reply

    “Meet people where they are” Is this what we have to do? I hear this a lot. Typically the assumption in this, and critically when it relates to the comments by Soli on her blog about Identity Campaigning, is that we are largely selfish individualistic, materially driven etc.

    As pointed out well in the discussion here, of course these are aspects of human nature, all too well elicited on a daily bases in our consumer culture.
    BUT other deep seated desires to belong to community of which we are a valuable member, be considered a good and trusted person, desire to be close to nature etc. there are so many ‘ways to be’ with a host of subconscious associations. I am convinced that it is the role of the environmental movement to be eliciting behavioural change through these aspects of nature and avoid as much as possible promoting those aspects of our nature already overplayed by constant barrage of advertising and many political messages too.

    Positive future visions can be powerful and helpful as part of an engagement. This is unfortunately conflated in Soli’s comment with appealing to particular aspects of human nature. Such visioning can be most powerfully used to allow people to get in touch with and express aspects of their nature currently smothered by the anxiety of consumerism.

    It is not the job of environmentalism to sell slightly greener stuff (although it may help an individual campaign hit certain targets), all those commercial entities will continue to do that in may sophisticated ways. It’s our job to give strength and space to other aspects of human nature so we stand a chance of making the changes we need to lessen the destruction of life and other cultures, and hopefully survive.

  • Tom Crompton - December 14, 2009 reply

    Over at Soli makes two substantive objections:

    (1) Shifting values takes too long
    (2) Identity campaigning entails evangelical environmentalism

    The second objection arises from a misconception, which hopefully reading of other responses on this blog will nail. Identity campaigning is an outright rejection of the idea that problems like climate change can be fixed by environmentalists. It calls for far wider cross-sectoral coalitions.

    The first objection is a real concern, of course. My response is several-fold:

    (a) How long will a reliance upon appeals for greener forms of consumerism take to reduce material resource demand to a sustainable level? There are compelling arguments of course, that it can’t. Ever. But these arguments may be wrong, and a green consumerism approach must bank on the hope that they are. It would be interesting to know the basis of your rejection of those arguments, Soli.

    (b) Who says dominant societal values can’t shift fast? There are lots of cases where they have. Consider, for example, the impact of the introduction of TV on Fijians’ idea of beauty (something that’s pretty fundamental to our self-identity). In just two or three years the social preference for ‘robust’ bodies in both men and women was shifted, with associated and widespread outbreaks of eating disorders.

    (c) Dominant societal values don’t shift in a neat incremental way. They can shift very rapidly when the external context changes – as it is. The best thing we can do is to help to cut the channels in which public debate will come to flow when change is happening fast, such that debate moves in a helpful direction.

    (d) We are in for a rocky ride whatever happens. I’d prefer to be going forward while promoting a set of values which offer the best hope of humane and compassionate responses to the challenges we confront.

    But Soli, I really think you need to confront the fundamental objection we are levelling at the green consumerism approach: that it serves to embed a set of values which are shown, empirically, to be associated with less concern about other people and the environment. Do you disagree with this?

  • Jon Alexander - December 14, 2009 reply

    This question of time does raise an interesting point for me… what could be delivered by way of an identity campaign that seems a positive, constructive, tangible contribution? What do we stand for rather than stand against?

    The experience of Friends of the Earth with the Big Ask campaign is interesting on this front. It was by some distance their most successful ever campaign, I would argue because it asked for something to be created, rather than for something to be destroyed. And it happened fast.

    Herein perhaps lies the kernel of truth in Soli’s proposal that we should listen to – a positive effort to build the new paradigm isn’t something we’ve been very good at; most of our work has been directed at pulling apart things that are in existence. Of course, her painting of consumerism as human nature is pathetic and totally destructive, but seeing past that, what positive actions could we take?

    Could we, for example, create a campaign to give nature equal rights to corporations? Could we put our weight behind existing campaigns for the introduction of mandatory public service (Demos), or a new national holiday devoted to civic participation and consultation (Deliberation Day campaign in the USA)?

    Might any or all of these take identity campaigning out of the theoretical realm and make it a more attractive, proactive and practical proposition?

  • Graham Game - December 14, 2009 reply

    Mandatory public Service?? Jon now you have really lost the plot!!

  • tim kasser - December 14, 2009 reply

    What makes my skin crawl is the billions of dollars of advertising messages and the thousands of governmental policies that are designed to promote materialistic values. Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that people exist in some societal vacuum that doesn’t encourage any type of values at all. People are bombarded daily with thousands of carefully crafted messages that encourage them to consume and to believe that economic growth and financial profit are key priorities. So if what makes your skin crawl is an attempt on the part of certain organizations to manipulate people, please do not forget about the governments and businesses and media companies that every day are attempting to encourage particular values. They just happen to be encouraging the values that research shows are inimical to sustainability.Where does that leave organizations interested in promoting sustainability? We can play along with the dominant values, and we can pretend that our messages don’t influence people’s values. Or we can try to promote the values that research (and common sense) show are most consistent with sustainability.

  • Jon Alexander - December 14, 2009 reply

    Graham – ah yes. That should have read ‘voluntary civic service’. Freudian slip. 😉
    Worth reading Demos’ stuff on this though, if you want to get away from narrow environmentalism.

  • Graham Game - December 15, 2009 reply

    Just to put everything into sharp focus – take a look at Georges’ latest piece.

  • Jim Mitchell - December 16, 2009 reply

    An interesting genetic angle – if we are predominantly self interested, and if we are boiled down, mere receptacles for gene self promulgation, it still doesn’t follow that we should be overtly materialistic. In fact it been convincingly argued that altruism between humans is one of our greatest strengths and the key source of our success. You scratch my back etc. Empathy as the spark of consciousness. What consumerism does is focus our self interest from the group or the community to material gain for the family or, more and more these days, the individual (think a laptop and TV in every room). Thatcher again: ‘There’s no such thing as society’. So IC is not trying to change our basic human nature, but influence values in a more considered community / group level and sustainable way.

  • Steve Schwarze - December 17, 2009 reply

    This is a great conversation. I have a couple of observations.

    The first is that any attempt at influence involves shaping of audience values. A classic definition of rhetoric is that it is “the process of adjusting ideas to people and people to ideas.” Mechanistic, to be sure, but it underscores that identity and values are always in play when it comes to persuasive public discourse. In that sense, one might say that all campaigning is identity campaigning.

    Another point, one that I have been trying to explore in my own research and teaching about sustainability consumption and climate change, is that much of the important work in this area is still focused on individual-level attitude and behavior change. But these do not exhaust the barriers and challenges related to sustainability. In the US, for example, there has long been public support for environmental protection generally and strong climate policy in particular (in spite of recent public opinion polls, over which there has been much hand-wringing). The problems are 1) this support is a mile wide and an inch deep, and 2) there is well-organized and well-funded resistance to change, both on a policy level and the broader cultural level as Tim Kasser notes.

    Consequently, the communication challenge is less about extending pro-sustainability identity and values to individuals; it needs to focus more on collective organizing and political pressure. In other words, our attention needs to turn to political identity as much as personal identity.

    To my mind, this is what makes the identity campaigning approach far more promising than green consumerism. While it is still focused mostly on the individual level, the turn to coalition-building at the end of the Meeting Env Challenges report is an important step forward for promoting broader social and political changes related to sustainability.

  • Ian Preston - December 18, 2009 reply

    Great to see a lot of debate on this thread.

    CSE turned 30 earlier this year & in the afternoon session (Session 3), Peter Lipman and I spoke about turning ideas into action (see

    I spoke about a recent CSE project ( and the internal conflicts it raised for both myself and CSE. The house was designed as a stop and talk mechanism to enable us to talk to busy shoppers about their attitudes to climate change. The Defra funding was about changing attitudes and not behaviour, so we weren’t able to do detailed work on the actions people may have taken as a result of the project. So we don’t know if it change people’s behaviour, I suspect it encouraged people to buy ‘one’ or ‘two’ products, like the designer washing line (that sold out everywhere in Bristol), but I doubt they decided to trade their long haul flight for a holiday in Cornwall.

    The project is more aligned with a ‘green consumerism’ approach with lots of slick eco-cool features. There are of course many more sustainable ideas about re-use, changing transport choices and the basics (yes insulation!).

    But after much soul searching I have concluded two things:

    1. Two social narratives for our future are unhelpful and most likely inaccurate
    2. To change behaviour we need face to face advice with an ongoing relationships

    So briefly what do I mean:

    1. The Narratives
    As Peter highlights in his presentation at the 30th event, we tell ourselves the same stories and we need a new cultural narrative. But what’s emerging is

    Low carbon future with continuing economic growth vs. A commodity constrained future beset by the ravages of fossil fuel shortages.

    I suspect the real path lies between the mainstream and the madness, but where this path lies isn’t clear and it depends on a lot of complex factors i.e. network investment (linked to market uncertainty), availability of alternative fuels, price elasticity, the actual reserves rather than the claimed reserves, human behaviour etc. etc.

    So we cant draw our lines and then sit on either side, we need more social narratives than that.

    2. Changing behaviour
    I agree with Soli any campaign that sets out to change someone’s values makes me feel uncomfortable. But as others have mentioned that isn’t the purpose of this forum, if it was I doubt I would have been invited to join!

    However, if you look at most campaigns that use the ‘green consumerism’ message & our main-stream advice services, I believe you will see a model that’s based more on ticking boxes than changing behaviour. In my evaluation of successful community campaigns for the EST, what shines through is the impact of locally based face to face advice with ongoing support (but funding doesn’t lend itself to this approach as we all know). Ultimately a holistic bottom up face to face approach covering food, energy and transport works. People want to connect with other people; the actual project is often the secondary benefit.

    Great problem solved. Well no, because there is still a conflict – and that’s our two overarching social narratives (notice I missed the deniers out because that makes three).

    The local community projects tend to stick to the commodity constrained message, rather than promote ‘green consumerism’ (I hear you all shudder at the thought again). But this may alienate most the population meaning these groups never gain the momentum they need to make an impact in truly large numbers.

    So Tom & Soli is there a middle ground? Do you want to get together and see if you can use each others thinking to create a real ground swell of community action.

    We can provide the neutral venue.

  • Jon Alexander - December 19, 2009 reply

    I still think there’s some common ground to be found. I came across these words today, from David Rothenburg’s introduction to Arne Naess’ ‘Ecology, Community and Lifestyle’, which seem to me to get to the heart of the matter. Hopefully others will find them useful:

    “Depth… applies to the distance one looks in search of the roots of the problem, refusing to ignore troubling evidence that may reveal untold vastness of the danger. One should never limit the bounds of the problem just to make an easier solution acceptable… In one sense, the magnitude of any truly deep change would be so vast that perhaps all we can work at is a succession of short-term, limited solutions. But we should not lose sight of the bond between our immediate beliefs and any distant goals.”

    Perhaps the angry divide is coming because Soli has fallen foul of the latter error (losing sight of the bond between the immediate and the distant); perhaps also this community, by contrast, could be accused of not working pragmatically enough at the short-term, limited solutions.

  • Graham Game - December 20, 2009 reply

    Jon, I think that you’re quite right about ‘working pragmatically enough at the short-term, limited solutions’. With the strength of the ‘Deniers’ right now, & much of the popular media backing them, we must find ways quickly to turn the tide around or there will simply not be a ‘long term’ – we’ll lose them.
    While some of you are critical at Soli, let’s not lose sight of the fact that she/Futerra are coming from a communications perspective rather than a solutions/advocacy position.
    Anyway, check out George Marshalls’ latest blog on COP15 – take a look at the comments too . .

  • rosie walford - December 29, 2009 reply

    a great debate unfolding here.

    i believe we in the environmental movement can be justly criticised for being holier-than-thou as long as we concentrate on communicating our values and suggesting these are the healthy ones to hold. I think this happens when Identity work is held in the frame of Communications and Campaigning.

    By contrast, if we carefully facilitate people to examine what they really value, they tend to articulate a bundle of non-consumerist intrinsic values. These were lying unspoken, buried beneath a coating of ‘I Want One Of Those”. In my experience, it doesn’t take much questioning to have people recognise the non-consumable delights which they prize and value.

    So, agreeing with Renee, Ciaran and Rosemary above – non-materialistic values are waiting beneath the surface, not yet surfaced and culturally extolled. Decades of advertising budgets have been dedicated to subverting them (it’s what i used to do for a living), to diverting humanity’s primary love affair with nature, desire for connection and so on towards Stuff, but still the intrinsic values remain strong and deep, and people like to identify themselves with them, when they remember them.

    An array of deep values extraction exercises mixed with eco-psychological questions can move avid consumers, rapidly, to define themselves by a largely intrinsic set of values – and that’s without environmentalists saying a word. It’s all in asking the right questions, i believe, and there are practices out here which create lasting identity and behaviour shifts in small groups, or one on one.

    I don’t know who has worked out a way to facilitate these sorts of enquiries with large numbers of people at one time. Maybe this surfacing of buried intrinsic values needs to be tackled using a scaled up coaching/facilitation model, rather than a communications one. Anyone want to work on this?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *